What does it take for radical changes to be made in our society? How much environmental damage? How many traumatised sexual assault victims? How many children fighting for survival in broken homes? How many young people burdened with crippling stress as a result of overwork and underpay? How much sickness?

It’s pretty mind-boggling to me because I consider myself to be a (relatively) normal person of a (somewhat) normal background, but I’ve experienced all of the above. All of them. And I struggle with my mental health a lot of the time. So how are those worse off than me coping? Thinking about this truly saddens and baffles me, to be honest.

This isn’t a cry for sympathy. I write about this kind of stuff to bring it to light, to encourage those suffering in silence to speak up and get help and also to turn up the volume on our desperation – as the young voices of society – for change.

I’m sick of spending 70% of my time wondering how to live well while avoiding plastic, avoiding consuming animal products and still maintaining a nutritious, balanced diet so that I can be healthy and happy. Society is not built to support this and so it’s incredibly difficult. The framework is not there. The framework exists in the form of corporations and advertising backing fast food and destructive consumption habits. The result is sick person after sick person, overweight and yet malnourished (in the developed world, that is), polluting the beautiful world around us.

I’m sick of having to fight off the seething anger I feel when some asshole catcalls at me when I pass by in the street. Do you know that I now rarely wear anything that reveals a body that I’m actually really proud of because it’s just too exhausting to deal with the attention? I’ve tried every tactic in the book when it comes to rude men invading my personal space and disrespecting me. I’ve ignored them, I’ve raised the middle finger, I’ve told them to fuck off and no matter the response I choose to embrace, I still leave the scene angry and deflated. To any men that have ever catcalled a woman or worse, please know that we think of you as akin to the dirt on our shoe. We do not find this attractive. It does not make us attracted to you. It does not make us feel good. We see you as dumb, chauvinistic predators who feel that the worth of a woman is limited to her appearance rather than her brain. We don’t feel you would produce good offspring. We don’t want to have your babies.

I’m sick of seeing bad parenting happening over and over again. We’ve got lazy parents who can’t be bothered to interact with their children, so instead shove a smartphone or tablet in front of them hoping it’ll keep them occupied. You grew this little human! Do yourself and society a favour and raise it well! We’ve got parents neglecting their children and withholding love because they don’t understand their needs. And it’s probably because they never took the time to heal themselves of their own traumatic childhoods before entering the world of parenting. They then find said children acting out and don’t understand why. They try to discipline them which only causes further upset and frustration until eventually the gap in understanding between parent and child becomes so large that bridging it is rendered impossible. That child enters adulthood struggling to do life, not really understanding why and feels a bitter resentment to their parent(s) which society still labels as unacceptable (“It’s family! You can’t turn your back on family!” *shakes head*). The vicious cycle then continues if they go on to reproduce.

I’m sick of overtime becoming the norm for so many people of working age. Overworked people are good for very little. All that results is both physical and mental sickness. Weak staff are unhappy staff and unhappy staff aren’t very productive. Every job – no matter how ‘technical’ – has an element of creativity to it. If workers are essentially shoved into survival mode because they are too stressed to function properly, the last priority is creativity. Simply doing basic life becomes a struggle and so you’re essentially paying staff to do what a robot could do far better. You’re not getting out of them what humans are so good for in the first place: creative self-expression.

Finally, I’m sick of the weight-watching-obsessed, calorie-counting, disease-ridden people taking up resources and placing a strain on our healthcare system because they simply weren’t taught about food while growing up. I don’t blame any person struggling with his/her weight and addicted to processed food. It is likely that he/she grew up with parents who put fast food on the table every night or who’s idea of vegatables was boiling everything until it turned the same shade of snot-green, subsequently putting him/her off for life. If you grow up thinking that broccoli is meant to be a pile of green mush, of course you’d rather opt for fries. We need to start teaching kids about food in a way that encourages a healthy relationship to flourish. We need to teach them how food grown, how it’s meant to be consumed, what nutrients we need to be healthy and the environmental impacts of the food we choose to eat.

So my question to you is, what does it take? WIth all these different flaws we have, what will it take to see real change?

Photo via Unsplash

 

I’m a big thinker, right? And I’d say my brain is at capacity most of the time. I’m constantly mulling over how I can improve things. Not just the goings-on of my inner world through various mediums of self-improvement, but also the outer one. From a vegan diet to living plastic-free, I’m on a constant mission to try to do my best with what I have. The world needs to change and I’ve dedicated my life to helping that come to fruition. But there’s an extra element that’s thrown into all this. Guilt. And it eats away at me from time to time.

Let me back-pedal a bit to talk about my time in university. Whilst there, I was a key member of the Amnesty International Society – a society that I still very much support. Nowadays, however, I do so from the sideline rather than actively. When I was heavily involved, my perspective was rather different to how it stands today. When day in, day out, you’re following the stories of the most broken of humanity, you are grateful for simply having a roof over your head and food in your belly. And freedom, of course. Just having those basic things is incredibly wonderful. If you get choice added in too, you’re flying.

But as I say, time went on and I left university and began placing more and more focus on environmental issues. The causes I was fighting for were marine habitats, rainforests, native woodland, animals facing extinction, coral bleaching and microplastic pollution. It became less about the people and more about the environment. If I think about it logically, without a planet there are no people and so of course these are worthy causes to be fighting for. But as I sit here with a regular income, enough money to pick and choose my food, my clothing, my lifestyle, I can’t help but feel an element of guilt.

Millions of people around the world – including many on these wealthy British Isles – can’t afford the luxury of choice. They can’t afford the time to even think about being able to shop in fancy food stores that offer aesthetically-pleasing vegan foods and household cleaners and beauty items that are made with an array of delightful natural ingredients. Their priority is getting food on the table for hungry mouths that need feeding. Their priority is being able to afford the rent each month. Their priority is being able to make it through each day. Living on the breadline is no place to be.

So I can’t help but feel guilty when I preach about how we should all be eating vegan foods and living waste-free as much as possible when in truth I don’t understand what it’s like not to have the choice. I don’t come from a wealthy family and in fact growing up I witnessed the stress that a single mother goes through trying to put food on the table for her kids. Her priority was keeping her children healthy and happy. But even with this, I don’t know what it was like to be her. I can’t fully understand.

My dilemma is not wanting someone living a polar opposite life to my own to look at me and see naivety and an unachievable goal. It makes me sick to think that I could evoke anger in someone over my lifestyle choices, values and priorities. It’s this fine line to teeter along, with compassion for humanity on one side and an inner environmental warrior on the other. I don’t yet know the best way of figuring all this out. And in truth, I might never. (To clarify: no one has raged at me. This is purely hypothetical.)

But one thing I do trust in is my gut instinct; as should we all. It guides us. The reality is that there’s no way I could compare my life to that of a low-income single mother with 4 children where the fight for survival is first priority. I’m not living that way – fortunately. So all I can do is what feels right to me, based on the scientific evidence I have ready, with wthe resources I have. If I can afford to choose the most ethical foods to eat, not consume plastic that ends up in the oceans and write about my lifestyle choices in the hope that it might influence someone else who can also make those choices to start living differently, then why not do it? It seems logical…

I’m part of a whole generation wanting to do life differently. We want to live more harmoniously with our planet, improve our infrastructure using renewable energy and live lives that place emphasis on creativity and passion rather than the mind-numbing and mundane. I frequently refer to it as ‘the vagina lottery’ because we don’t know what kind of family we’ll be born into. All we can do is the best we can based on what we know.

We don’t all fight for the same causes and in a way that’s actually kind of great. If some of us could keep doing the great work for humanity while others clean up the environment, we should have a sound future ahead of us. Perhaps that’s all I need to trust in; the fact that we’re all different for a reason and it’s best to just embrace it, even if it does seem flawed. We need each other; that’s the simple truth of it. We’re stronger together.

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Simple question: do you take responsibility for your life and all the things that you do and consume and participate in within it?

Responsibility

Is the instinct to say ‘yes’? Is that instinct there because when we’re young, we’re taught that taking responsibility is a good thing and therefore you want to instinctively answer ‘yes’ so that you don’t get in trouble? God forbid you feel bad about yourself, right? We don’t want to be judged by our peers, right?

We’ve got a whole melting pot of problems on the planet at the moment. All, essentially, stem from bad parenting. (We know how I feel about parenting *shakes head*.) So we divide into power-hungry humans, masking quivering insecure children on the inside. And people who turn a blind eye to helping one another because in our time of need as youths, no one helped us. We fight about all the wrong things and we misalign our priorities. We jeopardise our chances of happiness because we’re too damn involved within our own heads. We laugh, we cry, and ultimately devestate our earth one generation after the next all because we refuse to take responsibility for ourselves and our actions.

That phrase, ‘taking responsibility’ stretches further than simply saying we’ll be there to pick our kids up from school, or turning up for that meeting on time. Taking responsibility for ourselves and the role we play in society first means owning up to who we are, what our values are and facing all those inner demons. We don’t like to look at what’s wrong with us. We’re completely blind to it, as Allain de Botton so famously preaches in his work on love and why we find ourselves in unhappy relationships more often than not. And unless we open our eyes and face the bad stuff, how can we possibly take responsibility for our actions?

We act in really strange ways that seem illogical, all because of wounds that score the inside of our head and heart. Sometimes the nature of these strange acts is small and harmless, but get a collective of ‘small and harmless’ and you’ve got ‘large and harmful’.

Detachment

Let’s take a look at some of the ways that we do this. The first is that we are lazy and detached in our food consumption. We expect to have everything available 24/7 on a supermarket shelf. We consume meat we haven’t hunted, fish we haven’t caught and vegetables we haven’t grown. I get it. In this corporate world we find ourselves in where few are in touch with the environment these days, we can’t all be hunters and farmers. But there’s a fundamental problem with only ever seeing your meat (if you consume it) sold in small plastic-packaged portions on a cold, metal, sterile shelf. It detaches you from what is real. What’s real is that that is one of many parts of an animal that had a life and was kept captive and killed for you. You are not taking responsibility for your actions if you consume meat and aren’t OK with killing that animal yourself. You are not taking responsibility for your consumption if you don’t know how it was killed and what the living conditions were like for it while it was alive.

Then there are the fish. Take a look at the state of the world’s oceans today and you’ll see that they’re not doing all that great. Overfishing, invasive species, ocean acidification and plastic pollution are just some of the problems we face that are causing extinction on an enormous scale. If you consume wild-caught fish without having any awareness of the state of the sea from where it was caught, you are not taking responsibility. If you support farmed fish but haven’t looked into the effects of eutrophication in the area where they were farmed, you are not taking responsibility.

Then there’s all the packaging, the plastic and the processed food. You sit in your house and each week the garbage is collected from kerb-side and transported somewhere that’s our of your sight. You are lucky that your neighbourhood aesthetic isn’t tainted. But someone, somewhere has to look at your waste. Is that being a responsible person? Consuming mindlessly certainly is not. That sealed bag of salad that you bought from a supermarket is likely packaged in non-recyclable plastic. That piece of plastic will be sat on our soil for many hundreds of years longer than you will find yourself alive. It will degrade into smaller pieces and distribute itself across our soil and seas, working its way up the food chain until one of your offspring many generations from now will consume it. You may feel no remorse for what you did to that person. After all, you’ll never meet them; never love them. But does that make it OK? No, it doesn’t. You wouldn’t like it if you found yourself on this earth unable to find any unpolluted food to eat or water to drink, would you? You wouldn’t want to live in a wasteland because all the ecosystems had collapsed due to what your parents and grandparents and generations prior had done.

Think about the things you enjoy. Chances are, something outside, in nature, is one of them. After all, that’s why you bought that camera, isn’t it? You want to capture scenes of that beautiful waterfall you plan on visiting next year. And when you’re on those golden sands at the beach, you want to remember how clear the water looked and how vivid all the colours of those tropical fish were, right? Newsflash! Those things are disintegrating. Unlike the Midas touch, everything we touch these days turns to plastic. We are wrecking and ruining and depleting and consuming and soon there will be nothing left.

Everything you do creates a ripple effect across this globe. We influence each other and your actions are those that will change the world for better or worse. The decision is yours.

Photo via Unsplash

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What should be the purpose of our mainstream news providers? I’m talking about the major players: those stations that are accessed by the millions? One would think, to provide unbiased, accurate news. They should be reporting to us what is happening around the world. If we are well informed, we get a good grasp on the state of play and can offer aid where needed etc. Surely that’s logical: see a problem and cooperate with others to come up with a solution? Preferably there would be some good stuff thrown in there too, as opposed to pure doom and gloom. It’s important we don’t forget that there are so many people doing great work every day.

The thing is though, our news providers are funded by large corporations. And in the best interests of these corporations, the various media through which our new reaches us are manipulated like puppets on a stage.

The world is a large place. And it’s inevitable that big news happening close to home will get more emphasis than what’s happening abroad. Floods disrupting rail travel in the UK are of little concern to a man in Norway, for example. Or a strike by fishermen at a French port irrelevant to the land-locked of Poland.

But when an issue is global – thus affecting all of us – it should go without saying that it’s top of the newsreel. This doesn’t happen though.

Did you know there have been two major oil spills in the Southeastern and Gulf areas of the United States this month? Over 5,000 gallons of crude oil have leaked in the Bay Long area of Louisiana and secondly a pipeline has ruptured in Alabama, spilling 338,000 gallons. What makes it to the ocean has the potential to spread around the world.

In Bay Long, the pipeline owned by Harvest Pipeline Company was accidentally cut during a restoration project that’s been taking place since BP’s massive spill in 2010. The Coast Guard are still working to recover the area and prevent further environmental damage.

In Alabama, a pipeline running oil from Texas to New York has ruptured, forcing the states of Alabama, Georgia and North Carolina to declare states of emergency on the basis of fuel shortages and environmental destruction. Supposedly the rupture occurred in the most ideal location of anywhere on route, but the cleanup has only just begun and the area hyper-sensitive to the point where overhead air space has been closed.

Our environment is what connects us all. We all have it in common. It is home. We only have one planet to support us and so it’s only fair that we each offer it respect and maintain it’s well-being. Without it, there is no us.

Insatiable greed for monetary wealth unfortunately ranks higher on the priority list than environmental care for big business tycoons. And this is why we have the issue of our news providers not putting such environmental disasters top of the list. If an oil spill isn’t a favourable broadcasting topic for a large monetary provider, it’s going to get the cut.

As much as we aspire to live in a society based on truth and the well-being of the masses, unfortunately the current state of affairs is not up to par. It’s important that we remember that the messages we’re getting on repeat every 30 minutes on the radio or on the morning and evening news are manipulated in the favour of those paying for the service. Unbiased, fact-based news isn’t always what’s placed on the table. In fact, it rarely is.

So what can we do about it? I believe in our current society, in order to know what is going on around the globe we must be active. Passively sitting on the couch and being fed the news will never give you the full picture. It’s sad, because things really should be better than this. We really should be placing environmental welfare top of the ranks. A healthy home equals a healthy heart for each of us. But take a look at two of the largest news providers: CNN and BBC. Neither of which have a news tab for the environment on their main website. The former has nothing of relevance and the BBC has ‘Science’ as a tab, which it places its environmental articles under.

Corruption, biased representation and suppression are all common themes today. But it’s nothing new. Since the dawn of the monetary age, man’s weakness for greed has driven the world to a division. Spinning in fear is not the answer and remember that as much bad as there is happening, there is more good. Educate yourself, sure, but most of all remember that all is not what it seems.

A good friend of mine recently gave me some food for thought. She said, it’s easy to feel like everything is chaotic and the apocalypse near approaching, but it’s only because we are all so connected today. If something tragic happens, ripples are felt across the internet-connected world. But if something wonderful happens, this also can be shared. This can be used to our advantage if we’re switched on enough to get our priorities straight.

Photo: NOLA

 

 

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