For all of you out there who are making fun of, and ridiculing Greta Thunberg as a brainwashed political operative of her parents -- please stop.
Let me tell you a story. I was very much like Greta. I understand where she comes from.
When I was 7 years old I watched the film “The Blue Planet” which although mostly a positive film about our amazing world, also showed some of the environmental damage that humans have caused.
One scene that briefly showed images of massive deforestation brought me to tears, upsetting me and angering me all at once. To this day I clearly remember that clip, and while don’t know exactly why I had such a powerful emotional reaction to it — I do know that for the next few weeks it was all I could talk about to anyone.
I remember feeling devastated.
I remember feeling angry.
I remember feeling like I HAD to do something.
I remember feeling a burning desire to do everything I possible could stop it.
My emotions were not something that anyone forced me to feel or brainwashed me into thinking. It was my own empathy and compassion for the earth that brought those emotions up in me. An empathy that I believe most children are innately born with before it is suppressed or driven out of them by our society and cynicism.
Parents needn’t do anything more than share the reality of what we are doing to the planet, our fellow creatures, and each other, for children to become outraged and upset.
Most people have have no problem with letting kids watch the news, horror movies, films that depict war, violence, death, and so much more. But suggest that you want to tell or show kids the truth about how we live on and destroy the planet, and you get called out for manipulating and brainwashing children.
And trust me. That’s something I am intimately familiar with. When I was still a child and teen, I had multiple people tell me that I was brainwashed because I was vegan and cared about environmentalism and animal rights. They told me “wait until you grow up, you might feel differently”.
Of course children are deeply influenced by their parents. So are we all. Everyone is biased in some way, and influenced by who they surround themselves with, their community, and the environments that they put themselves in. But that is no reason to ridicule and ignore youth that speak out on issues they are passionate about. Society is by no means "values neutral", and corporations, the government, and big business all try to influence children and adults alike on a daily basis, yet we still seem to listen to those corporations and adults no problem.
And as someone who remembers what is was like to be a teenage activist, and also currently teaches high school, I promise you that many teenagers already have strong beliefs and ideas about the world that are their own, and it is demeaning and condescending to act like they are all puppets of their parents just because they are saying something you don’t like.
And especially with the rise of the internet and social media, information is at all of our finger tips, including teens. It’s no longer just up to parents to share the truth about our world with the youth. Young people can find, read, and watch the truth and learn about the science of climate change all on their own now.
But whether you agree with Greta’s message or not, t is pathetic to try and undermine what she is saying by claiming she is brainwashed or being abused and manipulated by her parents. Just say what you mean, which is that you are threatened by the power and influence of a teenager, and you have no good response to her pointed message and anger at adults and world leaders.
Dear Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez,
First of all, I just want to say what an inspiration you are! I have loved following your journey from winning your primary, to becoming the youngest woman to serve in the House of Representatives, to being featured all over the media. You are so articulate, unafraid to challenge the establishment, and a powerful speaker and advocate. I was especially excited when I learned that you are also a fellow Intel ISEF alumni with a science background! All these reasons that I think you are so incredible, are also why I felt I had to write this letter to you today.
As you very well know, climate change is a huge issue facing the world. Earlier this week you spoke to a group about the United Nation’s latest report which says that we have just 12 years to take drastic action before we start seeing major devastation from climate change. Given this very short time frame and the large potential for harm, I’m sure you agree with me, that the government as well as all us individuals, should be doing everything that we possibly can to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. That is why I was so disappointed to see you eating ice cream on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert the other night. I know that may sound weird, so let me explain.
I understand that addressing climate change is a top priority for you, and I am thrilled that you are pushing hard for change at the governmental level with your Green New Deal, yet you are missing one very large piece of the puzzle. While the energy sector is definitely the largest cause of carbon dioxide emissions, animal agriculture is actually THE single biggest overall driver of greenhouse gas emissions! This is because cows and other animals produce enormous amounts of methane, which has 86 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide, and because grazing animals and growing feed crops are driving deforestation. An analysis from the World Bank, found that animal agriculture is responsible for a shocking 51% of all greenhouse gases. And did you know that 91% of the amazon destruction is also due to animal agriculture?
The most comprehensive analysis to date drawing on hundreds of studies and looking at more than 37,000 farms, found that animal products supply just 18% of calories globally, while using 83% of global farmland, and more than 30% of the worlds fresh water. The authors of this study concluded that based on the data, even the lowest impact animal foods had a significantly greater impact than most plant-based foods. This means that both our individual food choices as well as the current Farm Bill which provides large subsidies to agribusiness, are having a huge impact on climate change. It also means that we as individuals have immense power to shift our current course.
I know that you are truly dedicated to helping people and stopping climate change. That’s why I am urging you to please quit consuming animal products and supporting the very thing you are working against. It is critical that you and everyone else educate yourself more on this topic and learn all about veganism. There are incredible plant-based protein sources (including ice cream!) that are available almost everywhere now. I’m happy to provide you with resources, and I have even linked to some below. While I am truly hoping, your Green New Deal is passed, I simply don’t believe it will be enough soon enough. That is where individual choices can make a huge contribution. In particular, because unlike carbon dioxide which persists in the atmosphere long after emissions are stopped, methane from animals actually breaks down much more quickly. This means reducing methane emissions has a much more immediate impact than reducing carbon dioxide emissions. That is why we need an immediate shift away from animal products, towards plant-based living, and I believe you could be a huge part of making that shift happen. You have a large platform, and an incredible opportunity to share this information while also setting an example for others. So please, for the sake of our future, stand with me in support of plant-based living and an end to animal agriculture subsidies which continue to prop up this terribly destructive industry.
Wishing you all the best from Kansas!
VIDEO OF ME READING LETTER HERE:
- Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret
- Forks Over Knives
- Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home
Plant-Based-On a Budget
Sweet Potato Soul
Cheep lazy vegan
The Protein Myth: Proteinaholic
Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine
Healthy Human Revolution
22 Day Vegan Challenge
NOTE: This piece was originally published on Ecorazzi on September 7th 2016
Recently, an Italian bill proposed jail time for parents irresponsibly imposing a vegan diet on their children. It has created a lot of buzz and discussion over whether vegan parents should be allowed to “force their values” on their children. A common theme in articles and commentary I have read is that regardless of a parent’s values, they shouldn’t “force” their radical choices on their children, but rather should let them choose if they want to be vegan or not. I have even seen several people comparing veganism to religious brainwashing and cults, making it seem like if a child is given a choice, they will obviously come to their senses and reject veganism. I have also met a number of vegans who have told me that while they have made the personal choice to go vegan, they wouldn’t force that on their children and that plan to let their children decide for themselves.
As a 22-year-old lifelong vegan whose parents “forced their beliefs” on me as a small child, I have a lot to say on this topic.
NOTE: I originally wrote this piece while in college, after receiving numerous criticisms of the vegan advocacy and tabling I was doing on campus. The piece was published in The Grinnell Underground Magazine.
Imagine this scenario: You suddenly find yourself transported to a time or place where public stonings are legal and are a socially accepted form of capital punishment for things like adultery. I’m certain that most people who are concerned with social justice would agree that, regardless of cultural traditions, stoning someone to death for a non-violent offense is absolutely abhorrent. Now that you are in this place, imagine that a public stoning is happening in front of you, and hundreds of people are throwing stones at a woman accused of adultery. Regardless of your place in the crowd and whether or not you throw a stone, you realize it will likely not make any difference to the suffering and terror the woman is experiencing. You also recognize that you have no hope in that exact moment of getting this stoning called off.
What do you do?