Here’s a hint: Fire and beef have more in common than a good steak. But first:
The raging fire devastating Brazil’s Amazon rainforest, often termed “The Lungs of the Earth,” is in the news every day now. It’s spreading fast since it began in early August: According to Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research, it’s burning an area the size of 1½ soccer fields every minute of every day.
The Amazon area alone produces 20% of the oxygen the planet needs to sustain life. As the fire spreads, so will the smoke — heavy in particulates and toxic gases such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and non-methane organic compounds — severely impairing the world’s efforts to bring climate change under control and preserve the air we breathe.
Then there’s the impact of the loss of the trees themselves, which store greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, thereby keeping them out of the atmosphere. It’s estimated that deforestation alone causes 10% of global emissions.
No question, this devastating fire threatens everyone, everywhere — and it’s not under control.
Nor is it likely to be.
No help is wanted. This is no forest blaze started by a poorly doused campfire or carelessly tossed cigarette. This fire was started deliberately by Brazilian cattle raisers who need more land to…raise more cattle to…feed more and more people worldwide, who…
Are demanding more beef.
So more beef means more Amazon fires. And evidence proves it: Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research reports nearly 73,000 fires in the country so far this year, an 80% increase over all of last year. More than half happened in the Amazon region.
Ane Alencar, Scientific Director of Brazil’s Institute of Environmental Research, makes this fire/beef connection clear: “These are not wildfires, but rather fires set by people seeking to create cattle ranches, intentionally ignited during the dry season each year. They cut the trees, leave the wood to dry, and later put fire to it, so that the ashes can fertilize the soil.”
The question arises, “Is anyone doing anything about this?” Unless the Brazilian cattle ranchers have a change of heart, the near-term outlook isn’t good. But at least the public is learning more, which holds out hope for change. For example:
- Celebrities, including environmentalist actor Leonardo DiCaprio, vegan actor Ruby Rose, and the queen of cruelty-free cosmetics, Kat Von D, have asked how they can help.
- Moving Animals, an organization that documents the plight of animals in a human-dominated world, has started a campaign urging universities to ban beef.
- The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has stated, “Our use of animals as a food production technology has brought us to the verge of catastrophe.”
Then there’s the growing plant-based movement, increasingly viewed as key to saving the environment by replacing beef consumption with plant-based lifestyles:
- The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reports that the diet of a meat-eater uses 17 times more land than a vegetarian’s.
- In a wide-ranging research analysis of farming’s impact on the planet, the journal Science found that producing beef uses 36 times more land, and generates six times the greenhouse gases, than raising — peas.
The Science researchers’ conclusion: If every person living adopted a vegan lifestyle, farmland use around the world would drop by 75%.
Until then…stay tuned.