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A Journey of Eco-Advocacy with Divya Nawale

Divya Nawale is an adventure-child ! As a kid, underwater shows were always her most favourite. Even though Divya is not a certified scuba diver, she has been blessed to scuba dive in some of the most beautiful places on the planet like the Great Barrier Reef and Andamans. She has also snorkeled in the Gili islands, Hawaii, and did the polar plunge in Antarctica. However, when she dived in the Great Barrier Reef, which is the largest living structure on earth, she learnt that it is in danger due to ocean acidification ! This prompted her to adopt a zero waste lifestyle. Her memories attached to swimming around the underwater statues at Gili-Meno island are a strong reminder that more than 40% of the world's reefs have been lost in the past few decades and the oceans really need our help. In an interview with Wear Equal, she shares about her journey on how she became an Eco Advocate !

WE : How did you transition into a Vegan and Low waste lifestyle?

Divya : I was a nature-lover since childhood (thanks to my parents taking me and my brother to the Himalayas almost every other summer). When we went to Nainital lake (in mid 2000s), I burst out crying at the sheer amount of plastic surrounding the beautiful water body. I chose to being vegan/vegetarian when I was around 16/17 in the mid 2000s in India. Veganism was not even a popular or known word back then. The first-ever presentation I made in my life was for my public speaking class in university and I chose to speak about PETA and animal cruelty. But it wasn't until I moved to London in 2009 to study when I was able to move towards a vegan and sustainable lifestyle. I also lived in the US, Indonesia and Philippines, and did my best to pursue a low waste life.

WE : What was the motivation behind travelling to all the continents?

Divya : There was never a "motivation". It wasn't a "bucket list" thing. It was a matter of being open to learning more about our planet and trying to find ways to make a positive impact. Coming from a middle-class family in India, I couldn't have even afforded extensive travel. It was only through my passion and work that these opportunities presented themselves. I had to work hard for it. For example, while most of my friends have been to Iceland for tourism, I went there for a conference to present about Urban Sustainability in the Arctic. I have lived and worked across 5 continents (yes, Antarctica was work too!). The only continents I took vacations to, were Australia and Africa, where I combined the trip with some social impact.

WE : Your love for animals, both – on land and under water, seems to be a big factor behind why you adopted this lifestyle?

Divya : I grew up as an animal lover. But there is in fact a life-changing incident from when I was 8 years old. I tried to save a squirrel that I found hurt on the streets and failed, which really made me very conscious of the pain animals suffer. Being born in a meat-eating family, it took me a few more years after that to really comprehend and make a life choice to never hurt animals again.

WE : What is your take on water conservation & being plastic free ?

Divya : Do you know where 86% of fresh water in the world lies? It's in Antarctica (but in the form of ice). So as my mentor Robert Swan OBE says "Melting all that freshwater is really not a good idea". Technically, there is very little fresh water in the world, as compared to what we think while opening a tap at home each time. In fact, India has only 4% of fresh water on the planet but 16% of the world's population. So Water conservation is really important for us.

WE : How did you make it to Antarctica twice and what was different in the two times that you went?

Divya : In 2009, I first went on the International Antarctic Expedition as a participant. I was a recent graduate then and really didn't know what I wanted to do with my life. It was the expedition that put me on a trajectory to pursue a career in sustainability and clean energy. So it was really a full circle, going back on the expedition in 2018 as a staff/team leader helping facilitate it for 85 participants from across the world. I am especially proud of the fact that the 2018 expedition was certified carbon neutral, an initiative that I managed first-hand :)

Something I noticed significantly different in the 8 years apart was the amount of packed ice in the Antarctic peninsula. It felt like I saw lesser-sized icebergs and the ice quality was also icier in 2018 (which means its snow that melted and refroze). This was a jolt to me, telling me that climate change is truly changing every place on the planet, including Antarctica.

WE : You’ve talked about having different approaches towards activism; one fuelled by anger and angst about the environment, and the other leaning more towards compassion and healing. Could you elaborate on what led to this shift, and by what approach should we be educating people about?

Divya : I spent my teenage and early 20s being very angry, upset and confused about the entire system. But the more I realised that I played the blame game, no one really changed. As my mentor, Robert Swan OBE says "Nobody is inspired by the negative." It took me a while, but I noted that the more I created a message of positive hope, the more energized I felt personal and more people backed my passion and work. What we need today is not anger, but hope, compassion and healing.

We cannot create revolutions if we believe that the world is coming to an end. Instead, the message should be "The world needs us, and we are the best people to help preserve it", that’s what gets people going. So it’s time to empower each other rather than talk about the climate doom.

WE : As part of a society, what steps can individuals take to stop climate change?

Divya : As a society, I think we need to become aware. A lot of us do not know the level of our impact. So it's really important to help people measure their impact first. A simple carbon footprint or plastic footprint calculator is the right place to start. But also look at how much it means. Google it. Rather Ecosia it. Ecosia plants trees every time you search on their website.

WE : What is your take on Wear Equal? You've tried our waterbody collection, what’s your review?

Divya : I am just so grateful for your brand since I have been waiting for a product like this FOREVER! I love the brand name and I am definitely a fan of everything you stand for! The waterbody collection is a perfect reminder of why I am so passionate about saving the oceans. I really loved the colour, texture and how it feels on my skin.

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