The largest single cause of deforestation is agriculture
A huge amount of land is needed to graze animals and to grow the grain to feed them. In order to create enough farmland to cater for the global meat demand, ancient forests and other precious natural habitats are razed to the ground. If we keep cutting them down at the current rate, the world’s rain forests will be gone in one hundred years, and it’s already desperately serious. We’re losing 18.7 million acres of forests every year – that’s equivalent to 27 soccer fields every minute.
The damage is not over when the trees are felled. Without the canopy above, forest soils quickly dry out. They become fragile and can be washed away, leaving once-rich habitats little more than barren deserts. And without trees to absorb greenhouse gases, larger amounts of CO2 enter the atmosphere, increasing the speed and severity of global warming.
It’s not just the Amazon at risk, though that is what many of us think about when we consider deforestation. All forests are under threat. The great forests of Sumatra and Borneo – once full of tigers, elephants, rhinos and orangutans – have been trashed in just one generation. And for what? In large part, it is for palm plantations that create a barren landscape and is disastrous for wildlife. Most of us know that palm oil is found in many of the packaged foods on our supermarket shelves; what is less visible is that palm is widely used in animal feed.
If more people became vegan ...
If we produced plant products instead of animal products, there would be enough land to grow food for the whole global population – and more – and there would still be ample available to re-wild pasture and allow forests to regenerate. This would mitigate much of the human-generated greenhouse gas emission, and provide a home once again for the countless wild species displaced and lost to animal agriculture every year.
For the sake of our wild places, please try vegan.
1 ‘Forest conversion’, World Wildlife Fund http://wwf.panda.org/about_our_earth/deforestation/deforestation_causes/forest_conversion/ [Accessed 1 December 2018]
2 ‘Climate 101: deforestation’, National Geographic https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/global-warming/deforestation/ [Accessed 1 December 2018]
3 ‘Deforestation: overview’, World Wildlife Fund https://www.worldwildlife.org/threats/deforestation [Accessed 1 December 2018]
4 ‘Climate 101: deforestation’, National Geographic https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/global-warming/deforestation/ [Accessed 1 December 2018]
6 John Vidal, ‘The Sumatran rainforests will mostly disappear in 20 years’, The Guardian, 26 May 2013 https://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/may/26/sumatra-borneo-deforestation-tigers-palm-oil [Accessed 1 December 2018]
7 Damian Carrington, ‘Palm oil “disastrous” for wildlife but here to stay, experts warn’, The Guardian, 26 Jun 2018 https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/jun/26/palm-oil-disastrous-for-wildlife-but-here-to-stay-experts-warn [Accessed 1 December 2018]
8 Philip Lymbery, ‘The oilpalm connection: is the Sumatran elephant the price of our cheap meat?’ The Ecologist, 28 Mar 2017 http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/2988745/the_oilpalm_connection_is_the_sumatran_elephant_the_price_of_our_cheap_meat.html [Accessed 1 December 2018]
9 Berners-Lee, M., Kennelly, C., Watson, R. and Hewitt, C.N., 2018. Current global food production is sufficient to meet human nutritional needs in 2050 provided there is radical societal adaptation. Elem Sci Anth, 6(1), p.52. https://www.elementascience.org/articles/10.1525/elementa.310/ [Accessed 1 December 2018]