Novels from the end of the world

I have always been an anxious person. I’ve worried about school, work, relationships, politics, death – all the usual things. So I guess it was inevitable that over the last year, environmental anxiety has taken over large chunks of my life.

Sometimes I can redirect my focus for weeks, thinking about projects at work or wondering what haircut I should get. But then I see an article – climate change projections, biodiversity warnings, plastic, dead coral reefs – that hits me like a truck and completely trashes my mental health, at least until I manage to repress the fear again. And one of the things I do to distract myself is read.

Last year I read The Bone Clocks, by David Mitchell (some spoilers ahead). I wanted to like this book, but for the first 500 or so pages, I really struggled to get on with it. Its characters were interesting, but I wasn’t thrilled by the novel’s fantasy subplots or seemingly endless in-jokes about the Hay Festival.

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Life after cheese, 6 months in

I’ve been a vegan for more than half a year now. It’s going great. At first I was hesitant to talk about it, because everyone hates smug vegans. But I’ve gotten a lot of questions about it recently, and it’s actually something I feel very strongly about. So screw it – let’s talk about why and how I became a herbivore.

For years, going vegan was something that I had a vague sense I should be doing, but could not be bothered to do. I’d been vegetarian since I was an animal-loving kid, but couldn’t bring myself to take the next step. “I love cheese,” I said. “If I don’t eat cheese, my life will be barren and I will literally die.”

Then I read this article:

Avoiding meat and dairy is ‘single biggest way’ to reduce your impact on Earth

Biggest analysis to date reveals huge footprint of livestock – it provides just 18% of calories but takes up 83% of farmland

The study in the article was enormous, covering 40,000 farms in 119 countries. And it showed that animal agriculture’s impact on the environment was massive. My love of cheese was contributing to greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation of the Amazon, and water and air pollution.

Climate change regularly keeps me up at night. I stare at my bedroom ceiling, thinking about famines, rising sea levels, mass extinctions. The fact that we humans are not doing enough to stop this future from happening fills me with deep fear and frustration. I see my friends having kids and worry about the state of the planet we’re leaving them. Suddenly the cheese did not seem worth it.

“Well, shit,” I thought. “I’d better get on with it.”

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