‘As a human race, what we’re doing is committing suicide’
“So, you don’t eat any meat?” she asks me.
For her, it’s simple curiosity. For me, it’s the millionth time that I’ve answered this question.
“No,” I say.
The quizzical look on her tired face is only too familiar.
“But... then, where do you get your protein from?”
I wished I could walk away from the question, but I literally couldn’t. It was part of the nurse’s job to check up on me after I was rushed in after a health scare early in my pregnancy.
“Lots of lentils, beans, pulses and grams,” I say.
An unbelieving silence hung between us as she pursed her lips, making vigorous notes.
That was over three years ago. The (old) multicoloured food guides had by then paved the path for judgment and condescension towards a vegetarian diet. A quick walk down memory lane shows a category called “Meat, Fish and Alternatives” present in every guide from 1942 to 2007. Only in 2019 was the category renamed “Eat Protein Foods,” with a conscious push towards a plant-based diet.
Having healthily sustained myself on a plant-based diet prior to arriving here, I found the judgment cruel, harsh and hard to digest (pun intended!) So, naturally, when I saw the new food guide, I laughed out loud and breathed a sigh of relief – exactly in that order. Slowly, but surely, the need for plant-based diets and their positive impacts on the environment are being consciously considered.
Characters on TV, for years, have mockingly questioned why some Indians (who follow Hinduism) don’t eat beef. Yes, it is tied to a religious belief – or, as Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory explains to Raj, “In Hinduism, cattle are thought to be like God.” Today, science can quantify the reasons behind this ancient practice. Beef is known to have the largest emission (105 kilograms) of greenhouse gases per 100 grams of meat . Twenty servings of vegetables have fewer greenhouse gas emissions than one serving of beef. And, ironic as it may seem, despite having a reputation as a science-y pop culture show busting stereotypes, The Big Bang Theory didn’t address any of this – even in the later seasons.
Concepts like plant-based diets aren’t new. Neither is zero-waste, “the conservation of all resources by means of responsible production, consumption, reuse, and recovery of all products, packaging, and materials without burning them and without discharges to land, water, or air that threaten the environment or human health.”
But, thanks to capitalism and consumerism-fueled colonization, today, we rise to headlines like “Take Back Your Rubbish,” alongside images of enormous shipping containers oozing plastic toxicity that are turning our planet into one of those ghastly episodes of Hoarders. With no regard for life, the plague of processed foods, consumerism and plastic waste has destroyed 83 per cent of wild mammals, despite humans forming only 0.01 per cent of all life.
Recognizing the critical condition of our precious eco-systems, Viviana Ramírez Luna has consciously reduced waste and the intake of meat and its byproducts in her life. Ramírez Luna is a representative of the only Atlantic Canadian chapter of Zero Waste Canada, an organization with a vision of creating a world without waste. Of the mindset that every single action makes an impact on the world, Ramírez Luna – an environmental scientist with international experience in the fisheries industry - passionately advocates for a better world for her toddler, Nathan.
“I’ve been hearing about birth-strikes – people who decide not have babies because of the state of the world. When I heard that… I felt guilty. What if Nathan will complain in the future or criticize why I brought him to this world?” she says.
From classrooms to boardrooms, Viviana, like many parents and children, is pushing for a world where the next generation can blossom and flourish. However, what she sees around her doesn’t spur much hope. A large-scale change might catalyze the process and help shift attitudes.
Quick to take responsibility, she points out that Mother Nature may fix the problem in her own, ingenious way.
“As a human race, what we’re doing is committing suicide. We’re killing resources, killing the things we depend on and nature [may just] wipe us out,” she explains.
Her words couldn’t come at a better time. With World Ocean’s Week in swing, it helps put into perspective the horrifying inheritance we will be leaving our children.
Prajwala Dixit is an Indian-Canadian engineer, journalist and writer in St. John’s, N.L., who writes a biweekly regional column for the SaltWire Network. When she isn't engineering ways to save the world, she can be found running behind her toddler, writing and volunteering. Follow her and reach her at @DixitPrajwala.
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