Like most people, I didn’t give a shit about anything but my own feelings.
Why me? Why can’t I be more beautiful? Why am I so stupid? Damn, I’m craving cheesy pizza…
Basically, I was always thinking in the first person point of view: me, me, me, me.
It’s not wrong to be selfish or prioritise your needs over others. Sometimes, you do have to be selfish to achieve something of value. But my problem was that I was being selfish 100% of the time–and that was destructive.
I believe that no matter how selfish we may think we are, there’s at least a tiny part of us that wants to do something for someone else, or something bigger than ourselves. However, if we keep suppressing that instinct, it will break us at some point.
Well, it broke me.
My Eyes Were Peeled Open
I was at a point where my interests at that time were fading, and I wasn’t doing well academically and psychologically. I was depressed because I wasn’t satisfied with myself. I was thinking only about my own happiness, remember?
Like many students, I consumed a lot of social media especially YouTube. Because my life was miserable, I sought refuge by watching other people’s amazing lives.
I searched for topics like “How to be more confident”, “Finding your passion” and “Truth about 9/11” besides searching for visual info on my academic subjects like “DNA transcription” and “Krebs Cycle”.
As a student, it was sort of natural for me to want to know things. Soon enough, I wanted to know the truth of everything.
Connecting the Dots
One thing led to another and soon enough I found myself watching this documentary called Cowspiracy.
Cowspiracy is a documentary about this environmentalist named Kip Andersen who wanted to find the true path to sustainability and solutions to the most pressing environmental issues.
He felt frustrated that his efforts–showering less, recycling, using a bicycle for his day-to-day commute–were not enough to save the environment.
Long story short, he found out about animal agriculture and did an in-depth research and discovery on its impact on the environment.
What Kip presented blew my mind and opened my eyes. Wide.
I began to question my whole existence. Is this how the meat I’ve been eating is produced? Is this really the main driver of deforestation? There’s such a thing as ocean dead zones?
Why didn’t I know about all of these before???
I honestly didn’t realise that the chicken and beef I’d been eating was produced in a factory. I guess I had a primitive but typical view of how meat was produced. I thought that they roam through a field of grass and only kept in enclosures at night or in harsh weather, like how horses have their stables.
And being Muslim, I was taught to believe that each meat branded Halal was cared for and then slaughtered humanely. But then I saw footages of a Halal slaughterhouse in the UK. It’s no different than the non-Halal ones; there was nothing humane about it.
Of course, not ALL meat is produced this way (in factories with little care for the animals’ welfare) but it’s fair to say that it has become the norm. Think about it: how does McDonald’s get such a huge supply of chickens DAILY?
Guilt: The Driving Force
Ignorance is bliss. Knowledge is power. I guess I chose to go on the latter route because I realised that ignorance limits human experience.
With knowledge comes even more questions not just on the facts but also on my moral standpoint. From watching Cowspiracy, I was informed that animal agriculture practically destroys the environment. Being a consumer, I felt the guilt of being part of that destruction.
I guess it took a solid kick in the arse to realise that whatever I choose to consume would impact the environment, which would eventually impact my life.
So I started becoming more aware of what I put out to the surrounding. And soon, I became aware of the surrounding itself.
Change of Scene
3 years in the UK helped me appreciate the wonders of nature even more than the 19 years in my suburban hometown in Malaysia did. This was partially due to my realisation as explained prior, and also due to just being in a different place.
The UK is known for its green pastures. Hop on a train to a different city and along the way is just fields of green often dotted with sheep. The landscape is much neater and greener than what I was used to back home.
Coming back home, I saw my surrounding in a different light. With a newfound appreciation for every detail of the natural world, I saw that my hometown does have its fair share of greenery–perhaps even more so than in the UK.
In short, travelling to a different country did help cultivate an appreciation and care for the environment.
Empathy Sealed the Deal
There’s always a reason that prompts you to care for something. It could be a direct or indirect life-threatening experience, hearing others’ stories or observing others’ tragedy.
For me, I think I developed a basic level of empathy through reading books. I’ve been a massive bookworm all my life and being empathetic to different characters, understanding their situation, has been common practice.
With regards to the environment, I was never really “taught” or “shown” to love it. Yes, I was told to not litter and to close the tap when not in use. But I never had an immersive experience with nature growing up.
So it took someone to tell their story of how they have done so much to reduce their carbon footprint but finding his actions insignificant when he hadn’t included one other thing.
And it took another to tell their story of how they don’t have to pay so much anymore when they have learnt to be self-sustaining and essentially work with nature.
Those are foreign concepts to me and naturally, I became intrigued and started learning more. As I mentioned, knowledge is power. The more I know, the more I empathised.
From never been into the forest before to spending 3 days in one with no cell lines, and hiking hills & mountains, I’d say I’m definitely in love with nature.