For weeks it has been all over the internet that our beloved Amazon rainforest in Brazil is going up in flames. This year only, 40.000 smaller and bigger fires were reported in the Amazon region, resulting in an increase of 84% as compared to the fires last year. Brazil itself has called an emergency status upon the situation and is desperately trying to control it.
We know that the Amazon sees fires all year round due to deforestation, the dry seasons and climate change. So why is this situation special and different from other years? And more importantly, what can we as individuals on the other side of the world do to help solve it.
Why the Amazon is burning
As mentioned, the Amazon, like many other forests, is no stranger to fires. Dry seasons make it easier for smaller fires to spread quickly and the drought that comes with the current climate change is not helping either. For over 50 years the Amazon forest is also a popular place to grow cattle or crops that are exported to cattle all over the world. To make space for fields, trees used to be chopped in the past but are now being burned down. This is due to an increase in farmers who lack the tools and vehicles that are necessary to chop and remove trees. Shockingly this has all add up to 80% of the total fires in the region being lit to make space for farming. How is this even legally possible you may ask? Well, in the past it was not and there used to be a maximum amount of fires allowed. The new Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro however has loosened up the farming regulations which makes it easier for farmers to acquire new farmland by burning down whatever stood, grew and lived on it before.
Why we do not want to lose the Amazon
In just 50 years over 20% of the Amazon rainforest has come to an end and made place for farming. This has led to a couple of consequences for the environment and ultimately its inhabitants: Wood fires release a large amount of carbon dioxide which is potentially a greenhouse gas. Meaning it contributes to the ability of the sun rays to reach and heat up the earth. Even small changes in climate temperature can bring an imbalance to the environment and result in more natural disasters like hurricanes, melting polar caps and rising water levels. It will also cause more drought which will again increase the amount of larger fires, resulting in a negative spiral. Deforestation secondly robs us of clean air that is produced by plants. Furthermore it robs hundreds of animals of their homes which can potentially lead to the endangerment of species. To make the full circle, raising cattle or crops for cattle costs a lot of water and produces a lot of greenhouse gasses. To give you an idea, it is estimated that around 15% of all greenhouse gasses come from animal agriculture.
You do not have to be an environmental scientist to conclude that the trend we are going with at the moment will sooner or later effect all of us and not in a good way. But we do not want to scare you. Instead we want to offer you an insight that can help the problem. Something you can do every day to take part in saving the Amazon and your fork is the only tool you need.
What you can do to help save the Amazon
There is one keyword in this whole story of bad news and scaring facts that is a promise for change and that is: meat consumption. Would there not be such a high demand in meat, there would not be a need to make as many fields for cattle or crops, there would not be as much water needed and as much emission released. The forest would be a safe space for animals and plants radiating fresh air again like it has done for thousands of years. In fact, like it has done forever before we came along. This whole negative circle surrounding the Amazon is build on the fact the we want more meat. Not that many generations ago meat was a luxury product only to be eaten a couple of times a week. Nowadays what is a meal without meat right!?
Well, it can still be a meal. While we totally understand that meat is tasty, legumes and well-prepared tofu are too. At Rå we would know since our teriyaki tofu is a beloved meat substitute and everyone is after that recipe of our roasted curry chickpeas. Legumes and tofu are also much more environmentally friendly as they save up to 60% more land and 20 times as much water. Now we enjoy some chicken ourselves here and there but we happily enjoy a plantbased meal just as much. Knowing that we can contribute to saving the planet by just using our forks does the rest for us. We love it!
Would you like to eat a more plantbased diet yourself, visit us in the city centre of Groningen, try one of our completely plantbased salads and we will show you what veggies can do!
Written by, Maritza Kolenbrander, Food Psychologist at Plantifulplan