Thursday, 19 December 2013

So, will there be snow in Africa this Christmas time?

Hey, people of the world!
Back when I was fifteen, I did a speech on global warming, and I thought actually, why not adapt it into a blog? Yes, you are getting an insight into my blatant laziness and my clearly uninspiring life (have you tried taking A-Levels?! They are killer, I tell you). But hey.
I give you my speech, voila. Just call me Al Gore. Or don't. It sounds like a Spanish horror movie or something.

Hello, hello my little friends. (they were my age, but I'm condescending).
I’m pretty sure that you know what global warming is, and that you know what’s causing it. You know what effects it will have, and you’ve already decided where you stand on the matter. Now, seeing as I’m supposed to talk for five minutes on the topic, this leaves me with something of a predicament.
Where do I start when you know so much about it? I decided to start on safe grounds, so I went with an anecdote.
I was with my friends, and we were talking about the lyrics of that Band Aid song, Feed The World. And I was being pedantic as usual, and I was saying, “It’s so stupid how they say, there won’t be snow in Africa, because what about Mount Kilimanjaro? It’s going to be snowing up there! It’s nearly 6000m above sea level. Bob Geldof really needs to check his facts. No rain or rivers flow? What about the rainforest? WHAT ABOUT THE NILE?!”
Then I did a bit of research. It’s something I tend to do; make some wild claims, and then check if my facts are right later. And I came across this picture.

The only words that resounded repeatedly through my head were, “Bob Geldof was right.”
There won’t be snow in Africa.
Maybe there is this Christmas time. There might even be snow next Christmas time. But one year, not very far in the future, there won’t be snow in Africa.
This is six thousand metres above sea level. And this isn’t right.

(Incidentally, the world’s rainforests are experiencing an unequivocal rate of destruction, and the Nile region of Egypt is severely water stressed - climate change induced, I hear. Bob Geldof is a wise, wise man.)

(yes, this particular section of the presentation was inspired by 'An Inconvenient Truth'. But I was fifteen, I was drowning in homework, and I only really had about an afternoon to write this speech. And plus, does this point ever get old? I mean, look at that mountain. LOOK AT IT!")

Now, six is a small number. If we add a word after six, you get six degrees. In the sense of global warming, a common synonym of six degrees is “death”.

We have evidence that a warming of global temperature by less than this has caused mass extinction before. It happened in the ice age. Ever wondered why we don’t see these guys anymore? 

Actually, I lie, we see these guys everywhere. Hasn’t it been FOUR movies now? Alas, I am digressing.
Now, we probably won’t suffer the same fate as these species – we can adapt to different conditions in time. But what global warming could do is kill other species, mess up the food chain, and just generally, make life unliveable for us. And there is no point to it. No real benefits for anyone - no-one at all. Now I only have one question for you guys: why? Why are we letting this happen?

Now, I’m throwing crazy ideas out there and adding so much major drama that I might as well earn a drama A-Level straight out – but I’ve got to carry on now I’ve started.
Hurricane Sandy. 253 human Fatalities.
Hurricane Katrina. 1833 human Fatalities.
We are causing these hurricanes. If we’re not starting them altogether, we’re taking their initial severity and increasing it tenfold. (The warmer the ocean, the more severe the storm forming above will be. To put it in basic, basic terms).

Have you ever killed a person?

We’ve got to stop this now, or there will be blood – metaphorical blood – on everyone’s hands.

*dun dun dun*

The class pretty much stared at me, shell-shocked. It was a dramatic moment in my Year 11 career.
And then that was it. My speech.
I tell you, my teacher loved it (full marks, not that I'm bragging), but at the end of the day, we all went home and polluted some more. And the same people who I gave the speech to in that classroom are the same people I see around school littering. They walk out of the room without turning off lights, they drive to school when I know full well they don't live further than a fifteen minute walk away.
And this year, I've looked out the window to green grass on the ground as opposed to snow, which had been there for so many previous years at this time. People in my class still wear vest-tops! 

And I can't wash off that metaphorical blood Typhoon Haiyan splashed over my hands.

I will try and write some more original blog posts, when I'm not struggling to locate my reason to live underneath all these textbooks!
- SavingTheWorldFromMyKitchen

Saturday, 2 November 2013

My Life As A Walking Metaphor

Hello, people of the earth!
So over the past few months or so, I've really been able to feel like I can empathise with Planet Earth. I can feel its pain. I guess, for me, it's a case of : 'you can take the kid out of India, but it's a lot harder to take the India out of the kid. No matter how many times they go to the toilet.' Yeah. I think you can guess - I've recently been 'home' to a whole host of lovely little intestinal parasites, apparently.

(Yes, that is why I have not posted for so long. I have spent the past two months in the bathroom. Well, okay, I haven't - I've mainly been writing A-Level essays. But, in fairness, both have involved large quantities of shit).

Now, you know, I loved India - and I miss it - I really, really do. But by the time I had received the diagnosis, I was at such a level of nostalgia over my trip that the news made me feel absurdly flattered - "Aw, India enjoyed my stay so much that it can't even bear to part with me. Out of all the 1.1 billion people in that country, those parasites chose ME to host their species!" I even felt slightly maternal and protective towards these tiny parasites. I felt proud: "These millions of little creatures all call my intestines home; I'm like this little planet for them to live and thrive on. I feel like the giver of life!"
Questionable though it may sound, I was content. I was at one with my, um, offspring. Perhaps the real truth is... I was no longer lonely.
Unfortunately, however, I had a burning curiosity and I could not bear that curiosity any longer. I told myself it was dangerous. I begged myself not to. But of course, I did it.
I Wikipedia'd the parasite.
It is safe to say I have been haunted forever.
Let's just say that reading the words "flagellated", "swimming" and "feeding" in the first paragraph, was nearly enough to make me violently ill once more. And the PICTURE.
Well, that flipping burned my eyes.
I mean, it had a FACE.
It made me shrieky, the whole ordeal. Every maternal instinct I had ever felt for the vile things vanished, as sure as any mother's would if the DNA test revealed that Satan was their child's father. Suddenly, I broke free of the rose-tinted haze of Indian nostalgia. I remembered the days of hitting the bathroom sixteen times a day, the sadistic stomach cramps and the feverish days of... fever. That fever they gave me - the scorching inferno blazing inside me on a temperature equivalent to Hell itself. Well, the memory of that made me hit the roof.
"I gave you a home!" I shrieked to the ungrateful little sods. "I gave you a roof over your heads and a protective sanctuary for you to raise your children!" 
("Not quite so protective," they muttered back to me "I mean - your bowels have been relentlessly trying to evict us for the past few months.") 
"I'm the only home you've got! The only home you'll ever know! AND THIS IS HOW YOU THANKED ME?!" I shrieked on, oblivious "BY HIKING UP THE TEMPERATURE UNTIL I COULD BARELY STAND IT! I MEAN -"

I stopped. Now there's a thought.

I am more than just a breeding ground. I am a walking metaphor for global warming!

Because, as my dear old David Attenborough pointed out earlier this year, "we humans are a plague on the Earth". And, I, as a microcosmic representation of this, can tell you that further proliferation of this plague will not have happy results. That good old Mother Earth may try and exterminate us by the million if we raise her temperature any higher. I am not suggesting that we should stop "swimming and feeding" on her entirely (O.K. I am making myself feel sick. All I need to do now is mention the word "flagellated" again and... oh dear. Bathroom trip number 17). I am just pointing out that we should stop exploiting our only home, because one day, its immune system might kick in.

And then, that's it, our future is down the toilet.
(yes my friends. Anecdotes about your bowel movements are surely the most persuasive of linguistic devices).
I will refrain from further potty talk (hahaha, no) for your benefit, and instead hand you a snippet of advice:

My advice is this. Look outside. Watch the news. Reflect back over the past few months.
I have been doing all three. I have seen flooding, the polar vortex, I have seen Typhoon Haiyan. I have seen evidence that climate change is making an appearance - today, not in the future, not in some distant time ahead.

I have seen evidence of a plague infecting a noble host, and an immune response making itself felt.
Incidentally, this "noble host" is now parasite-free (I had the all-clear a few days back) - but the omen should be noted.
It will happen again, y'know, if we don't mitigate all of this crap we're throwing into the atmosphere and get our shit together. It will keep happening until we can't go on any longer.
Look, people have died in these recent catastrophes. We have to accept a partial responsibility for that.

Sombre, I know. Here's some more practical advice:
Advice To Fledgling Vegetarians I Wish I Had Been Given: scotch eggs contain meat. The clue is NOT in the name.
Aside from that incident, vegetarianism is all good, with the exception of Quorn ham. Whilst in general, I find most Quorn products both healthy and appetising, I have to admit that Quorn ham tastes, quite literally, like arse.

... I'll leave you with that thought, and the promise of a longer blog post in the near future.

SavingTheWorldFromMyKitchen - you know what to do, folks.

Sunday, 25 August 2013

The Day I Silenced The Bacon Sandwich

Hey, people of the world...
I tell you, right at this moment I can barely type. Not because I'm trembling with the sheer excitement of telling this story, but because I can genuinely barely remember how to. Spend a month away from technology and you'd be surprised at how alien it seems once you finally reunite yourself with your ball-and-chain (known colloquially as a computer, laptop, or anything with a WiFi connection).
"A month away from technology? Where were you, halfway up a mountain in the middle of nowhere, or something?" you snap sarcastically.
Oh... well actually, yes.

I've just got back from spending a month in the Indian Himalayas!
I'll cut my usual crap and tell you seriously - it was the most incredible experience of my life, and Ladakh, the region of India in which I was mostly based, is the best place in the world! And why am I telling you this? Well, to tell you the truth, it's because I got a job at a Ladakhi travel agency and am trying to push trips to Ladakh to any potential tourists out there. I get a commission from each booking, and the money's really not that bad. So, now you know. 

Let us begin:
The plane journey was a nightmare. 
Don't get me wrong, we experienced no real turbulence, and might I say that the cabin crew of Jet Airways India were very hospitable. But there was something else for me - the bane of my life:
The voice of a bacon sandwich in my ear, berating me furiously, for the entire duration of the flight.

"Don't you know air travel's one of the biggest man-made contributors to greenhouse gas emissions?" it screamed, enraged. "Have you learned NOTHING from me?"
"I thought that was cattle farming." I said tiredly. It was the middle of the night, and sleep had become a distant memory. "I'm going to India, I won't be able to eat beef even if I wanted to. I thought that'd make you happy."
It dimly occurred to me that the bacon sandwich would never be happy.
"NO!" it snapped. "Air travel's worse. Now, eject yourself from this plane immediately."
"But - but ... DO YOU WANT ME TO DIE?!" I cried in horror.
"Well, it would mean you'd emit less carbon dioxide..." it considered thoughtfully.

 ... Oh, well hello first - (and possibly last) - time readers of my blog! Please don't be too afraid of my strange, delusional rambling. This paragraph requires you to have read my
previous blog post to be able to vaguely understand it. Here's a clue: the bacon sandwich is a metaphor for my environmental conscience...

In plain English: air travel pollutes. Don't do it unless you have to. 

"Yeah, but, did you really have to go to India? Like, really? Was, like, someone going to die if you didn't go?" I can hear you inquire sarcastically, but I am interrupting your pathetic quibble, as I've heard enough of that kind of thing from the sandwich. I don't need you on my case too. 


"Maybe you should start telling people about the environmental side of your trip." the bacon sandwich says gently. "Because really, darling, you're just spewing bullshit."
Ugh. You know, people just don't realise how hard it is to be inside my head sometimes.
... No, no, please put the phone down! I don't need medical help!

Anyway, so. My job at the travel agency aside, one of the greatest pleasures I experienced on the trip was working for an NGO (non-governmental organisation) for the first time - in this case, the Snow Leopard Conservancy India Trust! I can hyperlink it if you want to learn more - - but if you don't then you have my word that it is a very worthwhile charity. Additionally, the name is quite self-explanatory.
We undertook our work with a small village community in the Ladakh area of the Himalayas, which is home to a (relatively speaking) large population of snow leopards. Well, it isn't really large at all - there's only an estimated 4,000 - 7,000 snow leopards in the world, let alone India. One of the main causes for the snow leopard's decline is human conflict. Snow leopards prey on rural farmers' livestock, and being subsistence farmers with other livelihood except their animals, they often kill any snow leopards they see to protect their sole source of income. It's a sad but true story being written all over the Himalayas.

Our project aimed to try and ensure the villagers have more than just their livestock to rely on - and that the crops and livestock they do have are protected. This was in the hope that people would stop seeing snow leopards as a threat - hopefully reducing snow leopard killings. Our eleven-strong team from far, far away (plus two members of the SLC-IT who needed to help us probably more often than they would have liked) set about building a fence for local farmers to protect their crops from predators. I have to admit, watching certain people in my group pick up a pickaxe and attempt to use it for the first time was highly amusing - if faintly alarming - but in general, I found the fence-building part of the project really enjoyable.

We also set about revamping the village's parachute cafe - a roadside tea tent run by the local women's group. The cafe met all the requirements a cafe should meet - but it lacked customers. Direly. It was down to the eleven of us, many with questionable artistic talent, to try and change this - with the help of four cans of paint. Results were mixed. I consider myself a particularly crap painter (as do the rest of the world), but some of the signs our group painted on rocks to attract trekkers' attention were exceptional. I mean, a fox shat on one of the best ones the very next day, but hey. It was still legible, and the cafe has since reported record profits - which makes me feel about as rewarded as I've ever felt. 

Yet through all the hilarity, I was reminded that as fun as building fences in the sweltering heat may be (in fact, it was vaguely reminiscent of a labour camp, and I fell victim to a particularly severe case of sunstroke, but that's what it's all about, isn't it?) there was actually a serious issue at the heart of it all.
To cut a long story short (something I've never actually managed to do), this one evening I was talking to the director of the SLC-IT at our campsite.  I was asking him questions about the charity's work so rapidly I don't think I gave him a chance to breathe, and they were all ridiculously over-complex, but eventually I cut the crap and asked him something simple:
"Do you think that without your charity, the snow leopards would go extinct?"
His response was... "Yes."
Well, that was bit of an anticlimax.

So, folks, you see where I'm coming from. It's all about the charities and NGOs.

...But it is also about you.

Because, when I asked about the leading causes of snow leopard decline, he gave me two reasons.
One was human conflict, and I will give you precisely one guess as to what the other factor was - because you sure as hell knew this would spring up at some point.
Yeah. That was not very surprising.
And what I am about to tell you now should also not be a surprise. Because this news has stopped being surprising. It has stopped being surprising when, every year on the news, we're informed of record Arctic ice melts. It has stopped being surprising when we hear of countless floods, hurricanes and other natural disasters caused by rising temperatures. And it has stopped being surprising when climate change comes up time and time again as the story behind species extinction.
It has stopped being surprising because the only thing that's changing about the world is its climate. Not people's lifestyles.

(ok I am generalising, but give me this).

I am telling you now: go over to the mirror. Look at the person in front of you, and sing these words:
"I'm gonna make a change, for once in my life. It's gonna feel real good, gonna make a difference, gonna make it right... I'm starting with the man in the mirror! I'm asking him to change his ways. And no message could have been any clearer, if you wanna make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and then make a change!"
I admit, if you are female, you may need to change the pronouns.
I agree with the philosophy of leading by example, so I went ahead and did just that. I also sang various other Michael Jackson songs and quite a lot of Elvis. But what is important is that I then followed through, and I made that change - and I have now been vegetarian for six full weeks!
And since then, believe me. I have not heard a peep out of that bacon sandwich since.

Arrivederci, folks!
- SavingTheWorldFromMyKitchen

PS - In case you are interested, India in general was flipping amazing. I miss it so much! I met people and saw places that will inspire me forever. 

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Saturday, 1 June 2013

A Conversation With A Bacon Sandwich

Hey people of the world,
Genuine danger is being bestowed on me upon the writing of this blog. My future is in mortal peril. I'm sitting here writing this post when every minute that passes for me now is numbered... counting down rapidly to the two GCSEs that I am sitting in approximately 36 hours. I will attempt to complete them on a diet of no revision. I am dead meat.
(Isn't it coincidental that my main blog entries are published during exam seasons? But then again, where I live, exam season is all year round for me).
Incidentally, I recently encountered dead meat - a mere hour and a half ago, in fact. Craving some late night sustenance, or perhaps comfort food to console me as I plodded through the vale of tears that was my physics revision, I indulged in a bacon sandwich to lift my spirits.
Yet I picked up the sandwich in my zombified, slightly hallucinogenic state of revision-induced, sleep-deprived insanity, the most disturbing thing happened.

I kid you not, my dear friends. The sandwich started talking to me.
"ARGHHH!" I dropped the sandwich in shock. Stared at it in horror as it lay broken on my plate.
"Do not be afraid, dear child. I have come to tell you... not to eat me." it whispered up to me. Strange, it kind of sounded like Grandpa Simpson.
"All my food says that." I said sulkily, wishing it'd just shut up so I could devour it. "I don't blame it; who'd want to be eaten? I understand it's your attempt at self-preservation, and you have to kind of admire a sandwich without a brain for that, but I'm hungry.Why should I listen to YOU?"
"You should listen to me, my child" - I really hated how it referred to me as "my child", it implied my mother was a pig (she isn't) - "Because I know what you want from life. I understand your dreams, your desires..." I looked at it dubiously, slightly panic-stricken. I really hoped it didn't.
"How?" I asked suspiciously. My friends have called me an open book, but I didn't realise I was so easily legible to all - including my mid-evening snacks.
"I read your blog." it explained. "Your second post - Saving The World From My... Study? I believe it's entitled."
"Ah," I relaxed. "Continue?"
"Yeah, so I read how you want to save the world and stuff. I just wondered if you knew that meat is probably the most unsustainable component of your diet. You know livestock production generates eighteen percent of all greenhouse gas emissions? Two pounds of beef uses the same amount of energy to produce as driving a car for three hours does."
I clutched the sandwich in horror, ignoring its squeals of pain. "Seriously?"
"Seriously." came its muffled response. "Please let go of me." I released it and waited till it had caught its breath again. "You're always on at everyone to reduce their carbon footprint by walking to school and stuff, but in a world of lazy-asses, is that really going to happen?"
"Yeah," I said defiantly, but under the sandwich's stern and disbelieving glare, my resolve cracked. "Maybe not," I conceded.
"You're barking up the wrong tree," it said gently. "We all know how much you want to reduce people's consumption, but I hate to break it to you... no-one listens to you."
"That's not -" I began, but it gave me another pitying glance. I shut up.
"We all know it's true, stop deluding yourself." it snapped. "Anyway. Vegetarianism, on the other hand, is so much more eco-friendly. Eighteen percent." it reminded me.
My face crumpled. I knew it was right. "It doesn't have to be painful," it soothed me. "There are plenty of meat-substitutes out there these days, and more are being developed each year. Approximately 12-17% of the world are either vegan, vegetarian, or pescatarian. It can't be that hard, can it?"
"It's food for thought," I admitted grudgingly.
"Or even just cut down on meat. Have it less often. It needn't be drastic." it encouraged.
"I'm not going to stop campaigning for people to cut down on fossil fuels," I told it. "But I am definitely going to cut down on meat. With a view to becoming veggie."
"That's the spirit!"
I smiled at it. "Thank you," I said emphatically.
"Absolutely no problem. Good for you, I say."
We regarded each other in amicable silence, until a sound broke the hush. A low rumble echoed across the kitchen... originating from my stomach.
I noticed the sandwich pale with fear. "Well... take care of yourself." it said nervously.
"I will," I assured it.
They were the last words it heard before it met its untimely end.
R.I.S, sandwich - (rest in stomach).

Later that night, sitting in the dark to save electricity, I considered the late sandwich's words.
As much as it pains me to say it, I know vegetarianism is the way forward. Of course, I'm stuck between a rock and a hard place. My heart is telling me that in order to truly set an example, I should become a vegetarian. I don't condone hypocrisy. Yet my heart also seems to be suffering from multiple personality disorder, because it is ALSO telling me to remain true to my meat-eating ways. It's not a nice dilemma, y'know?

And it is in memorial of that noble sandwich that I have come to two short term solutions, which I share with you today. It really shouldn't be THAT hard, and if other people gave it a shot as well, it's a case of every little helps. Eighteen percent, remember? Here goes:
1) I will attempt to omit meat from my meals for an absolute minimum of two days a week. (currently, I have it basically every day. It's bad, I know).
2) I will sample at least one meat substitute, because you never know, it might be even better than the real thing. (wouldn't that be convenient?)

I will undertake this challenge, I swear ("THIS I SWEAR BY THE STARRRSS" - have you guys seen Les Miserables? WHAT a great film.).

I wouldn't like to call the sandwich thing a miracle, but it really opened my eyes. A smart guy, was that sandwich.
Oh. My. God.
Yeah, I really should be revising.

- SavingTheWorldFromMyKitchen

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In memory of a sandwich. 2013-2013.
Forever in my stomach.
Because I have a digestion problem.
I don't.