London to Ho Chi Minh by train (and boat!): Day 11.
Wilderness. For 26 hours we sat on the train watching the trees pass by. Birch, pine and larch… A dazzling patchwork of golden hues that seemed to go on forever. For someone who grew up in the UK, where you’re never really too far from a small town or village, this wilderness is both imposing and awe-inspiring.
These trees remind me that we were once a part of the land despite the fact that we now see ourselves as something separate from everything else. Indeed, many people around the world continue to live with, rather than against, their environment.
It felt like a primordial alarm call (Like when you look around a crowded train and remember that you’re all a bunch of apes with clothes on).
Across the world, forests and wilderness are being destroyed at alarming rates. And by far the greatest cause of deforestation (and desertification) is the animal industry. Cutting down forests and pushing the poorest people off their land in order to produce meat and dairy products for the rich.
In the Amazon, where the second largest cause of deforestation (after grazing) is the soy industry, 90% of the soy produced is used for animal feed. In Wales, the tax payer continues to subsidise sheep farming (mostly to rich landowners) that wreaks devastation on the land. It’s always the wildlife, water, soil, trees and the most vulnerable people who pay the highest price.
And here, on the edge of Siberia there is hope. As we searched for a bite to eat in Yekaterinburg, we met a young vegan guy from Kazakhstan. He’s studying to become a chef here and in perfect English he told us how it’s his dream to return to his home town to open a vegan bakery. Even though it’s not his favorite city by a long shot, he wants to give his hometown the opportunity to benefit from a vegan lifestyle.
As we move away from animal based diets, we will start to see the rejuvenation of our forests, seas and savannas. Maybe forests around the world will be as big, beautiful and wild as those around Siberia. Wildlife will return and we may, once again, find ourselves returning to nature.
Next stop: Omsk — in Yekaterinburg, Sverdlovskaya Oblast’, Russia.