We are pleased to present our next Master Divers Life contest blog by contestant Holly Allard
Fish Are Friends Not Food
For all of you “Sex And The City” fans out there, have no fear. This will not be the written equivalence to Samantha getting fake blood thrown on her fur coat by an activist shouting MURDERER. This is simply an alternative perspective to look at the way you eat. It is for those of us who no longer wish to turn a blind eye to the damaging effects our everyday behaviours are having on oceans and marine life. If you feel like your current efforts to help the environment may not be making enough of a difference but you aren’t quite willing to go full on activist and chain yourself to a tree in protest, why not meet in the middle and make any number of small changes towards adopting a plant-based diet?
A whole food plant-based diet (also known as a vegan diet) means you do not consume any animal products (meat, dairy, fish, eggs) and fill yourself up on veggies, fruit, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds. This has been proven to be one of the most effective ways to help our largest shared worldwide resource, the ocean. It can be a daunting transition to do all at once though, so to create lasting changes it is best to start small and progress at your own pace. Below there are a couple suggestions on how to get started.
When I initially became vegan, the environmental benefits ranked third with ethical and health reasons topping my list for making the change. But the more I learn the more it has become an equally important reason to continue with this lifestyle. People frequently ask how I live without cheese but seafood was what I missed most. I, as many of you can probably relate, did not feel connected to fish the way we tend to towards mammals and birds so admittedly cared less about their well being and growing rates of extinction. Now it is clear though, that our lives on land significantly depend on the oceans health.
Everyone learnt in school that water runs in a cycle. Polluted water gets displaced around the planet and disrupts these cycles which then causes harmful effects to marine life. Researchers predict that by 2048 all fisheries will have depleted due to overfishing, pollution, climate change and ocean acidification. Approximately 80% of our oxygen comes from the sea (so if you enjoy breathing, the ocean’s health should matter a great deal to you). Social, cultural, political and economic variables make whole food plant-based diets less attainable for some populations of the world, but for the majority of us it is quite easy to achieve.
So how does a plant-based diet help our oceans?
By removing (or even minimizing) animal products from our diets we reduce the need for industries that supply us these products. Less demand = less supply. The environment-related harmful effects caused by these industries are:
- Animal agriculture produces massive amounts of waste that run off into rivers and oceans.
- Methane emissions from factory farms contribute to climate change and ocean acidification.
- Target marine life (tuna, salmon, lobster, crab) are being overfished and by-catch (dolphins, whales, sharks, sea lions, sea turtles) are killed in the process of catching the target fish.
- Plant-based diets decrease our water footprint as they use ~400 gallons of water per day while non plant-based diets use ~1000 gallons per day.
- Fisheries disrupt the ecosystem and cause extinction and dead zones (no wildlife or plants).
So where do you start?
- Educate yourself so that you are properly motivated to make lasting changes. There are loads of reliable sources that provide credible data and evidence on this way of eating.
- Understand the undeniable health benefits. Going plant-based has been proven to greatly decrease your risk of heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, inflammatory arthritis, and erectile dysfunction (is this not reason enough gentlemen??). It has stopped progression and even reversed disease symptoms in some cases.
- Know that there’s no shame in not going completely plant-based from the start. Holding off on the “vegan” title will probably help you avoid some friendly harassment at family gatherings anyway! Small dietary changes really do add up to big health and environmental impacts.
- Ignore the myths about not being able to build muscle and being protein deficient. Gorillas, rhinos, elephants, bison and the strongest man on earth Patrik Baboumian (pictured) are all plant-based eaters.
- Collect fun and simple recipes. Despite the misconception, this lifestyle does not have to be inconvenient or expensive and it doesn’t mean you’ll be living off of salads the rest of your life.
To improve the environmental crisis, social change has been slow. Fortunately, unlike overpopulation, overconsumption and dependance on fossil fuels, moving towards a whole food plant-based lifestyle is something we can do overnight. When we don’t directly see what’s going on it’s a lot easier to maintain the ideology of there being no dire problems in the rest of the world. For example, people who live in the prairies, like myself, never see garbage floating in the oceans so it is harder to relate to the damages caused by that kind of pollution but we cannot deny it happening.
Taking control of your individual impact is not about doing what myself or others say is the right way to live. It’s about doing what makes sense to you and once you’ve done the research about what’s on your plate and where it came from it’s hard to ignore the facts. It is crucial that we stop neglecting those with whom we share the earth.