Last month, I watched the Amazon rainforest, one of the most biodiverse ecosystems on the planet, erupt into flames, and I couldn’t help but think about its causes.
Since the 1960s, the Amazon has been the victim of man-made deforestation and land-clearing for the sake of livestock production. Brazil is the world’s largest producer of beef, and more than 50 percent of the country’s livestock live on fields that used to be rainforests, according to Business Insider.
That means that every cheeseburger contributes to deforestation and ecosystem destruction in places like the Amazon.
There is something that we can do to prevent this from happening in the future: stop eating animal products.
Going vegan, or even reducing your meat and dairy intake, can have massive positive effects on our environment, and on the security of ecosystems like the Amazon.
There is a huge misconception of what veganism is. But at its core, veganism simply means abstaining from all meat, dairy and other animal products for ethical and health reasons.
“You’re saving a lot more resources, whether it’s fossil fuels or water,” said Jessica Harrington, a senior media studies and production major with a minor in sustainable food systems, and the founder and president of the TU Ecological Eating Club, which raises awareness of food issues and environmental justice.
“Give or take the amount of almond milk you drink, you’re still going to be using less water because your food doesn’t need to be raised [or transported],” she added.
Additionally, more evidence is being presented to show that consuming meat on a daily basis is detrimental to our planet’s resource supply.
Tossing out a single hamburger uses the same amount of water as a 90-minute shower, due to the water being used for irrigation and cleaning for livestock, The National Resources Defense Council reported in 2017.
Additionally, the top five meat and dairy companies combined (JBS, Tyson, Cargill, Fonterra and Dairy Farmers of America) emit more greenhouse gases annually than ExxonMobil, Shell or BP, according to the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.
Going vegan has the power to shift meat production and its emissions through boycotting animal agriculture and influencing supply and demand patterns with purchasing power.
“It does fall on the shoulders of consumers to speak up, and to use their money to say that the current practices aren’t right,” said Erin Mecchi, a hub coordinator for the Sunrise Movement and a vegan of almost four years.
This means that it falls on us, as consumers, to use our dollars to buy products that won’t waste an exorbitant amount of water or other resources.
“It’s important to look at consumers, what they are buying and what is going to waste,” said Amelia Duffy-Tumasz, a professor of geography and urban studies with a focus on human-environment interactions and political ecology.
Our food consumption patterns are impacting the earth, and the notable implications of meat consumption and food waste on our resources are going to continue rising if we do not recover from this damaging cycle.
Our dietary habits have a bigger impact on the environment than we may think, and it’s time to use our purchasing power for good.