Clearing forests to make way for Industrial agricultural farming that produces crops to feed livestock and for non-essential food products for humans, is the prime cause of deforestation worldwide. Livestock are butchered to place meat on our plate. Tropical rainforests are thought to contain fifty to ninety per cent of all species. Eating meat is a single thing that we do that directly contributes to the mass extinction of life on Earth. Eating meat is a choice.
It has been estimated that by the middle of this century there will not be any viable fish populations left in the seas and oceans. Acidifications of the oceans, pollution, legal industrial overfishing and illegal fishing is the cause of this. Again, eating of fish meat is another single thing that we do that directly contributes to the mass extinction of life on Earth. Eating of fish meat is a choice.
Easter Island is located in the Pacific Ocean two thousand five hundred km off the coast of Chile. The first settlers sailed from Polynesia around the year 1200. The island was covered in forest. Fish were abundant in the surrounding ocean. These were caught using canoes that were made from hollowed out trees. The population grew and the Island’s civilisation flourished. Over a period of five hundred and fifty years all the trees were cut down to build canoes and habitation. With no more trees eventually there were no canoes and therefore no fish to eat. The wildlife populations that existed in the forest ecosystem perished with the forest.
The islanders also grew crops. As the population continued to grow, the demand for food outstripped the capacity of the land to produce it. The tribes that once lived in harmony turned on each other and wars broke out between them. Genocide and destruction followed. By the 1770 the population was living in poverty and was a fraction of the once thriving civilisation.
The rise and fall of the Easter Island civilisation is a story that has repeated itself all along human history across the world. It starts with overexploitation of the local resources and always ends in suffering, conflict and death. It cannot end any other way. The overexploitation by humans of the Earth’s resources has now reached global proportions and is impacting the survival of all other animal and plant species. It does not have to be this way.
It is possible to produce enough food to sustain all people on Earth for all time. We should, however, do so frugally, avoiding waste. We should use only so much of the Earth’s resources as allow us to survive and thrive putting back into the biosphere at least as much as we take out. This is what all other species do. Importantly, we need to rethink our entire value and belief systems, realising that we were born into nature on a planet that sustains our life. The Earth is our home and there is no other. We are just one species amongst millions of others, not better, just different. We exist in a symbiotic relationship with all other life forms on Earth. As we kill them, our own species is suffering a slow death. They become extinct, we become extinct.
Two thirds of all wildlife, habitat and ecosystem losses are driven by food production. The shift in agriculture, from producing to feed humans to feeding animals, is not aimed at satisfying a need to eat but aims at producing more irrespective of whether it is consumed or not. More than fifty per cent of world’s food is left to rot or is dumped in landfills or used to feed animals. Seventy billion cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, chicken, ducks, dogs, minx, donkeys, oxen, camels and others are reared and slaughtered globally every year. This is set to double by 2050. Crops that would otherwise feed billions of people are fed to industrially reared animals that we then consume as meat or for their skin or fur. Every day wild habitats are being converted to make way for more industrial agriculture to feed livestock to satisfy our carnivorous appetite, but not only.
Forests are felled and wild grasslands are ploughed to make way for industrial farming for monoculture (single) crops. Monoculture, such as that of oil palm plantations, supported by the usual fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides, creates a barren and poisonous landscape. Apart from the crop itself hardly anything else lives there.
A recent Greenpeace report has revealed that cows, pigs and other farm livestock in Europe are producing more greenhouse gases every year than all of the bloc’s cars and vans put together, when the impact of their feed is taken into account. While governments have targeted renewable energy and transport in their climate policies, initiatives to reduce the impact of food and farming on the climate are nowhere to be seen. The most important greenhouse gases from animal agriculture are methane and nitrous oxide. Methane is a gas which has an effect on global warming which is twenty eight times higher than carbon dioxide.
For example, over the last twenty nine years deforestation in Sumatra, Indonesia has been driven by the expansion of oil palm plantations. Palm oil is found in pizza, doughnuts, chocolates, cooking oil, margarine and ice creams. It is also found in deodorant, shampoo, toothpaste and lipstick. According to WWF it can be found in half of all packaged food products in supermarkets because of its long life characteristics. Global demand for oil palm products, oil and kernel, is expected to triple by 2050. Palm kernel products are widely used to feed livestock.
These are the days of reckoning, we either stop eating animals or destroy the future of all young people alive today.
Inspired by: Books ‘Dead Zones’ and ‘Farmageddon’ written by Philip Lymberry
This article was published in the Senior Times of the Times of Malta on the 11th December 2020