The scent of fall is always bittersweet. But here on the west coast of Canada this year, it comes with immense relief that our skies have remained relatively smoke-free – so far. What has been impossible to avoid, however, is awareness that the ‘lungs of our planet’ in the southern hemisphere are being devoured by raging infernos. In the Amazon and surrounding ecosystems, the stench of death hangs heavy in the air.
Over 1,500 species of birds, 500 species of mammals and 550 species of reptiles have nowhere to flee. According to a recent article in the UK Guardian highlighting the disaster in eastern Bolivia, all of the firefighters there have been witness to terrified and burned animals. Luis Andres Rocahas, fire chief for Manacas, told reporters how incredibly difficult it has been for his crews to cope psychologically with the unprecedented devastation of wildlife. “My companions and I would cry, we felt so powerless,” he said. “It’s the worst tragedy we’ve ever seen here.”
Deforestation for the purpose of grazing cattle and growing soy beans as food for livestock was recognized as a leading cause of ecosystem destruction – and GHG emissions – well before the recent increase in fires that have alarmed the world. But it has become much harder to ignore the fact that international demand for beef and for soy as fodder is directly responsible for widespread habitat loss with global consequences. When the president of Bolivia attended an event at the end of August marking the very first shipment of beef destined for China, angry demonstrators chanted, “Behind every fallen tree there’s a laughing cattle rancher.”
Wherever cows and other livestock occupy land as introduced species, indigenous flora and fauna are displaced and/or destroyed. When primary forests that have not evolved with fire are burned to the ground, whole communities of plants and animals, including countless unknown species, die out. Without fauna, such rainforests (along with the carbon storage, clean air and clean water they provide) would cease to exist. As Amazon conservationist Paul Rosolie explains it, “the animals are carrying seeds, pollinating flowers, moving things around – everything is interconnected, and the animals have created the forests that have allowed us to live on this planet.” According to a report from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) released earlier this year, a million species are currently under threat of extinction worldwide. The science is clear that biodiversity loss and climate change are mutually reinforcing phenomena, so we either commit to solving both, or we solve neither.
While protecting nature in the first place is obviously the best strategy, halting deforestation is a daunting task. Despite public opposition, for example, our own provincial govt. continues to liquidate old growth at a rate three times faster than loggers are leveling the Amazon, with no legislation in place to protect the 1,807 species at risk of extinction right here in B.C.! The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has estimated that we would need to “plant 1 billion hectares of forest by 2050 to keep the globe from warming a full 1.5 degrees C over pre-industrial levels.” Ethiopia, Australia, Ireland, Holland, India, Armenia, New Zealand and China, among other countries, have already planted or are committed to planting millions of trees. We must all play a part, including on an individual basis. Fall is a great time to plan ahead for future food security and plant fruit and nut trees here in our coastal communities. And there are many NGOs we can support. I highly recommend A Well Fed World’s “Food Trees for Climate and Hunger” initiative, and Sadhana Forest, operating on three continents.
Individual actions help spur societal change, but our climate and biodiversity emergencies are going to require massive disruptions to business as usual in order to spark scalable system change. To that end, a coalition of vegan groups and campaigners in the UK plan to mobilize thousands of their members next month and blockade the largest meat market there for two weeks! The goals of Animal Rebellion include highlighting the role animal agriculture and fishing industries play in the climate crisis, encouraging the shift to a plant-based food system in order to avert climate breakdown and mass extinction and ensure justice for farmed animals. Veganic agro-ecology (agriculture incorporating the cultivation and conservation of trees, sans livestock), multi-leveled community food forests, or natural regeneration/rewilding of the landscape can all be advanced by freeing the land of carbon intensive livestock. If you do nothing to a piece of land in a temperate climate, biologists tell us, it will become a forest. The forces of nature are always actively moving the land towards a balanced, sustainable and resilient ecosystem. Meanwhile, Canada subsidizes animal agriculture like it subsidizes fossil fuels – to the tune of billions of dollars a year. This has to change. We could and should be helping farmers transition to sustainable plant-based food production, just as we should be advancing employment in the alternative energy sector instead of propping up pipelines.
ROAST POTATOES & PUMPKIN SRIRACHA AIOLI
Cooler evenings are inspiring a bit of spice in this kitchen lately. Punch up your roast potatoes and/or other favourite root vegetables with this easy pumpkin Sriracha aioli! (credit to Jenn Laughlin)
– 1.5 lbs small bagged organic golden potatoes
– 2 T olive oil
– salt, pepper, and paprika, to taste
– 2 T fresh chopped parsley to garnish (optional)
Ingredients (B): Pumpkin Sriracha Aioli
– 2-4 T organic pumpkin puree (you can always buy a can and freeze the rest for later use in a pumpkin mousse or pie)
– 2-4 T quality mayo (I use homemade vegan mayo or organic Vegannaise)
– 2 T Sriracha or to taste (Simply Natural Organic is great)
– 1-2 tsp organic lemon juice
– pinch of salt
– dash of paprika
Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F, cut cleaned potatoes in half. Toss with oil, salt and pepper. Spread on sheet pan and roast for 40-60 minutes, flipping periodically for crispier potatoes. Whisk sauce together in small bowl. Toss your fresh roast spuds with parsley, and dip away. Enjoy!