DEFORESTATION IN YOUR KITCHEN
We know our choices matter. But what is the best way to protect the rainforest? Is being vegan best for the environment? What about palm oil? What about soy? Agricultural impacts on the rainforest are complex and a lot of research remains to be done. But, there is so much that we do know. Agriculture is responsible for most of the destruction of the Amazon, and cattle ranching is still the 1 driver of rainforest destruction—even as palm oil is decimating rainforests in Indonesia. Maybe it is time to stop asking for the perfect solution or the definitive answer. A better question might be: What can I do today? Let’s start from there.
Today, did you:
Drink a cup of coffee?
Eat a hamburger?
How about tofu or rice?
Did you eat dessert?
Maybe ice cream, a cookie, or a piece of chocolate?
If so, you may have inadvertently contributed to the destruction of the rainforest. But it isn’t just food. Did you:
Brush your teeth?
Wash your hair?
Do some laundry?
In today’s global economy it can be almost impossible to track just where your food comes from. If you see Palm Oil in your food or household products make sure there isn’t a palm-free alternative. While more brands are committing to using sustainable palm—few have been able to meet their own goals.
Other crops grown on rainforest land include:
Soy, Beef, Coffee, Cocoa, Tea, Rubber,
Bananas, Pineapples, Rice, and Beans
When you can, look at labels and try to make sure they don’t come from deforested land. But consumers can only do so much.
This is why we have to make sure there are laws on the books protecting our rainforests. In countries that have tropical rainforests we fight for laws that ensure Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) for indigenous communities. This makes sure that corporations can’t just take over and destroy their ancestral forests. History has shown time and again that when indigenous communities are given the final say about projects on their land our rainforests thrive.
In the US and other countries, we need to keep fighting to strengthen laws like the Lacey Act that protects wildlife and plants from illegal trade–making sure that illegally obtained goods from the rainforest (whether it be rosewood or scarlet macaws) can’t be sold in the United States.
It’s time to ensure we know if meat and crops are grown illegally deforested rainforest land. It’s time to make sure that corporations don’t profit from their destruction of the forests.
Did you know that indigenous communities of the Amazon have cultivated crops sustainably for thousands of years?
Over 8000 years ago indigenous people began domesticating plants like sweet potato, pineapple, rubber, hot peppers, and cacao in order to feed the large rainforest communities that thrived before European colonizers invaded their lands.
Cash crops take over the Amazon
Pristine Rainforest Land
Effects of Agriculture
- Deforestation for agriculture has led to the decline of indigenous communities
- Rainforests protected by indigenous communities have the lowest rates of deforestation.
- Cattle ranching has one of the highest rates of slave labor in Brazil.
Effects of Agriculture
- Conventional agriculture uses pesticides, herbicides, and chemical fertilizers. These contaminate water sources & rivers and destroy the soil.
- Agriculture is responsible for approximately 70% of water use worldwide.
- Raising animals for food uses ⅓ of all freshwater and 45% of the earth’s land.
- Animal agriculture is responsible for Ocean Dead Zones off the coast of Brazil.
Effects of Agriculture
- Animal agriculture is responsible for up to 91% of the Amazon’s destruction. But today soy & palm oil are catching up.
- Going one year without eating beef saves approximately 3432 trees.
- Cows produce 150 billion gallons of climate-change-producing methane per day!
- Animal agriculture is responsible for 18% to 51% of greenhouse gas emissions. This is more than the combined exhaust from all sources of transportation.
Is Being Vegan Better for the Environment?
There are some caveats, but yes being vegan is better for the environment. More and more studies suggest one of the best things you can do for the environment and the rainforest is to reduce your meat and dairy consumption. Today as more meat and meat products are imported from Latin America it’s especially important to reduce meat consumption. If you are a committed meat eater, then making sure you are eating pastured and local beef (just as long as you don’t live in the Amazon basin) is a great way to protect the rainforest.
But there are other steps to take. Make sure to avoid palm oil, it’s destroying rainforests in Southeast Asia and is increasingly a problem in the Amazon too. Harder, but also important is to make sure any soy you eat is not coming from rainforest lands.