Rainforests are vital to the world’s finely balanced eco system – essentially, they’re a great big pair of lungs for the world. And yet, every day, great swathes of forest are cut down to grow soya, graze cattle or plant palm oil plantations – all staples of the global food chain.
Debate Your Plate has pulled together a number of campaigns so you can help give the world’s rainforests a chance to breathe.
Know your ABC’s
Industrial agriculture is one of the fastest growing threats to rainforests across the world. Three major agribusiness giants have become known as the ABC of rainforest destruction.
They are: ADM, Bunge and Cargill who all are destroying rainforests in order to grow soy and palm oil plantations.
The San Franciscan based, Rainforest Action Network (RAN) has been dubbed “some of the most savvy environmental agitators in the business” by the Wall Street Journal, and they’re certainly adept at using hard-hitting campaigns, with humour to embarrass and force multinationals to change. RAN has initiated the Rainforest Agribusiness Campaign, calling on these ABC’s to stop the environmental destruction they’re causing.
U.S. agribusiness giants ADM, Bunge and Cargill are establishing soy and palm oil operations in some of the planet’s most biodiverse forests.
They are expanding into threatened tropical ecosystems at breakneck speed, wreaking environmental havoc, contributing to human rights abuses and intensifying climate change.
This expansion, or agrisprawl…is feeding the US’s unsustainable appetite for junk food, animal protein and agrofuels.
ADM is deeply involved in the production and marketing of both palm oil and soy. It is also one of the greatest recipients of corporate welfare, which means taxpayers are subsidizing ADM’s role in rainforest destruction. ADM is also the strongest promoter of agrofuels in the United States.
Bunge, though not a household name in the U.S., is the largest agribusiness and food company operating in Brazil. Bunge’s soy operations are devastating communities and ecosystems throughout South America.
Cargill is the most powerful agribusiness and commodity trading group in the world. It is involved in producing and marketing palm oil and soy grown on freshly cleared rainforest lands. In 2003, Cargill built an illegal soy port on the Amazon River which doubled deforestation rates in the area.
Check out the ingredients of many products in your local supermarket and you’ll find palm oil. It’s in everything from Cherrios to sweets – even soap. And soya is exported from South America to the UK, the US and across the world as “cheap”, high protein feed for cattle.
RAN have also started a campaign against major food producer General Mills for using palm oil in thousands of their products.
Join RAN’s campaign by ringing General Mill’s CEO, Kevin Powell.
Royalty and the rainforest
In the words of Prince Charles and his Rainforests Project: “If we lose the battle against tropical deforestation, we lose the battle against climate change.”
This project campaigns and lobbies on international levels for a halt to deforestation and it’s well worth a look around to get a handle on the bigger picture.
The Prince’s Rainforests Project writes…
Rainforests wrap around the equator of the earth like a green belt. After millions of years of evolution, they are the most biologically rich ecosystems on our planet. Tropical rainforests contain a hugely rich diversity of species of plants and animals.
Rainforests are precious resources for all of us – not just for the nations in which they are found. They provide vital ecosystem benefits for the whole world. They store water, regulate rainfall and provide a home to over half the planet’s biodiversity. But more importantly, they also play a crucial role in climate change. And that’s why we’re worried.
When it comes to climate change, the destruction of rainforests has a double whammy effect for everyone. Rainforests absorb almost a fifth of the world’s man-made CO2 emissions every year. But tropical deforestation releases an extra 17% of annual greenhouse gas emissions. So if the rainforests are destroyed, it’s bad news on both counts.
One to keep an eye on…
The Greenpeace report Slaughtering the Amazon, exposed the link between forest destruction and the rapidly expanding cattle ranching in the Amazon.
It is now the leading cause of deforestation anywhere in the world. Greenpeace campaigned for major food (and shoe manufacturers) to stop using cattle for deforested lands – and it seemed they had won.
But all the companies have missed their deadline of April 2010.
Greenpeace are giving them another chance – but this one is definitely one to watch. Check out the Greenpeace campaign.
Destruction of the Amazon, the world’s most important forest carbon store, is being driven by the cattle sector. The Brazilian Amazon has the greatest annual average deforestation by area of anywhere in the world.
The cattle sector is the key driver of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon. According to the Brazilian government: ‘Cattle are responsible for about 80% of all deforestation’ in the Amazon region. In recent years, on average one hectare of Amazon rainforest has been lost to cattle ranchers every 18 seconds.
The cattle sector in the Brazilian Amazon is responsible for 14% of the world’s annual deforestation. This makes it the world’s largest driver of deforestation, responsible for more forest loss than the total deforestation in any country outside Brazil except Indonesia.
Our supporters and campaigners put shoe brands including Nike, Timberland, Adidas and Clarks, and UK food giant Princes, under serious pressure to take responsibility for making sure that leather and beef in their products was not bought from farmers actively destroying the forest. And it worked.
The big brands threatening to move their business elsewhere led to an extraordinary agreement from the biggest cattle companies in the world, to not buy from farms that destroyed the rainforest.
It was a really swift result, although it’s worth remembering that what seemed like rapid change was based on 10 years of Greenpeace work in the Amazon, and a 3 year long investigation into the cattle industry.
But getting companies to agree to change the way their do business is only half of the story. To make sure that they backed up their words with action, we set some deadlines for the cattle companies to meet, with the first test of their commitment being set for April.
Disappointingly, all of the companies came back with excuses. None of them had met the deadline.
And so, as campaigners, we were faced with a difficult dilemma. Should we keep expecting change from the cattle companies, or should we assume that they just weren’t taking the issue seriously? It took a lot of careful thinking and negotiating, but we eventually decided to give them a little more time.
We think that with enough pressure from their customers we can give them the push they need to get them back on track. But it might not work. And if it doesn’t we’ll need your help again.
Photo: Thanks to Tauntingpanda on Flickr for rainforest photo.