I’ve started eating a more vegetarian diet. Which is a direct response to the anxiety I feel in regards to the environmental collapse we’re rushing towards. It’s hardly a perfect solution, however. For one thing, having access to proper food sources is a privilege that not everyone has. For another thing, there are infinite ways for me to lower my impact further. Things like avoiding heavily packaged goods and trying to eat locally and seasonally if possible.
Then there’s the social nuances of eating a mostly plant-based diet. Things like not shaming other people for their food choices and, as I’ve chosen to do, eating meat when breaking bread with others. Then there’s the fact that the last time I associated with vegetarianism was when I used it to mask an eating disorder. So I’m trying to be more intentional about what I eat without triggering controlling and damaging behaviours from my past.
Additionally, there’s the labour factor. While it’s great to avoid food sources that are straining the environment the most, it’s also important to reduce harm done to others in the process. This includes migrant workers who are often the ones picking the fresh fruits and vegetables that I’m eating. They deserve access to proper housing, education, and healthcare. My dietary wellbeing should not come at the cost of someone else living and working in sub-par conditions.
Needless to say, trying to make choices that cause less damage to the planet and each other is a complex and imperfect process. Many of the decisions we make are like this. They can be both beneficial and contradictory. What’s more, we will never know the full extent and impact of the choices we make. Still, we must continue to expand our capacity to hold complexity alongside our limited ability to fully comprehend the reach of our decisions.
I am sure that most of us know that we need to be doing more to support environmental and social change. For many if not all of us, our lives depend on it. Despite this, the complexity of the issues we are faced with can lead to overwhelm and the desire to escape accountability. Instead of doing what we’re able to do, we check out and try to convince ourselves that someone or something will get us out of this mess.
The truth is, that someone or something is us. In the words of Alice Walker, “We are the ones we have been waiting for.” So in whatever ways we are able to, we must change how we’re showing up in the world. As creatives, we have the ability to shape new social narratives and experiment with new ways of living. We have the ability to give those around us hope and a vision for a different future.
That being said, as much as that different future is important to visualize and then realize, it is also a multi-generational process. There is an urgency to these issues and change will take time. What’s more, before we can enact change in big ways, we must create the stability and wellbeing we need to be able to consistently show up in small ways. We must begin now and do what we’re able to do knowing that there will always be more. It’s both complex and enough.
Talk to me. What complexity are you working with right now?