We’re consistently told that standing up for what we believe in is the most honourable path to choose. Even if we stand alone, we must do what’s right by our internal guidance system. Live by our values. But is there a limit to this? Is there any point at which it’s no longer worth it? Would you stand up for your beliefs even if it meant risking your life?

The Guardian has been keeping pretty solid tabs on those individuals who have been killed for doing exactly this: standing up for a healthy environment. The figure stands at 197 courageous men and women in the year 2017 alone, with the rate expected to continue at 4 individuals per week for the forseeable future. These are sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers whose voices have been silenced by those who put capitalist interests before environmental preservation and it disgusts me.

On almost every continent there have been people standing up against logging, land degradation, water pollution and poaching, with Brazil the most dangerous place to be at present. It’s nothing new – since the dawn of time there has existed conflict over land and its many uses. Only, it’s 2018 and there is clear evidence that the planet’s on its last legs. Bar terraforming a new one (and quick!) unless we want to suffer a slow and painful demise, we’ve got to start getting our shit into gear.

From my safe little house in my safe little town on the (relatively) safe little English isle, I go about my days trying to lead by example. I eat a vegan diet, I only consume cruelty-free cosmetics, I recycle, I try wherever possible to avoid plastic consumption and especially the single-use kind, I promote self-care and mindfulness and I make time to help others with making more environmentally-friendly choices whenever they express an interest in learning more. But above all this (because really, none of those things are superpowers), I educate myself as frequently as I’m able to. I absorb every story and statistic I can get my mitts on.

That yearning to know more can be insatiable – is, insatiable. How can I possibly do better if I’m not learning the facts? Blame it on the scientist in me. Once you learn the truth about how devestating our consumption habits are on the planet and how problematic the animal agriculture industry is (yes, I’m a big Monbiot fan) to name just a couple, you see that you have no choice but to alter your lifestyle. It’s either that or live a miserable life. Rejigging everything is a smaller burden than living in conflict with what you know has to be done.

I am incredibly fortunate that I don’t live my life on the firing line. And you are too, if you’re in a similar situation to me. But we have an absolute responsibility to share the truths that the deceased no longer can because we owe it to them for their strength and undeniable bravery for standing up for what they knew to be right.

Indigenous people in sacred places across the globe are having their ancestral lands being destroyed quicker than they’re having time to process the trauma. From the Sioux at Standing Rock to the Ka’apor in Brazil to the mighty women of the Zambezi, the planet is littered with people trying to protect their homes however they can, even if it means their inevitable demise. If home is all you know, how can life go on without it? Home is, after all, more than a physical place. It is the history that goes along with it, the memory, the culture, the family and the soul.

As a human, you have a responsibility to do no harm to another. That’s just how it is. Many don’t live this way, of course and that’s a terrible sadness, but we know how things ought to be. And if it pains you to know that there is all this suffering going on around the world and you feel helpless and incapable of making a difference, know that that couldn’t be further from the truth. Like ripples in a mill pond, your actions can inspire others in ways that you’ve likely never considered. All you need to do is plant the seed.

What changes do you want to see? An end to logging? Buy reclaimed timber furniture. Better air quality? Support renewable resources. The end of climate change? Stop supporting animal agriculture and eat plant-based. Clean seas with healthy marine populations? Cut down on your plastic consumption. Lead by example and others will follow. Your voice is louder than you know.

Photos: Sphynx & MeltingPotSoul via Instagram

 

As I near the end of my first week of learning about and partaking in all things vegan, I’ve had a whole new perspective on things. I’m not talking about some greater mental clarity as my body is detoxified or any of that garbage; I’m referring to the back and forth that I’ve had with myself regarding perfectionism.

Whether in the workplace or amongst friends, I’ve been engaging in discussions either about what I’m doing and why I’m doing it, or seeking advice from those with experience. Everyone has their own opinion; some have called this mission of mine stupid, others admirable, but mostly I’ve faced intrigue from friends and colleagues that had never considered it themselves.

A big lesson that I’ve learned this week is that I’ve got to be careful where I draw the line with my lifestyle. Some of you may know that I partook in the Marine Conservation Society’s #Lifewithoutplastic challenge earlier this year. Essentially, I tried to live without one-use plastics for a month. It was very eye-opening and challenging and I must admit that whilst I tried to continue with a life free of waste after that month, I reverted somewhat, simply because I felt like I was missing out on some things that I truly craved. I had to compromise on going in a direction that felt a tad bit too restrictive to me – restrictive and isolating.

It’s really easy to become obsessed with wanting to do more and more because you feel an overwhelming urgency to save the planet; before you know it you’re living in the jungle amongst the wildlife, foraging for your own foods and totally isolated from all the people you once knew; all in a quest to be the perfect human and live harmoniously with everything else on the planet. This, however, does not equal happiness necessarily.

If I were to continue with my veganism and try to live a life void of waste, I’d be restricting myself in a way that I really can’t see me being comfortable with right now. Some of the products that I can buy with ease which aren’t derived from animal ingredients happen to come in plastic packaging. That is just how it is. Now, I could look at buying as many products as possible loose from markets, however not all food groups are going to be covered here necessarily and it is really important as a vegan to ensure that you’re getting adequate nutrition from your diet. I feel like I can’t do both.

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It’d be really different if all product packaging was biodegradable. That would mean that I could go to any of my local shops and purchase all the foods that I need to maintain a balanced diet, without having to worry about the repercussions of the packaging that I’ll be taking home and throwing away, adding to landfill. And changes like that have to come from our ‘leaders’. It has to be the only option for manufacturers. Business is business at the end of the day, and the figures have to work in a way such that profits are maximised – at least in the society we currently find ourselves in – and thus if plastics are the cheaper packaging option, that will be the choice.

If it were law that all product packaging must be biodegradable, the consumer would not need to concern themselves with the repercussions of what they buy. They would be able to focus purely on buying the ingredients they desire to make the meals they pine for. Real change, it seems, needs to come from the top down.

I’ve realised that I can’t do everything right. And it frustrates the hell out of me, because I know I strive for perfection, as many of us do. I can buy fair trade and support that market, but the product may be packed in plastic which pollutes our environment. I can buy apples that are loose, but may have been doused in pesticides that are killing our bees. I may be rejecting leather, but then the easiest alternative might be a man-made, non-biodegradable option. You can’t win at everything.

There’s still so much to learn and I see this whole process as trial and error, because I’m human and that’s really all I can do. I’m leaning heavily on researching the consequences of various choices and friends who have experienced the things that I’m debating. I have to accept that striving for perfection at the cost of all else is somewhat narcissistic and probably definitely won’t make for a life I can look back on and truly be proud of. I don’t have all the answers right now, but I know they’ll come with time; I’m on the road to somewhere and that’s better than being left curb side.

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Welcome to 2016! I hope you said a fond farewell to the year as it passed and have your eyes and ears wide open for what’s to come.

Steve McCurry

Steve McCurry

This is, of course, the time of year that regular gym-goers scowl at all the newbies attempting to fat-blast their way to happier selves. It is also the time that the health food industry starts raking in the big bucks as we flock en masse to purchase a vast array of mysterious concoctions that will surely make us glow from within like all of Hollywood.

Make whatever goals you please this year; who am I to judge? I’ll openly admit that each January I’m convinced I’ll be a near-Olympic athlete by the time Christmas rolls around and I’ll somehow have morphed into Gisele.

This year feels a bit different. I don’t know what – specifically – has done it, but I’ve had an almighty change in perspective. At least, I’m attempting to wade through the sea of product placement, marketing and manipulation and seriously ask myself what matters. What should I be striving for? Is it really essential that I try and morph myself into somebody else’s idea of what is beautiful? Is it a good idea to live by somebody else’s rules? Perhaps we should all take a leaf out of Zack de la Rocha’s book and tell those people to fuck off?

I encourage you to begin 2016 by asking yourself what truly matters to you. What is it that you want? Initially, we all answer this in very different ways, of course, but if you keep questioning, ‘why?’ you will eventually get down to one of a handful of themes that includes:

  • Because I want to feel love
  • Because I want to feel alive
  • Because I want to feel free
  • Because I want to be safe
  • Because I want to be happy

These are basic states of human emotion that are surprisingly difficult to decipher sometimes. It is much easier to feel like you need a new Chloé handbag than it is to realise that perhaps you want the handbag so you feel like you’ll be respected by all the people you’re meeting and befriending now that you live in London, because you want to feel a part of something, because ultimately you want to feel loved. Of course you might just want a Chloé handbag, but you get the point.

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Step 1. Identify what it is that you truly value and want in your life by asking yourself the ‘why’ questions. You need to be open to being brutally honest with yourself here. No bullshitting allowed.

Step 2. Process what can actually bring you that thing, rather than trying to mask the desire.

One of the most important emotions to me is that feeling of awe I get when I cast my eyes upon something beautiful. Those who know me well, know that I use the term ‘epic landscapes’ when I describe my ideal habitat. Who doesn’t want to surround themselves with beautiful things? They make us feel alive. Sure, I can see beauty in the urban jungle too, but I value the great outdoors and so that is what drives me to think about what I can do to not damage it further.

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Ultimately, we all want to feel all of those things that I’ve listed above. And the thing is that in order to do so we need a stable, clean and healthy environment. Regardless of what your interests are, whether it is graphic design or golf, forestry or fashion, you probably wouldn’t turn down a holiday somewhere aesthetically-pleasing, inspiring, warm, or what have you. After all, we all need time to unwind and relax and enjoy ourselves.

This year I would like to focus on smart purchasing choices. I’d like to place emphasis on supporting local businesses and fair trade, minimal or if necessary then recyclable packaging, organic goods, upcycling and reclaimed materials.

A lot of this stuff isn’t commonplace because many of us don’t really know about it. Sustainable lifestyles are hardly taught in our current education system! This is why it is my goal to embark on a mission that I hope will grow exponentially as I digest the material I learn this year and beyond and regurgitate the lessons here of how to live more synergistically with the surroundings (whilst still doing the whole city chic thing as long as I live in one).

A theme we can all incorporate into our lives this year is simplicity through minimalism; you do not need all the things that you think you do. Perhaps start this year not by running out and immersing yourself in the sales (which, let’s be real, occur pretty much 300+ days a year now) and instead turn introspective and get to the root of what we actually want.