Trees: The Lungs Of Planet Earth
By: Lauren Lockey
Those of us who are lucky to live in a ski town such as Park City can relate to the feeling while hiking, running, biking or skiing through the beautiful pine or aspen trees. In that moment, there is an overwhelming awareness of being connected to earth and everything around us.
I remember walking through the rain forest in Costa Rica . It was as if I could feel them breathing while I was enveloped in the mist surrounding them. The scent of the wet leaves and soil was so raw and “earthy.” Or the magic I feel while mountain biking through red and yellow aspens and the sun shines through just perfectly. Or the wisdom that humbled me from the old growth redwood forests in California. It’s these moments when I realize we are all connected to such a powerful life force greater than us. Humans, no matter how in control we think we are, are not separate from trees or other living beings. We need trees(and a healthy ocean) to survive. Without them,we will vanish. Besides trees protecting us from the sun, wind, and rain with their magnificent canopy, they are the lungs of planet earth. The largest of which we don’t see daily, the tropical rain forest.
By absorbing carbon dioxide, rain forests help to reduce the effects of worldwide climate change. In addition to the important role rain forests play in Earth’s climate, they also are an important home to about half of the species of plants and wildlife on the planet.
What does this actually mean and why is it so important?
There are more than 20 reasons but I am going to speak to the most important ones and how connected they are to our food choices.
- trees in Earth’s rain forests absorb tremendous amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and produce much of the oxygen humans and animals depend upon for survival. One acre of mature trees provide enough oxygen for 18 people for one year.
- Rain forests help to stabilize the Earth’s climate. We now know that carbon dioxide is a major contributor to climate change. By absorbing carbon dioxide, rain forests help to reduce the effects of worldwide climate change.
- Trees absorb odors and pollutant gases and filter particulates out of the air by trapping them on their leaves and bark.
- Rain forests are the home to more than half of the earth’s plant and wildlife species. As these forests decrease in size, so do the homes and lives of these species. Palm Oil is also responsible for large scale forest destruction and conversion therefore leading to species loss such as the Sumatran orangutan, elephant, and tiger. Check labels and stay away from this product which is found in everything!
- rain forests help maintain the water cycle by producing and absorbing large amounts of rainfall every year. When these forests decrease in size, you risk drought and flooding instances around the world.
An estimated 18 million acres of forest, which is roughly the size of the country of Panama, are lost each year, according to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Let’s put that into perspective. That’s about 36 football fields per minute! Just to take this sobering fact a little further, according to the Rain forest Action Network “If present rates of destruction continue, half our remaining rain forests will be gone by the year 2025, and by 2060 there will be no rain forests remaining.”
Every second . . we lose an area the size of two football fields!
Every minute . . we lose an area 29 times the size of the Pentagon!
Every hour . . . we lose an area 684 times larger than the New Orleans Superdome!
Every day . . . we lose an area larger than all five boroughs of New York City!
Every week . . . we lose an area twice the size of Rhode Island!
Every month . . .we lose an area the size of Belize!
Every year . . . we lose an area more than twice the size of Florida!
At the very least, “with the destruction of the tropical rain forests, over half the plant and animal species on earth, as well as numerous indigenous cultures will disappear forever.” If strong and decisive action is not taken immediately to reverse the destruction of this vital ecosystem, the consequences will be catastrophic. In fact, many scientists agree that the earth could very well become uninhabitable for virtually every living species, including humans! Meaning we are a part of, not separate from, the ecosystem. Everything is interconnected.
One of the single major contributors to the destruction of the rain forest is animal agriculture. The process of raising animals for human consumption. When we choose an animal-based diet, the rain forest continues to be destroyed.
A Few Facts:
- Approximately 200 million pounds of beef is imported by the United States from Central America every year. The demand is increasing around the world in countries such as China and Russia.
- Since the 1960s, the cattle herd of the Amazon Basin has increased from 5 million to more than 70-80 million heads. Around 15% of the Amazon forest has been replaced and around 80% of the deforested areas have been covered by pastures.
- Ranchers use slash and burn methods to clear land, fertilize the soil and plant desired crops such as soy feed for farmed animals. Because of the high demand for beef, the soil is unable to replenish which lead ranchers to clear more land for animal feed crops while using previous cleared land for grazing.
- Each pound of Central American beef permanently destroys over 200 square feet of rainforest.
- 1-2 acres of rain forest are cleared every second to graze animals or grow crops to feed the animals.
- To graze one steer in Amazonia takes two full acres. That’s a lot of land for a hamburger!
- It takes 16 pounds of grain to produce 1 pound of meat. More than 868,000 acres are cleared to grow soy crops to then ship to factory farms for animal feed. Wow! Again, that is a lot of land and energy use for a small amount of meat!
- Trees are chopped down to clear space for livestock and they release all of that stored CO2 back into the air. Since those trees are removed, they can no longer help clean the air and produce oxygen.
- It takes 9 trees one month to scrub 10 pounds of CO2 out of the atmosphere. With 2000 trees being lost to deforestation every minute (80 percent of which are lost due to cattle production) that’s 1,600 fewer trees to keep excess CO2 from contributing to pollution and global warming…every 60 seconds. source
- The world population is estimated to grow to 9 billion by 2050
- As trees are cut down they are replaced with methane(greenhouse gas like carbon) producers, cattle. So, wait a minute… we remove what cleans the poison out of the atmosphere and replace it with the actual poison?!
- Watch 40 second clip from Cowspiracy here.
This issue goes deeper than what I have listed! Remember the beef and dairy industry is a multi billion dollar industry so government subsidized loans, tax credits, and write-offs are at play here. But that’s another topic for a different day! This is all about supply and demand so we as consumers have a responsibility to reduce or eliminate the demand for animal products so we can preserve the rain forest.
When we choose a plant-based diet, the rain forest is preserved
- 1 acre of land yields 250 pounds of beef. However the same amount of land yields 50,000 pounds of tomatoes, 30,000 pounds of carrots, and 53,000 pounds of potatoes.
- You can produce over 7 times more usable plant protein per acre than animal protein.
- 1 vegan saves 11,000 sq ft of forest per year
The facts and studies can go on and rain forest destruction is only a fraction of the effects animal agriculture has on planet Earth. We as human animals are lucky because each and every day we get to make a choice that can benefit everything/one around us. When we choose a plant-based diet, we have made the decision to think outside ourselves and what is best for all of us because everything and everyone is inter- connected! We are intimately reliant on all the resources planet Earth provides. And they are reliant on us to watch over and take care of them. Therefore, shouldn’t we be grateful for this life we were given? This home that is full of beauty and adventure? Why not give back and preserve it for all the generations to come?
With over 7 billion(and growing) humans inhabiting the planet, it can never go back to what it was before human kind. We naturally and unfortunately will continue to build, destroy land, and cause pollution and waste. However, we can significantly reduce our impact by making a few small changes in our daily lives. When we make the choice to shift to a plant-based diet, we not only save trees and all other natural resources, we actually do integrate back into the connected web of all life and become stewards of planet Earth.
Feel free to connect with us here at Sage Mountain with questions, comments, or concerns regarding plant-based living! We are happy to help!