This is a message to everyone trying to make a difference for the animals, the planet, and our society. To every activist out there fighting this fight every day and wondering if they’re making an impact. It’s a message I believe we all—myself very much included—need to hear.
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I recently had the most surreal experience. I stumbled upon a comment from Earthling Ed on one of my videos. He posted it six years ago, back when he was getting started with his channel. And this comment completely blew my mind.
While I did finally respond to the comment, I wanted to make a proper reply not only to Ed but also to every activist out there fighting this fight every day and wondering if they’re making an impact.
This is more than a message to Ed. It’s a message to everyone trying to make a difference for the animals, the planet, and our society. It’s a message I believe we all—myself very much included—need to hear.
Let me say upfront that making a response video is not something I do. But as uncomfortable as this makes me, I decided to make one this time in hopes of reaching other activists who may be struggling and doubting themselves.
“Emily I have taken so much inspiration from your work! Your videos have inspired me to make my own educational content – which I hope also further educates others in veganism. Never stop what you’re doing!”
How surreal to see Earthling Ed, someone so profoundly influential, hoping his content will further educate about veganism! Having no idea the impact he would make in the six years it took me to finally see his comment (sorry about that, by the way, Ed!)
So Ed, if you do see this, I cannot possibly tell you what this comment meant to me. It’s come to me at a time when I am doubting my efficacy and whether I’m making a difference for the animals. Learning that I had even the slightest part in inspiring your work means more to me than I can ever express.
More importantly, I want to thank you for deciding to educate. It’s astounding to see all you’ve accomplished in these six years. It’s beyond anything I could ever imagine. So thank you for following that kernel of hope.
Now I’d like to speak to all activists out there. Before anything else, I want to thank you as well. Thank you to everyone out there who is trying. Thank you to everyone who is fighting this battle. Thank you to everyone who also hopes to educate about veganism.
Please hold onto that hope. Because you never know whom you may reach. You never know where your work is going to go or whom it’s going to inspire.
And the reality is, you may never know. You may never hear from the people whose lives you change.
This fight is draining. It can be debilitating. What we see and face as vegans and activists is devastating. It can feel insurmountable.
I’ve spoken in the past about what I call “the pain of awareness.”
As challenging as it can be to go vegan, being vegan is traumatic.
We are aware of so much suffering. So much injustice. But I, for one, would never trade the pain of awareness for the comfort of denial.
As activists, it’s easy to doubt whether we’re even making a dent. If, like me, your activism is primarily online, this doubt is compounded by the uncertainty and inscrutability of social media and Google algorithms. You may become consumed by the numbers, chasing virality to the point of possibly losing yourself.
Speaking for myself, finding this comment from Earthling Ed was bittersweet. It was remarkable to see Ed at the start of his online activism, hoping he’d make a difference, knowing now what he’s accomplished in the last six years. At the same time, it was heartbreaking to look back at my own last six years.
In 2016, I was at the peak of my activism’s reach. But I was running myself into the ground to keep it all going. I paid dearly for pushing myself the way I did. These past six years have been the most challenging years of my life. I never stopped working, but I had to halt content production.
I’ve now been back in active content production for a year. My reach certainly isn’t what it used to be, and I struggle profoundly with whether what I’m doing even matters. While I often feel so very alone, I know I can’t be the only one out there who feels this way.
So I’m saying this to myself as much as I am to everyone else who may be facing similar doubts and struggles: what you do matters. The fact that you are even trying matters.
Try not to gauge your efficacy by comparing yourself to others. When doing this, we compare our insides to other people’s outsides.
For example, if you compared yourself to me when I was at the peak of my reach and growth, you may have felt like I had it all together. But you would have only been seeing my outside. You’d not have known that inside, I was utterly destroying myself to keep up.
When fighting this fight, it feels like nothing is ever enough.
I’ll speak from my own experience in hopes that being open and vulnerable will help those of you out there with similar struggles.
I can’t help but feel I am constantly failing the animals. I believe they deserve everything from me. And I know that nothing I experience will ever come close to what the animals are experiencing.
But I have used that reality to negate my health and push myself to extremes that nearly killed me.
I still try to bargain: “if I just pushed harder, tried harder, worked harder..” But I must continually remind myself: while I may be able to reach more people if I “just pushed harder,” I can’t reach a single person if I destroy myself.
Yes, I’d possibly reach more people during that time of pushing. But once I burn out again, I’ll be of no use to the animals or anyone.
It’s difficult to accept that my brain works differently than other people’s brains. As an Autistic, many things that seem simple to manage for others are debilitating for me.
I’ve had to learn the hard way that I have limits other people may not have. And so may you. But I also have strengths that others may not have. And so do you. Your unique voice is valuable.
I’ve been called a pessimist, but I always say I’m a realist. I don’t believe I’ll see a vegan world in my lifetime. I honestly think the environmental crisis we’ve created with animal agriculture will force a change long before we’d have a global shift of consciousness.
With this seemingly cynical stance, you may wonder why I even try. The “why” is the message I most want to leave you with—my cynical message of hope.
I try because the alternative of doing nothing is unacceptable to me.
Yes, it’s hard. Yes, it seems insurmountable. Yes, we may not know if we’re having an impact. But I can tell you one thing. If we don’t try—if we don’t do what we can, however small it may seem—we absolutely won’t make a difference.
So, please don’t give up. But do honor yourself in the process.
You never know whom you may reach.
If you are struggling, I have gathered some resources for activist self-care and support below.
I hope that this message has been helpful in some way. Again, to Ed—thank you for taking action and for sharing that comment with me all those years ago.
To support educational content like this, please consider making a donation. Now go live vegan, and I’ll see you soon.
— Emily Moran Barwick
Self-Care & Support Resources for Activists
Please note: these resources are not meant to replace professional mental health counseling, and are not implied endorsements.
- Activist Self-Care from the Animal Save Movement
- Activist Trauma Resources from the Animal Save Movement
- In Defense of Animals Animal Activists Support (helpline, events, etc)
- Article covering Compassion Fatigue, Vicarious Trauma, & Burnout
- The Lifelong Activist: How to Change the World without Losing Your Way
- Aftershock: Confronting Trauma in a Violent World: A Guide for Activists and Their Allies
Flyers & PDFs: