Is there something you can’t imagine living without? Perhaps you perish at the thought of going a full day without your cellphone. Maybe you could never even imagine being separated from access to electronic devices. air conditioning, or plumbing (if so, steer clear of camping anywhere other than your backyard). It may be the case that you can brave a world where you don’t have access to Facebook, running water, or constant emoticon-loaded texts from your BFF.

But I bet there’s one thing that you know you, and everyone else you know, REALLY couldn’t live without, despite our species’ habit of treating them as if they are not essential to the survival of everything we love.

Trees!

Our little green planet is growing less green by the minute, not due to any natural biological terror, but our own devices. And it’s no mystery what habits of ours are leading global deforestation, nor how such acts will affect the well-being of Earth.

National Geographic says that at the current rate of deforestation, the world’s rainforests could diminish and virtually vanish within the next 100 years at our current rate of depletion. This not only causes loss of habitat for millions of species, but a steep negative impact on climate change as well.

And, they–along with countless other sources–cite that, “The biggest driver of deforestation is agriculture. Farmers cut forests to provide more room for planting crops or grazing livestock.” Plant-based agriculture used to feed animals bred for food drives up the amount of resources consumed by crops – “intensive livestock production requires large quantities of harvested feed. The growing of cereals for feed in turn requires substantial areas of land” – while grazing animals such as cattle place additional stress on the state of Earth’s forests, especially the Amazon Rainforests.

How Big of a Problem is This, Really?

This is not a simple case of one group labelling animal agriculture the source of deforestation.

The Wageningen University and Research Centre similarly reports that, “Agriculture is estimated to be the direct driver for around 80% of deforestation worldwide.”

In Latin America, especially in rainforest areas that are home to thousands of plant and animal species, commercial agriculture has clear cut about two-thirds of forest. Similarly, agriculture is responsible for deforestation in tropical Asia, as well as Africa.

Some organizations attempt to focus the decline of forests squarely on urban expansion, claiming there’s nothing that can be done about deforestation, unless the human population sees an immediate decrease–this addresses one a tiny fraction of the problem!

The truth is, we’re not just destroying the forests in virtue of existing and taking up space for living, we’re destroying them due to specific, non-necessary habits found in the normalized Western diet and lifestyle.

Deforestation: It’s What’s for Dinner

Deforestation for animal agriculture is not mitigated to a specific region of Earth, either. If you thought agricultural deforestation was “too far away from home” to care about or make a difference, be aware that major deforestation happens from the North-West to the South-East and anywhere in between.

The government website for Natural Resources Canada states that “in the agriculture sector, the result of forests having been cleared for pasture or crops accounted for almost half (43%) of the deforestation in 2010”, again noting that urban expansion accounts for considerably less environmental destruction than the agricultural industry. Equally dismal numbers on the statistics of deforestation have been recorded in Zambia by UN efforts.

The strongest statements linking animal agriculture and deforestation come from The Food and Agriculture Organization of The United Nations (FAO): “A new report from FAO says livestock production is one of the major causes of the world’s most pressing environmental problems, including global warming, land degradation, air and water pollution, and loss of biodiversity.”

As if animal agriculture’s affects on the planet’s forests wasn’t harsh enough, the secondary and tertiary effects of its degradation can be felt not just by our plant life, but in the air we breathe and the water we drink.

Is it Time to Choose Veg for The Planet?

This news has many conscious people turning to an obvious solution: cutting out animal-reliant agriculture from their lifestyle and turning towards vegetarian or vegan living.

ChooseVeg.com offers some information and guidance in this regard, noting that “Raising animals for food (including land used for grazing and growing feed crops) now uses a staggering 30% of the Earth’s land mass” and that in the US alone, more than 70% of grain in the plant-based agricultural sector is used to feed farm animals. They even list soy, often criticized for land usage, as requiring up to 12 times less land, fuel, and water to produce compared to animal protein.

Since well-planned vegan lifestyles are regarded as appropriate for all stages of the life-cycle by the American Dietetic Association, the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council, and Dietitians of Canada, we can say with some certainty that living without excessive reliance on animal agriculture is well within our grasp. Living without Earth’s life-sustaining forests, however, is much less possible.

With multiple government studies and organizations supporting evidence of animal agriculture’s steep impact on deforestation, we’ve run out of reasons to deny exactly which habits of humanity’s hit hardest against the prospect of a sustainable and ecologically friendly future for the inhabitants of our planet.

You can easily take deforestation off the menu at your table with the help of many of One Green Planet’s recipes and resources. When making a positive change for the planet is so delicious, there’s no better reason to make a change!

 Image source: Kim and Forest Starr/Wikimedia Commons