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  • Writer's pictureBryan Jun

does me not eating fish help the environment

I'm not entirely sure if this belongs in the political section of my blog, but as not the most scientifically-inclined person out there and since the environment is now (and perhaps always was) a hot button political topic, on today's edition of politics' identity (which is a lame play on words on identity politics for those of you interested) I'm going to discuss my thoughts on Seaspiracy.

For those of you living under a rock or not on Netflix, Seaspiracy is a spicy documentary covering the devastation that is brought upon humanity by the fishing industry. Many friends (even non-vegans) recommended me this documentary, fully knowing that I was never someone vocal or careful about the environment. Don't get me wrong - because of my "disciplined" personality (which most of my friends would describe as anal), I'm rather good about separating recyclables from trash. I even participated in making our school compost program better through my university consulting program and to get a better insight into how much the world was actually being destroyed, took a spring term course in the Amazon River and witnessed deforestation up close. I'm definitely not active enough to only order impossible burgers at restaurants or put a non-profit donation link in my bio, but I am aware that there are a multitude of ways that we are destroying the environment at large every day.

As I mentioned above, it's hard to take a position on the environment without getting political, especially if you subscribe to identity politics. As much as I find identity politics idiotic, I too have been well immersed in today's political culture, and as a conservative (whatever that means these days), I definitely have an allergic reaction to "environmentally friendly activities" or when people ask for reusable straws to fight climate change. Aside from a political perspective, I think I'm of the belief that this world and its resources were given to us by God for us to use (while understanding that exploitation of anything is probably not what He wants us to do) and also a follower of the "you not eating hamburgers anymore isn't going to slow down the melting of the polar ice caps" mentality.

With all this aside, I found Seaspiracy pretty refreshing. I always watch documentaries like this one (i.e. the Big Chicken one by the Supersize Me guy) with a suspicious perspective - everyone must have a "real reason" why they're revealing the dark side of another industry or organization (Kony 2012 anyone?) I'm sure that the harsh criticism of the fishing industry in this acclaimed documentary is not different. I know this sounds awfully cynical, because it is, but I don't think people do mass scale things like build a documentary solely to "make the world a better place." In the same way that the documentary reveals the hypocrisy of "dolphin safe" labels and anti-straw organizations, I'm sure there's something to be gained through this 2 hour segment that we're not aware of.

However, to that very point, I thoroughly enjoyed how Seaspiracy did not hold back from criticizing the non-profit or activism industry as a whole and making viewers aware that many movements to "fight for what is right" are often a masked effort to achieve their own selfish gains. I've always thought in this direction, but to see what could be deemed as friendly fire (if we group all environmentally-friendly groups in one corner, which ironically is exactly what the documentary wants to be set apart from and what politics' identity aims to criticize) in a very well-developed film format was great. The fact that using reusable straws is a drop in the ocean (literally) compared to what reduction in fishing can achieve and how the biggest oil spill in history ironically HELPED the sea ecosystem by preventing fishing were great "got em!" moments in my mind of exposing the two-faced nature of such activism organizations.

It was humorous to see the documentary open up by painting Asian fishing efforts as the main criminals (and perhaps this is just reality as Asians do eat a lot of fish and Japanese whaling practices have always taken the spotlight, but it felt a bit like a "here are the bad guys to evoke your emotions and make this feel like we're putting our lives at risk to make this video") and the diverse cast of Europeans interviewed throughout the feature. One major criticism of the documentary that I noticed alongside my peers is its lack of focus on what reduced fishing would mean for lower income individuals around the world who depend on fish as a cheap means of consumption. Reality is, as with all such documentaries, those who are watching are probably least affected by the consequences while contributing the most to the causes.

Maybe I'll order udon instead of the tuna maki the next time I'm at my favorite sushi place, probably not. But, I am proud to announce that I don't drink coffee and therefore actively participate in the reduction of plastics and prefer steak over tuna. Let's work together to make the world a better place!

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