On Changing

I learned to swim when I was around five or six years old, and I hated it. My grandmother had recently purchased a house with a swimming pool, and I wanted absolutely nothing to do with it. I would scream and cry for reasons I can’t remember, because eventually something in me switched on and I wouldn’t leave the pool. I’d swim for hours on end, my fingers and toes shriveled from prolonged water exposure. For summers on end, I smelled only of sunscreen and chlorine–both scents utterly permeating through my pores and hair follicles.

Sometime in the first few years of swimming, I fell in love with marine biology. Oceans entranced me, and I would spend hours reading and studying the skeletal structures of whales and dolphins (orca and bottle nose being my favorites). I imagined growing up and transferring this love into a career–a career where I would get to study and swim with the marine animals I’d come to love. Concurrently, I loved (and rewatched multiple times) Free Willy and Andre. Even though I would eventually come to change my career choices, my love of marine life and the hours upon hours I spent studying the oceans shaped me throughout my adolescence into adulthood.

Fast forward to this past January, when I picked up The Once and Future World: Nature As It Was, As It Is, As It Could Be by J.B. Mackinnon. The first of what would be many environmentally driven monographs that I would pick up in the first half of 2016, and the first of those monographs that would break my heart. Because it was the first source that pointed out how we could have fish-less oceans by 2048-2050. The fishing industry has depleted the oceans faster than they can recover, sweeping up vast amounts of fish for consumers and slaughtering whatever other marine animals are caught in the crossfires. It’s a needless extinction, and I couldn’t believe I’d ignored it for so long.

“Nature is not a temple, but a ruin. A beautiful ruin, but a ruin all the same.”
― J.B. MacKinnon, The Once and Future World: Nature As It Was, As It Is, As It Could Be

In April, after four years of being a pescetarian, I made the decision to stop eating fish. Because I refuse to support the fishing industry (and, ultimately, the animal agriculture industry). Because I’m one person on such an old, magnificent planet, and it really pains me to see how much our progress has depleted it. I reflect on my admiration, my love for the oceans and forests, and wonder what it will look like for the next generation. I wonder what legacy we’re leaving behind.

And that decision just snowballed into a decision to go mostly vegan, thanks to Cowspiracy, Forks Over Knives, Mission Blue, and other great resources that I’ve been studying the past couple of months. I’m nowhere as informed as I should be, but I’m getting there. I didn’t know at the start of 2016 that it would be the year I start my journey to a plant-based lifestyle, but here we are. It’s the easiest decision I’ve made. Our planet simply can’t sustain itself if we don’t change anything; if you’re an informed consumer, you know that the global temperature is rising. Ice caps are melting. Animals are dying, going extinct, and nothing will change if we don’t give back to the planet that has given us so much. (And, I don’t really want to eat anything that has made its way to my plate through cruel means.)

“The crisis in the natural world is one of awareness as much as any other cause. As a global majority has moved into cities, a feedback loop is increasingly clear. In the city, we tend not to pay much attention to nature; for most of us, familiarity with corporate logos and celebrity news really is of more practical day-to-day use than a knowledge of local birds and edible wild plants.* With nature out of focus, it becomes easier to overlook its decline. Then, as the richness and abundance of other species fade from land and sea, nature as a whole becomes less interesting—making it even less likely we will pay attention to it.”
― J.B. MacKinnon, The Once and Future World: Nature As It Was, As It Is, As It Could  Be

If you’re interested in learning more, I highly recommend the documentaries I listed earlier. You can also check out Dr. Sylvia Earle’s Ted Talk on why we need to protect the oceans. She’s kind of my hero now when it comes to marine life.

Resources that I’ll be checking out over the summer include Silent Spring by Rachel Carson and Feral by George Monbiot.  As I become more informed, I’ll write entries on some of the environmentalist and animal activist points that I find most compelling/distressing/etc. If you’re on a similar journey and have resources to recommend, please let me know! I’m an academic, so there’s no such thing as “too many sources.”


Here’s to a new chapter.




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