The world’s food and production industries are harming the planet at a rapid rate. The loss of forests due to farmland, livestock, and food production is bound to cause severe damage if further action is not taken.
Land Footprint and Deforestation
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), agricultural expansion drives almost 90 percent of global deforestation. Without trees, the planet loses its ability to balance carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, which is why deforestation accounts for 15 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Brazil, for instance, has had some of the fastest growing rates of deforestation since 2018, after the government weakened laws protecting the environment.
Decreases in biodiversity, soil erosion, and desertification are just some of the effects of deforestation. Currently, 50 percent of habitable land is used for agriculture, while only 1 percent is used for towns and cities. 77 percent of that habitable land is being used for livestock. While it is important to have land to feed the growing population, the practices involved in agriculture and food production are ultimately harming the planet.
From farms to dinner tables, billions of tons of greenhouse gasses are emitted during each stage of food production every year. 67 percent of these emissions come from prepping the land, which includes farmland management and land-use change. Cows are one of the largest methane-contributing livestock animals. With this in mind, a study done by UC Davis shows that adding a small amount of seaweed to a cow’s diet can reduce 82 percent of the methane the cow belches. Another effective way to reduce emissions is to replace beef with poultry, which reduces emissions by almost 90 percent.
Many production facilities get their energy from fossil fuels, but this can easily be replaced with renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind, and even biomass. Biomass is made from dead living organisms and waste, which are readily available on farms. If the use of biomass for energy tripled in the United States, it could “reduce global warming emissions by the same amount as taking 70 million cars off the road.” This is also a great alternative for places that lack the resources to sustain solar and wind-powered technology.
Another environmental disruptor that is commonly used is fertilizer. It contains nitrous oxide, which has a high warming potential (the amount of heat trapped in the atmosphere compared to carbon dioxide) that is much higher than carbon dioxide. While cow manure is a popular organic fertilizer, slow-release fertilizers, fish emulation, and lomi dirt are some effective and environmentally friendly options
The food production industry has used the same harmful farming techniques for decades at the expense of the environment. However, there is still time to slow or reverse the damage that has been done by making agricultural techniques more environmentally friendly. Doing research and advocating for change in the industry is how you can help get us one step closer to a greener world.