“If we all lose hope, there is no hope. Without hope, we all fall into apathy. There is still a lot left to fight for.”
– Jane Goodall
Early in 2015, I visited Iceland. I hadn’t planned it. Fuck, I barely knew where it was. I happened to be in London with my girlfriend at the time and one day she says hey how about checking out Iceland while you are here? The flight with WOW airline costs us next to nothing, and we were served by a hilarious flight attendant who could have forged a successful career as a stand-up comedian had she not opted for serving cold meals in the sky.
To this day, it remains one of my favourite places I’ve been to. I left a part of me in Iceland, in the hope that I would return to retrieve it someday. But I suspect I also brought a piece of it with me; over the next few months after my visit, Iceland went from a place I had barely heard of, to a country swamping my Insta feed. My mates started travelling there, my clients started enquiring about it and there was an article featuring it on every reputable and half-assed blog I visited.
It was that old phenomenon at play again. You know, like when you buy a car and next thing you know, your car is absolutely everywhere on the streets? It’s like you’ve been blind, and then you are suddenly aware of something’s existence and only then do you begin to see it.
* * *
I have always been big on animals. Wanted to be the next David Attenborough growing up. I studied wildlife conservation at University. But when the time came to walk the walk, I bailed. I told myself it was too hard to get a job in that field, there was no money in it, and all sorts of other weird and wonderful excuses.
So the years passed and I just kept yapping about the environment and Climate Change without doing a goddamn thing about it. I suppose I felt pretty pessimistic about the whole thing; what with all the corruption in the world and and the politicians and corporations always having their way and ultimately the human race’s insatiable greed, I just couldn’t see a way out of it. Shit was grim and we were all doomed.
Until one day, I watched this.
I was in Brazil, working at a hostel, surrounded by plastic shopping bags and those delightful steaks Brazil is renown for. If you clicked on that link earlier, you know it’s about the documentary Racing Extinction. At the end of the movie, the main protagonist quotes a Japanese reverend whose statement sums up the entire film beautifully; “It’s better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.” It was a brutal kick to the gut. I finally realised that all my life, I had been hopelessly cursing the darkness.
The next day, a friend and I made some tote bags out of old T-shirts, hung them up on the hostel kitchen’s walls with a note above them asking guests to use them when they go shopping instead of the supermarket’s shopping bags. We painted 7 animals on the hostel’s walls representing the 7 continents, with an environmental message underneath each.
And later that night, I gave up red meat for good.
This story, if you can even call it that, was not something I was particularly keen on publishing. But when I woke up this morning to the news of D. Trump withdrawing from Paris Climate Change Agreement, I knew I had to say something; anything. I’m not writing this to preach or ask you to turn vegan. All I’m saying is that perhaps it’s time we all opened our eyes to our world’s realities and started seeing things for what they are.
Iceland had always been there, people had been travelling there for god knows how long and photos of Iceland were probably published way before Insta was even a thing. But I only began seeing Iceland everywhere once I had been there.
And I think the same goes with the world. I only started taking the smallest steps when I finally saw it; from the disappearing glaciers of Patagonia and Iceland to the degradation of the Amazonian rainforest in Peru and Brazil. And I know that many people do not have the luxury of going and seeing it for themselves. But I do, and that only makes it my responsibility to share what I see of the world – all that’s wrong with it and all that’s beautiful – with all of those calling it home.