Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Happy Earth Day!

Earth Day 2015 feels like a milestone, at least for me.  In 1990, the 20th anniversary of Earth Day, a lot of media attention was committed to ecological issues, and one that struck a particularly loud chord with me was the harmful impact of the beef industry. I remember reading that if each of us reduced our meat consumption by just 10%, we could feed the world with the grain that would otherwise be consumed by beef cattle. I thought to myself, "If I give up meat completely I could do the work of ten people!" That's how my 20-something brain worked at the time - very black and white, all or nothing.  Thus began my life as a vegetarian.
Earth Day, 1990

My dietary decision was initially met with disapproval from just about everyone in my life, which for me wasn't easy. I considered myself an activist though (still do), so any negativity I encountered just made me more determined.  To say I was a bit full of myself is probably an understatement, and I tip my hat to all the friends that are still with me 25 years later.  I'm sure I annoyed the piss out of most of you at some point.

Despite any early challenges, the long-term benefits of going veggie made the effort worthwhile. My journey may have stemmed from planetary concerns, but soon I was digging into animal rights, the corruption of factory farming, and philosophical arguments for plant-based living. The most unexpected benefit of my new lifestyle was a spiritual awakening. It's not easy for me to explain, but by ending my financial support of animal slaughter I felt like I was a part of something bigger than myself.  My daily connection with a higher power became more pronounced. Being vegetarian (and eventually vegan) was a major part of my personal identity, and I wore the veggie badge with pride.

These days I'm not quite as vocal as I was in the '90s, but I remain every bit the activist that I was.  I suspect that age has taught me more effective ways of channeling my energies, so that I don't burn out so quickly. This is definitely a transferable skill -- as a PhD candidate and someone living with a chronic illness it is essential for me to conserve the limited energy that I do have!

To anyone reading who has considered going veggie, I encourage you to at least give it a shot. You've got nothing to lose, and so much to potentially gain. You don't need to give it all up at once -- maybe start with "Meatless Mondays".  You may decide that you want to improve your cooking skills (I personally recommend Linda McCartney's books as a great starting point).  Be adventurous and creative!  You may just find a world of food that you never knew existed.

Thanks for reading. Happy Earth Day to you!


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