Lately, I can’t stop thinking about climate change. I used to be the type of person that dreaded going outside, loved meat and long car rides, and didn’t care about recycling. I never denied the science behind climate change, but I didn’t want to acknowledge it either.
When I was about 8, my elementary school started introducing environmental awareness into the cirriculum. I remember it focusing on water waste. I’m fuzzy on the facts, but all I know is that they told a group of wide-eyed 3rd graders that the amount of fresh water on the planet was running out and we were all going to die, or something. Truthfully, I don’t remember the exact facts or outcomes because telling 8 year olds that they’re going to die isn’t an effective call to action. It’s too much to proccess. Besides, what were we supposed to do? How are children meant to clean up the messes of giants?
Well, I’m trying. Two changes down, plenty to go.
Anyone who knows me knows I mention that I’m Argentinian once every hour. That means I come from a culture of red meat lovers. My dad loves to host weekly dinners with a large spread of chorizo, carne, and morcillo served to 10-15 guests. It’s a beautiful tradition in itself, but it also subconciously taught me that meals must be built around meat. That attitude is hurting us and the planet.
Greenpeace says that the livestock industry “generates as much greenhouse gas emissions as all cars, trucks and automobiles combined.” It’s also led to the decimation of areas of natural carbon absorption, like forests. The mass production of meat isn’t just bad for our planet though. Meat heavy diets increase the risk of obesity, cancer, and heart disease. The food used to feed livestock could feed plenty of starving people. I had the pleasure of speaking with Plamena Slavcheva, Product Manager at The Darwin Challenge. The Darwin Challenge is an app that lets you log your meatless days, and shows you the impact of each meatless day on yourself, other people and animals, and the planet. She asked me what features I like about the app. I told her that as much as we don’t like to admit it, it’s easier to do things when they feel beneficial to us. The app does a great job of emphasizes the personal benefits of meatless days. In the “Loving myself” section of the app, it highlights that cutting out meat for just one day adds 93 cents to your wallet and 45 minutes to your lifespan.
I always felt like vegetarians were asking me to drop meat cold turkey (excuse the pun). I started slowly, and now I treat meat the way we should all treat alcohol or dessert. Something special to be enjoyed in moderation. I’ve gone from chicken nuggets almost ever meal to having chicken twice in the past few months and barely noticing.
I’m not going to pretend moderation is something I’m an expert at. Trying to contribute to the health of planet made me realize how much of my life I live in excess. I cope in extremes. I try to fix a bad day by getting in my car and driving until I don’t know where I am. I’m not sure if it’s a matter of escapism or boredom. Sometimes I just don’t want to go home. No matter what, driving aimlessly is not good for the planet.
Walking is good for your body (and your wallet, if you use apps like Sweatcoin or Walgreens Balance Rewards). Biking is even better, and you look super cool in a Hello Kitty helmet. Public transit is one big carpool, and it’s nice to let go of the wheel sometimes and let yourself relax for a while. Plus, if you’re like me and constantly miss your stop, you can frame it as “exploring your city”.
I wonder sometimes if just partaking in outdoor activities would’ve curbed that urge to drive when I needed to deal with my problems. I’ve defintely reached for my keys less since I’ve started gardening and exploring Gainesville with my dog, on foot.
I know I could be doing more. My plastic use is embarassing, and I’m a bit of a shower and power hog. There are people who are sustainable to the max. I never even thought I’d be here though. Knowing I can readjust a little bit at a time gives me hope when my life or my planet feels hopeless.
The more I hear about the scale of climate change and it’s effects on humanity, the more I feel like I’m 8 years old again. I’m scared and I feel too small to fix such a big world. I can’t turn the tides of entire populations. I’m just one person. However, the lesson I continue to learn in life is that you can’t approach every problem with an all or nothing attitude. You can’t refuse to change a little because you feel like it won’t change a lot. There are steps that you can take today to affect the world in real time, and for one small person, that’s pretty damn powerful.
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