Deforestation in the Amazon is Up by 29 Percent and Our Appetite for Meat is Largely to Blame

The deforestation of the Amazon has been worrying environmentalists for decades but recently the Brazilian government released their most recent study on this problem and the numbers were shocking. Deforestation has gone up 29 percent in this past year which is a five percent increase from 2015. This is also the highest rate of deforestation since 2008. The government estimates that around 3,000 square miles – that roughly the same size as Delaware and Rhode Island combined – of rainforest were destroyed from August 2015 to July 2016. While conservationists in Brazil were bracing themselves for larger losses this year, these numbers were astounding. Estadão Reports blames the rapid increase of deforestation on government action, “such as the waiving of fines for illegal deforestation, the abandonment of protected areas.”

And the Brazilian government is to blame, but not entirely. The beef industry in Brazil is responsible for the majority of the destruction happening in the Amazon – right around 70 percent. Trees are clearcut and to make room so that the massive herds of cattle can graze. Researchers at the University of Cambridge estimate that for every 10 percent of the rainforest that is destroyed, we will lose one or two species.  On top of that, the livestock industry is responsible for around 30 percent of Brazil’s greenhouse gas emissions and the increasing importance of this industry is going to make it difficult for the country to meet its commitments to the Paris Agreement in the upcoming year.

However, this is a much larger problem. Brazil exports a large portion of the beef that it produces – the Unites States imports approximately 200 million pounds of beef from the area. This means that we have the ability to fight against the deforestation of the rainforests when we go to the grocery story every day. By choosing a plant-based diet we can help to stop the destruction of our planet’s rainforests. The production of meat and dairy products is impacting the environment all over the world, not just in Brazil. Around 14.5 percent of the world’s carbon emissions come from the production of livestock and this industry uses just under 50 percent of the global land and 23 percent of the world’s fresh water.

By choosing to eat more plant-based foods, you can drastically cut your carbon footprint, save precious water supplies and help ensure that vital crop resources are fed to people, rather than livestock. With the wealth of available plant-based options available, it has never been easier to eat with the planet in mind.

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Image source: John Fleetwood/Shutterstock

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