By Hanna Yael Gabay (*) -
There is no denying that our planet is undergoing a severe, if not fatal, transformation. We are living in times of ecosystem collapse, and the concern of no longer being able to drink nor breath in our lifetime ourselves, has now replaced the previous drive to leave our children a healthy planet. So how has all of this come about, despite the hype and rise in ecological awareness.
I believe this is a combination of several factors, and judging from the articles I have recently come across, my theory may not be as far fetched from the truth as I may have thought. The greatest ecological treasures, and what is providing the earth oxygen and trapping some nitrogen dioxide, are disappearing. What/who is responsible for this destruction?
Current State of our Planet:
Let us take a look at the Great Barrier Reef and Australia's land: Australia clears land for animal agriculture on a massive scale, causing the Great Barrier Reef to die off (manure run-off and climate change). Farmers are unwilling to provide data for the Great Barrier Reef water cleanup program 1. According to a chart from Mercando, approximately 74% of the animals bred and raised in Australia are exported, either in live exports (12.5%) or as meat after processing (61%) 2. The Australian government refuses to release data of live export animals on board a ship bound for the Middle East, saying it could be used selectively to lobby for a ban on the live export trade 3. Imagine how much land and water could have been saved from ecological disaster if the live export trade was banned, and meat industries were severely taxed.
If we switched to South America and the current state of the Brazilian Amazon, we already see the catastrophe in greater affect. Amazon experts warns "Not only for Brazil it will be the end". Three weeks ago, there were 73,000 fires in the Amazon. A week ago, there were 100,000 individual fires.
Yesterday the number was up to 151,000 fires. So an increase of 50 percent within a week. What is of great concern, is not only the actual destruction of the greenery, the highest and most diverse flora and fauna of the world, but also the amount of carbon monoxide emitted by those forest fires 4. Air currents that transport moisture emitted by the forest in the atmosphere over thousands of km to Central Brazil with its huge agricultural output and to the Brazilian South, the economic center of the country, raining down there and allowing so first life in cities like São Paulo. The climate has already changed so much that the forest can no longer keep up. This, in turn, has immense effects on the "biotic pump", which creates the so-called flying rivers. Without water from the Amazon, Brazil will most probably become a desert. Recently, I came across a picture of Sao Paulo during the day, and it looks like hell raining over the city, pitch black skies in the middle of the day, black ashes. Instead of the humidity of the flying rivers, a stream of dark, rust-colored smoke appeared over the city, struck a cold front, and darkened the sky so it was pitch-black and the lights were on throughout the city. The little rain that fell from these poisonous clouds was ashes from the Amazon. Has the Amazon passed the tipping point?
Researchers stated that should the Amazon reach a 20 to 25% destruction point, it will self destruct. What would happen to the lungs of our planet? And where will we be? Farmers and ranchers clearing the land, for animal agriculture, either to raise cattle or to grow soy, (most of the soy in the area is sold to EU as animal feed), logging, and drought are undeniably the causes of this destruction 5. Governments unable and unwilling to protect the areas, are another cause of this destruction.
In other areas of the world, fires are also raging. There are currently huge fires in Congo and Angola. No doubt the region is key for the climate: The Congo Basin forest is commonly referred to as the “second green lung” of the planet after the Amazon. And while some of the fires are typically anticipated in the dry seasons in Africa, the fires were originally intentionally set by farmers in Africa and for land clearing in Indonesia and Brazil 6.
What are the consequences?
Of course, the local and regional effects have severe global implications. This is about the connection of the Atlantic with the Pacific Ocean and the circulation systems in the atmosphere. The Amazon is the territorial hydrological link between these two oceans and, of course, also affects Europe in this context. Why? Because the air flows, which are also supplied with moisture, blow across the Atlantic and along the African coast to the Caribbean and South America. These moisture-laden streams of air over the Caribbean Atlantic are, so to speak, the head of the Gulf Stream, which in turn determines the overall climate in Europe. This is a huge, interconnected complex system.
Water evaporation is also an issue in itself. The forest emits moisture, which forms clouds in a few thousand meters by condensation, which in turn cools the underlying earth formations. That's the vertical effect. Also, we have a horizontal effect: through the just mentioned air currents and winds, the moisture of the hot equatorial areas is transported to the cold, actually very dry northern areas of the planet. The equatorial forests are therefore existential for the transport of moisture of the tropical zones also in the northern areas of the planet. Destroying the Amazon rainforest means attacking not only the lungs of the planet but also the heart of the planet. If we destroy this rainforest, we can completely forget the climate goal of no more than two degrees of warming set by the Paris Agreement. The rainforest is a huge store of carbon. Carbon, which is now being released at an awfully large rate.
According to the NY Times, over the last three weeks, the Arctic wildfires emitted 42 megatons of carbon dioxide, more than 180 megatons since the summer started, roughly three and a half times more than the country of Sweden emits in a year.
What is the essential cause of all this destruction?
Australia clears land for animal agriculture on a massive scale, causing the Great Barrier Reef to die off (manure run-off and climate change). Stories are emerging of ranchers in Brazil organizing five days to clear land for cattle pasture as the origin of the Amazon fires. Brazil is the largest exporter of the world cattle (supplies about a quarter of the global beef). Agriculture is without doubt accountable for around 80% of deforestation worldwide. In the Amazon alone, around 450,000 sq. km of deforested land in Brazil is now cattle pasture 7.
In Congo, farmers use slash-and-burn farming to clear forest. According to the Angolan Ministry of Environment, fires are caused by farmers with the land in its preparation phase, because of the proximity of the rainy season. 8
Deforestation is a problem in the U.S., too, and the causes are the same throughout the world, Brazil, US, Asia, Africa. In the U.S., 260 million acres of forests have been cleared in order to create cropland to feed animals raised for food, according to PETA 9.
What can you do?
The animal agriculture industry is definitely a hell for animals, but if this doesn't appeal to your conscious, the idea that animal based agriculture is killing our planet should trigger you to switch to a plant based diet. If everyone went vegan, global farmland use could be reduced by more than 75%—an area equivalent to the U.S., China, the European Union, and Australia combined—and still feed the entire world.
The Water Footprint Network estimates that every kilogram of bovine meat requires 15,415 liters of water to produce 9. PETA states that it takes about 600 gallons of water to produce 1 gallon of milk and about 900 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of cheese. What about land use? The Animals study authors reported that conventional beef production requires 5,457 hectares of land per 1 billion kilograms of beef. One hectare is the same as 2.47 acres. This breaks down to nearly 65 square feet per quarter pound of beef.
While governments, industry giants and lobbyists try to hide from consumers all of the data and information related to the destruction of our planet by the animal based industries, the time is running out for our planet, with our oceans, land and oxygen being depleted at a rate so high that we no longer need to worry about our children's and grandchildren's future, but rather about our own future being endangered.
For more information on switching to a plant based diet, visit The Save Movement.
Hanna Yael Gabay is a Professional Consultant