What Lights your Fire?
Awareness, in my opinion, is the genesis of change. When I think of causes that inspire me, my internal compass tends to drift toward the wonderful world of animals. There’s an inexplicable romance to be found in peacefully interacting with another species. Causes relating to the lives of our fellow nonhuman earthlings and the state of our planet are deeply etched into who I am, and they are constantly shaping who I am becoming.
I’ve always been a very quiet individual. But throughout my life, these causes have helped me find my voice. When I was in elementary school, I was all about dogs. Once, I raised over $100 from selling homemade crafts and trinkets and donated all the money to a local animal shelter. In middle school, I became a hardcore pit bull advocate. You wanted to know what pit bulls scored on the American Temperament Test? I knew it (It was 86.8). Going into my freshman year of high school, the film Blackfish was the catalyst that truly launched me into the world of animal rights.
Initially, I was wrapped in a bubble of orca abuse. Then, my awareness broadened. Rapidly, more and more species found a place under my umbrella of compassion. First it was Blackfish and orcas, then it was Tyke Elephant Outlaw and elephants. Then it was Cowspiracy, Earthlings, Food Inc. (and more that I don’t have room to list), and my eyes flew wide open. A couple years previously, I had cut meat out of my diet because I felt it was immoral to unnecessarily kill another being. I had no idea how much cruelty I was still contributing to just by purchasing animal products. It was a harrowing experience to realize the connection between the animal products on my plate and the decimation of the world under my feet. The most disturbing part of this whole awakening? No one around me was talking about this monster of an issue. Animals are being needlessly slaughtered by the billions, animal agriculture is rapidly killing the planet, yet no one seemed to have any sense of urgency. My understanding of the world just spun on its heels, and everyone around me was still asleep. This, more than anything, inspired me to become an activist.
Very recently, I had a quintessential “lightbulb moment”. I had stopped by a youth rally against fossil fuels, and the orator opened up the stage to allow anyone from the audience to come up and speak. Something inside me just clicked. I knew that I had to go up there. I couldn’t keep letting myself succumb to the comfort of staying hidden. Having only half a mind of what I wanted to say, my legs took me to the stage in the last instant. I spoke of how grateful I was to see young people showing up to this event, and how important it is for us to make our voices heard. I spoke of how easy it is to be deterred by the fact that you’re “only one person”, and how easy it is to believe that one person can’t make much of a difference. But it only takes a spark to light a fire. To cap off my ad lib speech, I paraphrased this quote by Eleanor Roosevelt: “It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.” This concept is at the very core of my being to this day.
What is it about animals that I find so appealing? Why do I feel so inclined to help them whenever possible? Maybe it’s because I feel like I owe it to them. They, like many of our fellow humans, have been unwillingly subjected to the avarice of mankind, despite having done nothing wrong. We have created divides among ourselves in every way imaginable, whether it be by ethnicity, religion, generation, sexuality, political party, gender, social class, even species. But when you take a step back, you realize that we are all just beings living on the same planet. We’re all walking on the same ground, breathing the same air, watching the same stars. If we as a human race learn how to treat other species with respect and compassion, imagine how much easier it would be to set aside divides we have erected among ourselves. If not for the sake of peace, then for the sake of the planet.