The Turning Point: Why I Went Vegetarian

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On the 23rd of March I sat down in my BCM310 tutorial and watched exactly how Australian cattle in Indonesia are slaughtered (ABC’s “A Bloody Business”). I couldn’t stay for the second hour to watch the Blackfish documentary because it would have hurt me too much. I walked out of there with a promise to give up eating meat and so far, I haven’t broken it. My twin sister has been vegan for almost two years and constantly pressures the rest of my family to go vegan. I’d ignored her because I really like meat. Why would I give that up? But this video changed my mind completely. I was on the brink of tears. And I realised that despite how good meat tastes, I couldn’t be a willing party to the animal cruelty that exists in almost every animal-driven industry. The “open secret” of meat industries became too much to bear for me.

The motivation of giving up meat flagged during the first fortnight. I’d have late-night cravings for burgers, kebabs, chicken; basically all I wanted to eat when I was hungry was meat. Late-night cravings hit me so hard for the first month. My sister constantly shares videos about veganism on my Facebook timeline but all I had to do was think back to the single doco I’d watched to stay away from meat. It was hard though.

This topic ties back to humans in the media. The way we view animal welfare in the media isn’t taken seriously enough. Animals, inherently helpless and voiceless, need us to fight for their rights and lives. We can’t just spend a week outraged at Indonesian cattle abattoirs. We can’t give up bacon for the weekend and then give in to cravings. We need to lend animals our voices and our compassion to end the cruel treatment they endure every day of their lives. The benefits of giving up meat include helping the environment and keeping families together. It’s eye-opening to learn that animals are intelligent and compassionate beings. Their high cognition means that most will die scared. That is not the way I want any animal’s life to end.

Captain Planet’s Sidekicks

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In an article that I assumed was written by SBS’s Backburner (their satirical, comedic news section) it was stated that climate change is a UN hoax to end democracy. Chuckling whilst reading it, I was shocked to discover that this wasn’t satire. It is well known that Tony Abott is a climate change denier and after years of campaigning has finally scrapped the carbon tax. This news story comes at a time when we’re learning how the Internet is impacting our environment.

The massive amount of electricity needed to store all our Internet data is huge. Apple’s iCloud is now responsible for 2% of the global CO2 emissions. Our data use is also predicted to increase – as it has ever since the first computers were invented. My dad recalls being in university, studying software engineering, and his class having a hardrive memory of 25MB. Each PC was allocated 16KB of data. The year was 1983. In 2014, my new Lenovo laptop came with 1TB of memory. Oh how times have changed.

The sobering reality is that our Internet use is impacting the environment, despite the Internet as an entity being all but invisible. The good news is that a lot of companies are now turning to greener methods in order to save energy and lessen their impact on our environment. Greenpeace has put together an interactive report regarding this, grading several companies on how green they are and what methods they’re using to help the environment.

Notwithstanding the environmental impact of the Internet, the ability to access unlimited resources for learning on it means that each person can become educated on this issue and can learn how to “green up” their own lives. There are an unlimited amount of websites dedicated to teaching people how to use our resources wisely and with as little detrimental consequences as possible. The first step is to start.

Who else is trying to save the earth, apart from tech companies? Zoos Victoria has started an initiative to recycle your old mobile phones to save gorillas on the brink of extinction. Kenco Coffee has started a campaign to buy lands of rainforest to conserve. The idea of solar roadways was an immediate hit. It seems the idea of keeping our earth in tip-top shape is becoming far more popular – and keeping climate change deniers at bay.

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Representation and the Media

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Well, when I was nine years old, Star Trek came on, I looked at it and I went screaming through the house, ‘Come here, mom, everybody, come quick, come quick, there’s a black lady on television and she ain’t no maid!’ I knew right then and there I could be anything I wanted to be.

Whoopi Goldberg

One of the most important issues affecting feminism in developed worlds today is that men outnumber women in high-ranking positions in most fields of the workforce, especially where the diversity of opinions and perspectives is important. The media is such an industry. Julie Burton, president of the Women’s Media Center, said, “We’re still not seeing equal participation. That means we are only using half our talent and usually hearing half of the story.” Because the media is so relevant in people’s lives, it’s important that all views are represented, so all the angles are covered and all points-of-view considered equally significant.

There are worries that this trend of inequality will continue with the millennial generation as it grows older, so one of the ways to challenge and reduce that fear is to make sure millennials aren’t negatively influenced by pre-conceived gender roles and stereotypes, and that they grow up believing that men and women are equal and that when asked what a boss looks like, they won’t immediately think of a white male but rather picture a woman or a person of colour as equally likely to be a boss. The measures taken have to be conscious, efforts made to be more inclusive.

One way that representation is being delivered in through children’s media. The recent releases of Big Hero 6, Home, and The Book of Life have breathed new life into the lack of racial ethnicity in feature films. These three animated movies feature Asian-American, African-American and Latina/Latino heroes and have created new characters for children of colour to enjoy and empathise with. Live-action movie Annie features the talented Quvenzhané Wallis (who is the youngest ever nominee for an Academy Award) as the African-American Annie. Other media such as comics are now striving to do the same. Marvel released its new series Ms. Marvel (which features a Pakistani-American lead) last year and the comic so far has been hugely popular. DC Comics’s Gotham Academy is becoming more popular – it features multiple dark-skinned leads as well as Japanese-Americans. Television shows like Steven Universe and The Legend of Korra, which feature a wide variety of characters ethnically and physically, are positively affecting the audiences that consume them. These two shows also do their best to represent LGBT values.

The fact that so many creators of children’s media are doing their best to include diversity means that the younger generation may grow up knowing that no matter their skin colour or body shape or sexuality, they are just as important as the next person.

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But What Happened Next?

Martin Place, Sydney. Source

The realities of the fast-paced world we live in is that our attention spans are short – a story goes big on the news and it makes headlines for a week or two and then the public has moved on to bigger and better things. One of the quirks in the Western world is that most of us live lives so hugely different to those of the people who are portrayed in the media’s “current” disaster. Very rarely do bad things happen in our own cities or neighbourhoods – so it’s hard to relate to those people whose suffering is greater than our own, and so our attention wanders after a while.

Studying the controversial TIME magazine cover of a mutilated Afghan woman named Aisha, the talk turned from the controversy of ethics in the media to the ending of Aisha’s story. None of us in the group knew what happened and after a quick Google search we found out that Aisha was taken to California, got re-constructive surgery and now lives in the U.S. as she’s been adopted by a Afghan-American couple.

Discussing any number of big news stories, it was hard to find anyone who’d followed up after the initial fifteen minutes of fame and attention awarded to the events. Thus came the realisation that we Westerners have a difficult time keeping our attention on one thing.  The Internet means we have an unlimited amount of information at our fingertips, but rarely do I use theis vastness to explore past the bare facts presented to me in a news article a friend linked on Facebook. Only in the past week did I Google the endings to some big news stories – something I’d never bothered to do out of laziness.

Another problem is the abundance of pop culture websites – they report the bare minimum and often in a jaunty, witty manner that catches and keeps the attention of the reader for the next five paragraphs. It’s so hard to find un-biased information about important topics as a lot of authors on pop-culture websites let their opinions colour their articles. Because of the relatability of the pop-culture websites (which – let’s admit it – are much easier reading than most other news sites) most people will only read the biased, glibly-written articles and won’t seek any further information.

But, what happens when an event occurs in our own neighbourhoods? I remember the exact moment I found out about the Sydney Seige last year. I remember where I was, who told me and my reaction to it. It just shows how self-centred I am: I haven’t Googled the fate of the Nigerian schoolgirls taken by Boko Haram (“Bring Back Our Girls”) but the Sydney siege has been seared into my memory – and I wasn’t even in the country during the attack.