COUNTRYSIDE NOTES – CLIMATE CHANGE MARCH 2020

Climate change is an extremely complex subject and, as with anything to do with nature, one simple deed, however well-intentioned, can lead to an unforeseen chain action.

The amount of meat consumed in Britain declined in 2019 as people turned to vegetarianism and veganism. As a matter of conscience plant-based diets are often adopted as an aid to saving our planet because animals are blamed for being part of the climate change problem. But it’s not as simple as that. Many of the components of a meat free diet such as soy, rice, lentils, quinoa and avocados have to be imported from halfway round the world because they are not grown on a commercial scale in Britain. Transport of any kind results in pollution to the atmosphere, the very reason why some vegetarians and vegans denounce eating meat. Soya beans are a primary source of plant protein not only used to feed the animals we eat but it is also a key product frequently used in the manufacture of meat substitute products and soy milk, soy sauce, tofu, tempeh and edamame. Most of our imported soya is grown in North America and Latin America where vast tracts of the Amazon rain forest have been destroyed so the land could be used for growing soybean. Trees play a vital part in our environment by purifying water and the air which we breathe. However, it’s not only the trees that are destroyed but also the plants and wildlife that lived amongst them. The knock-on effect is huge.
Even more worrying is the fast-growing popularity of palm oil right across the world. 85% of it comes from Indonesia and Malaysia. Obtained from the fruits of palm trees it is the healthiest option available containing less fat than other oils. It is also widely used in the food and cosmetic industries, personal care products and even to produce bio-fuel. Palm trees being perennial makes them more profitable than any other oil producing plants providing five times the yield obtained from annual crops such as rape and sunflowers. But it comes at a price. Palm oil production has resulted in extensive areas of rain forest being destroyed in Malaysia and Indonesia. Through loss of habitat the Sumatran tiger and Sumatran elephant are in danger of extinction and in Borneo there is little room left for orangutans to survive. Large animals require large territories. They not only die during deforestation activities but the habitat of those who are spared is fragmented making it difficult for them to find a mate, if they do in-breeding is likely.

Save our planet campaigners and activists have good intentions but maybe it would be more environmentally friendly to stick to home produced foods including meat. However, no one ever wants to admit that the real problem is that there are now far too many people on our planet. In 2000 the world population was 6.12 billion, double what it was in 1960, now it is 7.7 billion and rising fast!!

Jill Mason

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