A Wonderful World

Helix Nubula -  ©  ESA/Hubble

Helix Nubula - © ESA/Hubble

I have entered many a debate with omnivores since going vegan, all hoping to catch me out or find a flaw in the vegan lifestyle. The trials and tribulations of defending veganism will be covered in other posts, but I have just finished reading a book that has absolutely nothing to do with veganism, yet enchanted me so much that I have to share some excerpts. A book about an astronaut’s adventures in space has inadvertently summarised exactly why I’m vegan.

Spaceman, the autobiography by Mike Massimino, is one of the best books I’ve read this year, a fascinating and inspiring account of a life well lived. Admittedly his successes are like a mirror to my failures, I could lament that I didn’t try harder at school, take two simultaneous masters degrees followed by a Phd, fight to get accepted onto the gruelling NASA astronomy programme and eventually find myself in space, instead of the route through life I have followed, which is to achieve, by comparison at least, not very much at all. I think it's an achievement if I eat a nice biscuit. Massimino has been to space, multiple times. 

He's astonishingly intelligent, that much is obvs. He’s also endearingly witty, warm, tenacious and generous. He should be credited with inspiring a generation to care about space research and investigation, for it was his enthusiasm and awe for seeing Earth from space that whet the general public’s appetite for NASA’s accomplishments in a way that hadn't been seen since their moon-walking heyday. His big contribution to spatial awareness (boom) were his trips to maintain the Hubble telescope, which provides some fricking awesome photos of what's going on up there. Plus, he was the first human being to Tweet from space. So, he’s cool.

Hello Planet Earth -  ©  Nasa

Hello Planet Earth - © Nasa


Here, Massimino poetically and saliently describes how valuable it is to make our lives count:

Whatever you do in life, it can’t just be about making money. It’s important that you work to make the world a better place, that you help to improve the lives of the people around you.

Oh hi life goals. Massimino is not talking about veganism but he might as well be - it makes the world a better place for people, animals and the environment too. His words made me feel all life-affirm-y and 'I should get this printed on a t-shirt-y'. 

Here he is again being a legend:

The Earth is a giant blue spaceship hurtling through an ever-expanding universe that’s 13.8 billion years old.

We're on a spaceship! Our time on Earth is ridiculously short in the greater scheme of the universe. You could take that two ways. You could argue, and plenty of omnivores do, up in my face, all the time: ‘Life is short. Nothing matters. We all die in the end. I’m going to have a steak for dinner while wearing my leather shoes and I’m going to smear squalene from the liver of sharks all over my face so I can look young for as long as possible while I’m here.'

Which is nice.

But, as Massimino says: “The fact that we exist is an astonishing thing.” You could argue our time here is so so so so so short, and so incredibly fortuitous, we owe Earth just one gift - we should leave it in a better condition than we found it. We ought to live kind lives - kind to ourselves, our friends and family, our fellow humans, animals and the stage itself, the beautiful blue spaceship planet Earth.

The magnificent Tulip Nebula - one of the most vibrant rainbow nebulas in our sky -  ©  ESA/Hubble

The magnificent Tulip Nebula - one of the most vibrant rainbow nebulas in our sky - © ESA/Hubble

Massimino’s delightful description of the meaning of our lives makes me want to make sure I live a good one. That’s why I’m vegan. It’ll be over in a shot but on my death bed, I want to smile as I die, knowing I chose to contribute to a lot less suffering and greed than I could have.

Here’s my hero Massimino again, summarising why he became an astronaut and indirectly why I love being vegan:

You only have one life. You have to spend it doing something that matters.

Massimino discusses how astronomy is a team game - there’s thousands of people working at NASA on the ground, there’s the handful of people in the shuttle with you - you are a team. He talks about how important it is to be a good person, because the last person you want in your cramped and cosy shuttle is someone selfish, arrogant or irritating. Here’s another quote I loved, again, nothing to do with veganism but entirely attributable:

Very few jerks have been to space.

I love that. I love the notion that jerks don't make it to space. Dare I say very few jerks are vegan? I’ve never met a vegan jerk. Vegans are, by definition, compassionate, good people who want to make the world a better place. ‘Very few jerks are vegan,’ is my appropriation of Massimino’s quote. I think I’ll get it emblazoned on a t-shirt.

A bubble blown into space by a massive star.  ©  ESA/Hubble

A bubble blown into space by a massive star. © ESA/Hubble

Here’s Massimino being beautiful again:

We might discover life in other solar systems someday, but for now there’s nothing but chaos and blackness and desolation for billions of light-years in every direction. Yet here in the middle of all that is this magnificent place, this brilliant blue planet, teeming with life. It really is a paradise. It’s fragile. It’s beautiful. It’s perfection.

It takes an astronaut to leave Earth and look at it from 350 miles away, to poetically describe how remarkable, unlikely and wonderful our world is. Why are we so hell bent on destroying it for our own selfish gains? Why will the history of humans be a massive mountain of plastic, the desolation of rainforests, the mistreatment of animals and each other? Can’t we all just take this incredible intelligence we’ve evolved and use it for the betterment of the planet and all its inhabitants?

I missed the bus on contributing as much to life on Earth as someone like Massimino. But every vegan makes a huge contribution to the planet every day.

Vegan Stats

You don’t need a Phd to give that gift to the world, thank goodness, for I am a bear of very little brain.

I’m vegan because this planet is extraordinary and we should give it a cuddle, not a kick. I’m vegan because I am, if not Massimino smart, smart enough to realise my existence can do good or bad - my choice. My choice at every meal, my choice at every purchase, my choice in everything I do.

We’re not all lucky enough to view Earth from space, but we are all lucky enough to be here for our brief moment in time. The infinitely unlikely sequence of events that led to our existence should be rewarded by being as kind as we possibly can be to the planet we call home.

We all live in a cosmic wonderland...  ©  ESA/Hubble

We all live in a cosmic wonderland... © ESA/Hubble

You can follow Massimino on Twitter HERE

Buy his spectacular book HERE

Follow the Hubble telescope on Instagram HERE for pictures of galaxies millions of light-years away.