FO° Books

I’m a Climate Optimist

In his ongoing endeavor to comprehend the climate crisis from many angles, the author engages with "I'm A Climate Optimist." The book adeptly encapsulates the myriad ways diverse industries exacerbate the crisis while empowering readers with a wealth of resources and actionable solutions applicable to their daily routines. Within the pages of this work, a resounding message emerges – though Climate Change may appear a daunting tale of horror, glimmers of hope abound. By embracing the offered solutions, a prospect emerges: the potential to curtail the dire consequences wrought by this global challenge. It is also the first carbon neutral book published in India.

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July 23, 2023 05:22 EDT

My relationship with sustainability was completely transformed in 2017 when I was living in a small village in the Spiti Valley, a remote trans-Himalayan region in the northern tip of India, which shares a border with China. A nomad by nature, I found myself drawn to the serenity and remoteness of mountains, far away from the hustle and bustle of metropolises. Here, I could be closer to nature and share meaningful exchanges with fellow travellers through the region.

At the time, I was a self-declared student of sustainability, learning as much as I could about the complexities of climate change and how I, as an individual, was contributing to it. It was so that I happened to come across a ground-breaking documentary co-directed by my now dear friend, Keegan Kuhn. An incomparable narrative chronicling the harsh realities of animal agriculture, Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret17 is a documentary that changed the way I looked at food forever.

Over an hour and thirty minutes, I learned things that I would never have even considered possible until this point. Suddenly, an intricate web of unsustainable practices unfurled before me—a web that I found myself caught in, along with so many others.

For instance, the dairy industry emerged as one of the leading sources of GHG emissions due to foraging, which requires hectares upon hectares of deforested land. Methane, which accounts for approximately 25 per cent of global warming18, and whose CO2 equivalent is approximately 84×19, is also produced in vast quantities on dairy farms through the cattle’s natural bodily functions, fermentation practices and manure storage.

I learnt about palm oil, a standard ingredient in a wide range of food and beauty products, which accounts for the loss of 300 football fields worth of rainforests every single hour.20 Even my seemingly innocent morning coffee became almost sinister in its implications.

The more I researched, the further the web stretched.

This was just the tip of the iceberg, but it is also the unfiltered reality of our times.

Director Keegan Kuhn, who has directed films such as Cowspiracy and What the Health, says:

‘No other industry has a further reaching impact as animal agriculture. Raising animals for their flesh, milk, eggs and skins, is the leading driver of deforestation, water consumption, water pollution, ocean dead zones, ocean plastic (fishing nets), topsoil erosion, species extinction, desertification, habitat destruction and a primary contributor to climate change. Virtually anything you can care about in the world, animal consumption plays a major role in its destruction. Never in the history of the planet has there ever been 8+ billion megafaunas of a single species existing at once. We have a right to be here, but not everywhere at once. We need to allow the wild ones to have their own space. I have dedicated most of my life to promoting environmental knowledge. I think people need all the information to make informed decisions.’

It was almost too much for me to grasp, and accept, over the course of an hour and thirty minutes. Over the next ten days, I watched the documentary seven times. On the eleventh day, I pledged to adopt a plant-based lifestyle, giving up the vegetarian diet I had inherited from my childhood.

Going plant-based is not easy, but I found that it was harder for those around me to accept this step I had taken. My friends teased me, saying I had abandoned flavour in exchange for dry wisps of half-baked nutrition. My friends and family cautioned me against it, claiming it was an impulsive decision that would impact my health long-term, leaving me weak and of fragile disposition.

However, five years later, my relationship with food, and with consumption overall, has transformed into one that is healthier, and more sustainable for the planet. I run, cycle, trek, kayak and push my body to its limits every day, and I have never once felt the need to return to my old diet.

Since then, I have transformed my lifestyle completely to live in the most sustainable way possible. I do not consume products that cause harm to any living creature anywhere along the supply chain, and I only shop from brands that prioritize ethical sourcing, manufacturing, production and sales—I live closer to nature and am grateful for the many gifts it has given me.

Over the last five years, I have grown from a student of sustainability to an advocate of it, and I owe much of my drive and conviction to my plant-based lifestyle.

As an advocate, I believe it is my duty to share what I have learned, so that my words and actions may inspire someone in the way Keegan was able to inspire me.

Let me tell you a little bit about my journey, and how, over the years, I have managed to keep the integrity of nature central to my plans.

–          Excerpted from I’m a Climate Optimist by Aakash Ranison with permission from Penguin Random House India

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.


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