Erin Ersoy first caught our attention after pledging to spend 12 hours in a bathtub to protest SeaWorld’s confinement of sealife. However, this 14-year-old cancer survivor has lent her time and efforts to a number of causes—from establishing herself as a leader for youth activists to utilizing her compelling Instagram page to create awareness around animal cruelty. Her fresh, Gen Z perspective opened our minds to the possibilities of activism at home.
How I’m Changing the World During Quarantine—And How You Can, Too
By: Erin Ersoy
When your ability to keep calm and carry on is stifled by the Stay-at-Home mandate, some may be at a loss for what to do. For those of us who find purpose and fulfillment in activism, we’re experiencing major withdrawal. It may make seem difficult or even impossible to take action while practicing self-isolation, but speaking up for the voiceless is still entirely possible; we just need to take a creative pivot. Here are seven ways you can take action today.
1. Hold an online documentary screening
People are holding online movie screenings using the Google Chrome extension Netflix Party, which allows friends to gather virtually, watch the same movie on Netflix, and chat at the same time in a text box. People have also started screen-sharing movies on Zoom. You can hold a screening of conversation-sparking documentaries such as The Game Changers on Netflix and Dominion on YouTube, amongst others. It’s an awesome way to educate your friends and family members on the benefits of a vegan lifestyle.
2. Sign online petitions
Many organizations already offer online petitions, but now that people are home and looking for online action options, even more organizations are bringing their causes online. Taking action and making an impact is as simple as filling in your contact information and clicking “submit.” To start, consider asking the US Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee to remove dairy as a food group from the upcoming 2020-2025 recommendations. This form included a pre-filled comment, just add your name and contact information.
3. Give your friends and family a call
A lot of us now rely on making phone or video calls to connect with our family and friends. During your next check-in, spark a casual conversation about veganism. Ask what they’ve been cooking at home, and if they complain of meat or egg shortages at the store, gracefully land a comment about the abundance of produce or frozen vegan meat options. Having a nice, calm, and polite discussion about the benefits of a plant-based diet is a great way to get people to consider going vegan. It’s not like they have social obligations or any of the other typical excuses—now is the time to give vegan a try!
Right now, many vegan organizations and animal sanctuaries are having difficulty generating the funds they need to continue operations. It’s certainly tough when competing with the charitable efforts related to the current pandemic (which are also worthy causes). If you have the means, a simple donation can help necessary nonprofits continue their work to promote the vegan message. Similarly, many vegan restaurants are offering donation options for their pickup and delivery customers. These extra dollars are put toward providing free meals for first responders or the hungry, or ensuring that staff can continue to receive a living wage.
5. Get social
Stuck at home, bored, and perhaps alone, social media might be the only thing keeping you connected to the outside world (that’s okay; we’re all going through it). However, social media can be used for so much more than drooling over vegan food photos and watching animal videos; it’s also a terrific tool for activism. Instagram has been a hot spot for new virtual activism challenges such as Greta Thunberg’s #ClimateStrikeOnline, the Save Movement’s #CoronavirusConfinementChallenge, and PETA’s #SeaWorldBathtubChallenge. Let the tagging and hashtagging begin!
6. Make a piece of art
Have you ever heard of “artivism?” It’s a trending form of activism that involves using a creative approach to serious issues. Make a poster with a fact about veganism and tape it to the window for people outside to see, create a symbolic painting and post it on social media, or embrace your inner six-year-old and make meaningful chalk drawings. Let your creativity feed your activism.
7. Educate yourself
Do you know how much water it takes to produce a gallon of cows’ milk? What about the meaning of CAFO and how these operations are creating a hazardous living environment for low-income communities in North Carolina? Now is the time to equip yourself with this information in order to be a more effective vegan advocate. Listen to an audiobook of The China Study while enjoying your ritual afternoon walk, watch vegan-themed TedTalks (try Pat Brown and Melanie Joy), or read up on vegan nutrition (Brendan Brazier’s Thrive offers a solid foundation). The more you know, the better you can represent the vegan movement.
Erin Ersoy is a 14-year-old vegan activist from New York who leads the Raven Corps Long Island and the Youth Climate Save New York.