The Emotional Challenge of Advocating for Eco-Eating

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I struggle. I struggle to inform my friends, my colleagues, students, and the "masses" about human interference with wildlife, climate change, and how our diet contributes to both these problems.

I have been a practicing dietitian for over 12 years now. I already understand how difficult it is for individuals to make relatively-simple changes in their diet. For example, to switch from white bread to whole-wheat.

So, asking people to make bigger changes such as reducing their consumption of animal products seems to be a truly daunting task, one that is overwhelming, and one that so far, seems to mostly evoke blank stares and inaction.

I know there are myriad of reasons why people don't change; and, I know, it's an even bigger challenge to change eating habits.

After all, "If it were easy, everyone would do it" - Tom Hanks in "A League of Their Own"

For starters, people are creatures of habit.
We like to eat what we like to eat. Diet is ingrained in us from childhood, it's culture, it's personal. So, change can feel like we are giving up a part of our self.

Another challenge may be pure ignorance.
Since there are always fish at the supermarket or the fish market, it seems impossible to believe or understand that certain fish stocks are severely in decline, or have even been decimated.

Moreover, the oceans are so far removed from our daily existence, and we don't see all the hundreds of thousands of animals that are killed as by-catch from fish nets or from fish-farms; for example, it takes 2-4 pounds of wild-fish to grow one pound of certain farmed fish!

In some parts of the world, hundreds of thousands of dolphins, sea birds, and other sea mammals drown every day from fish nets, fishing practices - including finning, or are brutally murdered by being viewed as competition for fish.

On land, if 100 animals were "accidentally" killed by accident for every five that come to market, this would likely be viewed as unethical, and completely unacceptable.

But in the ocean This. Is. Exactly. What. Happens. ALL. THE. TIME.

To make matters worse, nets and fishing gear are often left - illegally - in the ocean killing a wide-array of marine wildlife; and, plastic, is being consumed en-mass by animals, crowing out room for food, and normal behaviors.

But I just truly don't know how to make people understand or aware that these oceanic/sea-life problems exist, in a way that is meaningful to THEM.

A third possible challenge can be apathy.
Why should I change what I eat when no one else in changes what they eat?
I don't make any difference I'm just one small person.

What I've told myself is, instead of feeling that way, perhaps it would be more useful to lead by example and educate others.

However, as I have discovered, this comes with a lot of downfalls, mostly emotional; where truly you want to scream at the top of your lungs, "stop eating that fish, stop eating that beef, it damages the planet!"

A fourth challenge I sometimes come across is "pride."
Patients sometimes tell me "I've heard it all, I don't need more information."

Which brings me back to my earlier points, then why aren't you doing it? What are you waiting for?

So, what does this mean for me?

On the one hand, I look around me at the beauty of our Earth and how it is disappearing bit by bit by bit, and that we humans have a hand in this; and it makes me want to work that much harder to educate, to speak, to write, to help, to fight for the animals of our planet.

On the other hand, I am frustrated, angry, sad, and sometimes hopeless; because, I can speak until I am blue in the face, but I cannot make people change their behaviors. Only THEY CAN DO THAT.

Therein lies the rub.

I see that we need to change our ways. But we need the will to do it. We need to have the desire.
We need to have the knowledge.

And, I can do THAT. I can impart knowledge. That is my role.

To educate.
To advocate.
To support Earth.

Unfortunately however I cannot give desire, I cannot give motivation, it has to come from within.

If anyone has the recipe to make all these necessary attributes come together, please, let me know your secret.

In the mean time, I will continue to educate, advocate, and provide a "recipe" for taking that first step, that first eco-friendly bite.

See, I'm not asking you to become vegan overnight, but I am asking that you show concern, acknowledge that there is a problem, and be willing to be a part of the solution. Not just live in apathy.

For more specific meal suggestions and recipes, please refer to my previous post: "Why Plants are This Summer's "Coolest" Diet."