Eco Warrior Padmini Gopal On The Urgent Need To Change Your Lifestyle
“I initially started my journey towards environmental consciousness by turning vegetarian three years ago, and over time, slowly reduced my dairy intake. I wouldn’t call myself a vegan and would prefer to describe my eating habits as mostly plant-based. The reason I say this is because veganism refers to not consuming any animal or animal-derived product and I sometimes do have honey…and, on the rare occasion, some dairy in the form of ice-cream or chocolate,” states environment activist Padmini Gopal.
Based in New Delhi, Gopal currently works as a climate policy researcher at the Centre for Science and Environment. In a day and age of mass — and often, mindless – consumerism, I wonder what prompted her to take up the cause of the environment. “I actually studied climate policy during my master’s degree, so my initial venture into the climate change field stemmed from an academic interest and a desire to pursue it professionally. It was during my studies and soon after that I started on this journey of becoming more climate-friendly as I wanted to live in alignment with my environmental values and realised that I wouldn’t be able to create the positive impact I aimed to through my work if I didn’t create a change within myself,” she reveals. Much like her own ideals, Gopal’s Instagram page, aptly titled @climatekarma, is speckled with posts dedicated to the many ways in which one can reduce one’s carbon footprint and adopt a greener lifestyle (including experimenting with solar-powered rooftops and wind turbines, composting waste and maintaining and enhancing tropical forests and peatlands). Given the threatening levels of carbon in the atmosphere, Gopal aims to lead by example. She highlights, “As I read up more on climate studies and the ways in which I could further reduce my carbon impact, I tried to make more environmentally conscious changes in my life, such as carrying my own takeaway box, steel water bottle, cutlery, and napkin when I go out; avoiding single-use plastics and moving towards a low or zero-waste lifestyle; and attempting to compost (although I must say I failed in this regard because I didn’t manage to get it right). I also try to offset the remaining emissions that I create in a year by supporting forestry programmes.” And her conscious efforts are evident on her Instagram page, where jackfruit has replaced the meat in her biryani, glass storage jars have become handy companions to tote to the grocer’s, luffas have become the next kitchen sponges and menstrual cups have edged out sanitary napkins.
Everyone has to start somewhere. For the longest time, the approach and attitude towards saving the environment was that someone else would do it; and with the rising number of deadly wildfires and catastrophic cyclones that have been ravaging the planet of late, it’s ignorant to assume that this problem is going to wish itself away. For those looking to start making a difference, Gopal details, “If you are a frequent flyer, the biggest way to reduce your carbon footprint is to just fly less often. Flying is incredibly carbon intensive, contributing the most to one’s carbon footprint…and unfortunately, there are currently no viable green alternatives to flying. So, if you’re thinking of holidays, consider going somewhere closer to home – these places are as enjoyable, if not more! The second most impactful way is by reducing one’s meat and dairy intake and following a more plant-based diet or, better yet, going vegan. Meat (especially beef) and dairy have a significant carbon impact on the world – rearing livestock (cows, sheep, goats etc.) contributes to almost 14.5 per cent of the world greenhouse gas emissions every year as they burp methane when they digest food, which is a highly potent greenhouse gas. Avoiding plastic use would also be key considering the material itself is made of fossil fuels. Studies have also found that it releases greenhouse gas emissions when it is left to degrade.”
Gopal believes that it is imperative that the world sit up and take notice of the climate change threat, even as governments do their best to sweep it under the rug. “If people value life on earth, and if not that, at least their own, they have to start doing something to fight climate change. Last year’s UN report on Global Warming revealed that we have around 11 years to limit warming to 1.5°C by transforming the way we currently live to a life with minimal carbon impact. Otherwise, we run the risk of allowing millions of species that we depend on to go extinct and millions of people to suffer from increasingly extreme impacts of climate change. For people to understand the reality of this threat, more people need to know about climate change and this can primarily happen by governments highlighting the threat levels climate change poses to humanity and through more appropriate media coverage on the issue. Governments need to recognise and act against the climate crisis with the same urgency and vigour as they did during the 2008 economic recession and the World Wars because that is how dire the situation is. When it comes to media, climate change rarely ever makes headlines and gets few mentions. In fact, a recent study by Planet Placement and Deloitte found that there were 10 times more references to cats and cakes than to climate change on British television. All this has to fundamentally change now if we are to address this crisis,” she urges.
Gopal’s sincere efforts have seen her become an advocate for climate change at just 25 years old – and, come June this year, she will accompany polar explorer Sir Robert Swan, along with other sustainability and climate experts passionate about the environment on a climate change expedition, titled ClimateForce, to the Arctic. “The purpose of ClimateForce is to spread awareness on the impacts of climate change and enable people to scale climate solutions to address the crisis. Through this expedition, I aim to work with the experts and thought leaders to identify and implement ways in which we can accelerate the use of currently viable climate solutions to help limit warming to 1.5°C,” she concludes.
Comprehending climate change with @climatekarma
If you’re searching for material to understand more about the ways in which you can positively impact environmental conservation, look no further than Gopal’s list of must-see documentaries and videos and must-read books:
- Meathooked & End of Water (2016) – An episode that is part of a docuseries by Vice that highlights the deleterious impact of the meat industry on the planet and the global water crisis.
- Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming by Paul Hawken (2017) – A comprehensive book that lists and ranks working climate solutions and their capacity to reduce emissions if scaled along with detailed information on each solution.
- Climate Change: The Facts (2019) – A BBC documentary by Sir David Attenborough on our contribution towards escalating the climate crisis.
- Our Planet (2019) – A Netflix documentary series narrated by Sir David Attenborough on the severe impact human-induced climate change is creating on earth and the living beings it supports. This series helps people connect with the planet, the living things around us and the complexities of the ecosystem that we are yet to fathom.
- Climate Lab – These are short seven-to-eight-minute highly informative videos on climate change, solutions and how you can live a more climate-friendly lifestyle (available on YouTube) produced by the University of California in partnership with Vox.