Most of us share some basic values like human rights, equality, and social justice. We share these values because we all believe that these values are very fundamental and indisputable. But when it comes to the animal rights or in much general way “rights of nature” we generally find some excuses to do the “right thing”. However, I believe that if people knew how big the negative impact of the meat industry on the environment is and if they have the option to eat vegan food, they will push themselves to eat without exploitation. This was the motivation for my NOW project together with my friends from the environmental society of my university: helping or making it easy for people to do the right thing!
First of all I would like to introduce my society. The environmental society is one of the oldest student society in my university. From the very first day of its establishment, members of the society tried to increase environmental awareness and advocated the rights of the nature. We usually decide on what to focus on the first meeting of each semester. Last semester we came up with two topics we wanted to focus on: The first thing was about the lack of vegan options in the campus cafeterias and the second one was about the lack of bike roads within the campus. We chose these topics because we know that these two topics have a very high negative impact on the environment. Since the negative effects of car usage are more familiar I want to share some facts about meat consumption. For example, it takes 80 tons water to make just 10 kg of meat and every kg of beef served is equivalent to releasing about 20 kg of greenhouse gases.
It would be very nice to say that we succeeded overnight. In reality it was not that easy. The biggest challenge we faces was communication. Even though there is a growing vegan community in Turkey, being a vegan is still something “extraordinary”. This made the negotiations with the administrators of the university and the cafeteria more difficult. We had several meeting with the chief of the cafeteria and officials from the rectorate. During these meetings, they opposed us by saying that “if we fulfill the requests of a very small group like you, others may also come and we won’t be able to fulfill all these wishes”. We made it our goal to show them that we’re not representing a small group only. To do so, we decided on organizing a signature campaign to show the support to our cause. After one week we already gathered about 2000 signatures and when we brought these signatures to the cafeteria, they started to take us more seriously. Since we had public support, they could no longer say that we are “extraordinary” and started to talk about how the process will evolve rather than why it is impossible to do such a thing. They finally accepted to serve vegan food for both lunch and dinner.
When we successfully accomplished our goal, we directed our efforts to another problem: bike roads. The lack of bike roads started to be discussed in the campus 3-4 years ago but unfortunately, there has been no significant improvements since that time. As a result of our research, we found out that the whole plan of bike roads and bike rental points were already designed. They had not been implemented due to the lack of communication between the responsible parties. When we had our first meeting with the dean and an assistant of the department of the city and regional planning, they told us that if we bring people in decision-making positions together and create public opinion on the campus, then we could succeed in making these bike roads reality. After this meeting, we started to try to reach these responsible people and also create a public opinion within the campus through other student societies. When we entered the semester holiday we had already done a lot of work: . we gathered all the documents related to the plans of the bike roads and also had several meetings with the rectorate. During these meetings they told us that “the bike roads are also our priority and we are working on the project”.
We have not yet managed to fully implement our second goal. But the signs are positive and , I believe that in the second semester, if we push them enough to implement the project and increase public support, they will make it happen.
Written by Sayat, NOW Journey alumni and students.