Tejaswi Subramanian was 13 when she first started thinking about environment conservation and climate change. Today, she is an environmental activist working for increased use of sustainably sourced food in India, and is preparing for an amazing Antarctica expedition, for an equally amazing reason.
My first brush with environmental consciousness took place when I was 13. I came across the Fourth Assessment Report by IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) in 2007, which said that human actions could be held responsible for the climate degradation and change that was visible in various parts of the world. I started thinking about it, and that report affected me very deeply. That’s when and how I became interested in environmental activism. Right from school, I was an active environmentalist. I helped form the eco-club there and was always associated with different activities like selling handmade carry bags to the school cafeteria and nearby shops, organizing awareness events, observing environment day and more.
Growing up, I also gained interest in clean eating habits.
This was about three years ago – I was living alone, was working 8-10 hours a day, was cooking for myself – and amidst all this, I was hit by the realization that I always felt less energetic. I never seemed to have enough energy to do everything. But I was only 20, and I thought, ‘this cannot be right’.
“Let food be thy medicine, and let medicine be thy food.” – It was then that this quote by Hippocrates changed my life. I had started reading up on healthy eating and came to know about Primal Diet, which advises people to avoid grains and emphasizes on a protein-rich diet that contains healthy fats and is low in carbohydrates. It introduced me to the idea that eating fresh and organic food can heal the body and help us connect with nature. And I witnessed genuine change. I had been suffering with the problem of acne since my early teens, but with my new eating habits, it cleared up in just three months. It was like a miracle. I also witnessed an increase in my energy levels. This lifestyle change fit perfectly with my interest in environmental protection, which further encouraged me to carry on with it.
Additionally, I came across another body of research that motivated me to purchase sustainably-sourced food. It was about Antarctica, one of the last places in the world that remains untouched by rampant human urban settlement and industrialization.
Source: 2041 Foundation
But even in that beautiful place, traces of our irresponsible behaviour towards the environment are clearly visible – in the form of a pesticide. DDT, a chemical pesticide, was banned worldwide because of the harmful effects of the chemicals on the environment. This was done decades ago. However, its traces are found till today in the fatty tissues of Adelie penguins. This is due to the chemical pesticide being washed away and getting drained into the coastal waters, which then finds its way to the ocean. In this consumerist era, our choice to purchase reflects our voice in the systems that support societal norms. What is happening in Antarctica shows that a common thread runs through the universal fabric of our economy and society.
Thus, in the coming months, I plan to research about this issue at the grassroots. I will also be preparing for my expedition to Antarctica, which will host the ‘Leadership on the Edge’ program by Robert Swan, OBE (Order of the British Empire). Through this expedition, I intend to gather first-hand knowledge of the effect that we are having on the ecosystem of Antarctica, despite setting up shop several thousand miles away. Robert Swan is the first person to walk to both Poles. He will be our lead and Chief Guide and will be mentoring us on how we may be able to do our bit in spreading awareness and creating movements toward sustainability back in our homelands.
The idea is to work with like minds in order to spur a sustainable food movement that permeates our food chains and markets.
Source: 2041 Foundation
At a personal level, I am trying to work with sustainably sourced, organic as well as locally grown food. And this program will give me a good idea of how things are being done around the world.
Through this campaign, I am trying to raise funds for the expedition. I strongly believe that we can recreate the health of our bodies, the environment, and the Adelie penguins in Antarctica if we focus on the singular issue of how we source our food. Please support me in my journey. The tentative dates are March 13-25, 2016. Prospective itinerary can be found here. I hope to raise Rs. 12,30,000.
Here’s a break-up of the planned budget.
– Tejaswi Subramanian