Each time an environmental disaster hits the headlines, it is another great big red flag from the planet. Be there huge storms in Florida, floods in India, ice melting, species extinctions or forest fires, the human response is usually the same. It seems that people find it more important to stay where they are and take the high ground over their peers then to actually climb up to see a bigger perspective for themselves.

Amazon fires destroy the environment for humans, animals, plants and air
The Amazon fires have hit the headlines and drawn attention to deforestation – Image by Ria Sopala from Pixabay

A real overview of global climate change is needed. We need to know what is going on, why it is happening, what is causing it and how to stop it.

Reports about the most recent Amazon rain forest fires has sent disparate agendas scuttling out of the woodwork. Conversations about the fires on social media are scorched to the ground by arguments. Holier than thou comments abound around the Internet. Vegans, vegetarians and meat eaters start squabbling about superior eating habits. First world consumers lazily berate themselves for buying another pair of shoes. Bars change to paper straws and shops to paper bags. People remove their fresh produce from its protective packaging and drop it indignantly on the shop floor.

People fighting has become a familiar experience online
Media has managed to divide people so disagreements distract them from what is really going on – Image by Jose R. Cabello from Pixabay

Meanwhile the four main drivers of deforestation arrive to take their seats next to their chains of commerce in the stalls. They sit and watch the performance from the secrecy and darkness of the stalls, ignored by the players on the stage surrounded by their four walls.

We ought not to be watching the fiction on stage but the real people watching quietly. Who are the people who have bought tickets to the world’s biggest comedy show? This show is called Internet Fight Club.

Climate Emergency

Suddenly an alarm rings out. The players on stage stop fighting to see what is going on. A spotlight comes on and roves over the stalls looking for a target.

Being under the spotlight for the wrong reason can be painful
The world stage of social media has become like a theatre of pain – Photo by Žygimantas Dukauskas on Unsplash

First the spotlight falls on oil-based plastic. Single-use plastic bags are used until they are worn out enough to use as a bin liner. Plastic food packaging protects its contents and highly sophisticated film keep real food fresh without preservative drugs and protects it from damage until it is eaten, therefore massively reducing food waste. Plastic endures its moment of exposure. A loud, smug scoff is heard from the seat next door. Who was that? Paper chuckles complacently in the shadows.

As the light glances over them, Coffee, Sugar and Cocoa all look sheepish. A triple sigh of relief goes up when the spotlight checks its clipboard and realises these three have already reined it in.

Next, Tobacco comes under the glare. As it takes a huge arrogant puff of its vape, an usher comes and gestures at them to leave. They are expected in the auditorium next door.

It is easy to judge from the cheap seats and keep out of the spotlight
We can be entertained by fiction in the theatre but what does it really teach us? – Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

With a swoop, the spotlight lands on oil. It tries to hide under a massive plume of black cloud. It sits a few rows in front of plastic but looms large over its tiny cousin. Cars, boats and airplanes all give oil a playful but nervous elbow. Oil winces at the fractious-looking Fracking in front envying its press notoriety.

The umpire on stage blows his whistle. A few shadowy forms are trying to sneak out. The spot light immediately catches them in its glare.

After these four are asked to sit down and the spotlight focuses on them, figures either side move away into the shadows again. Avocado, Quinoa and Banana all feel the heat. The four figures attempting to escape turn out to be:

The 4 Driving Forces of Deforestation

Therefore, while people on social media are taking the stage and trying to get one up on each other, bossing each other about, name-calling, showing off, sealioning, finger wagging and correcting each other, the real culprits almost escaped unnoticed.

The Union of Concerned Scientists’ website shows that the four drivers of deforestation are beef, soya, palm oil and wood products. Wood products includes pulp used to make paper. This means paper contributes more to deforestation than plastic and therefore more to an increase in Co2 emissions . Yet we have replaced plastic bags and straws with paper ones. Never have there been four more pushy products in the world than beef, soya, palm oil and wood products. However, we are going to look at the biggest by far.

Cattle Ranching

Forest in South America has been cleared for cattle pasture to meet demands of fast food sector
Short term profit leads to short term environment – Photo by Maria Teneva on Unsplash

According to the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Affairs, cattle ranching accounts for 80% of current deforestation rates. Their information says there are 200 million head of cattle in Amazon Brazil, which is a quarter of the global market. They estimate that 450,000 square meters of the Amazon in Brazil has been cleared for cattle pasture.

Where does all this beef go? If you saw the film Cowspiracy, you might have seen how America’s overbearing and tyrannical beef lobby has flared up most branches of green, environmental and ecological campaigns worldwide.

There is a huge, global vested interest here to protect down the chain to cattle ranchers, fast food chains, junk food food manufacturers, retailers, urban developers and the media that takes their constant advertising spend. Not to forget drugs companies who discredit natural medicine to pave the way to sell drugs as remedies for the damage done by junk food.

Who did they make the $200 billion in profits from in 2015, according to the Food Empowerment Project’s findings? Mostly those people who live in urban developments surrounded by fast food chains, liquor stores and convenience shops selling cheap processed foods. These areas are the furthest away from supermarkets, grocers and farmers markets, which means they have to spend more time, money and travel further to reach real shops that sell real, unadulterated food. People dwelling in these areas are often those of colour who have faced discrimination in all areas of American life such as education, healthcare and employment since the Abolition of Slavery almost 200 years ago. These are the same people that right wing bigots such as Ronald Reagan allowed to be exposed to crack cocaine a few decades before. (Dark Alliance: The CIA, the Contras, and the Crack Cocaine Explosion is a 1998 book by journalist Gary Webb.).

There is no shortage of reports about McDonald’s giving out free food in the Olympic village for athletes, such as in Time Magazine. Fast food burgers were never created to give people nutrition. All the nutrients are removed, as this Body Ecology articles illustrates. As the Huffington Post report, fast food is advertised as a reward and, as Olympic athletes told the press “to break up the monotony”.

Therefore, rather than judging each other’s eating habits, we need to look at what drives cattle ranching. What is causing deforestation, which accounts for an increase in CO2 emissions by 20%, while the global transport sector accounts for 13% according to the World Wildlife Fund? 

Food intolerance is ignored anyway

Natural real foods don't need advertising campaigns
Fresh produce sells itself but not everyone can live on it alone without first class protein – Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay

It is all very well to be told what to eat by even a well meaning friend. However, we cannot all just eat whatever we want and ignore our body’s response to it. The UK’s BBC has aired “health” programs featuring “experts” who tell viewers they need to drink milk. This is a false statement. In fact, many people are intolerant to casein and or lactose, not to mention the drugs given to dairy cows so they produce more milk.

The NHS totally ignores the health impacts of food intolerance and only even mentions lactose, not casein or full dairy intolerance. Body Ecology reveal how to spot casein intolerance here. The only test they check for is Coeliac disease. This requires the patient to eat glutenous foods for 6 weeks. This would make someone gluten-intolerant so ill if it doesn’t actually kill them. Meanwhile, gluten sensitivity has not been found outside people with Coeliac disease, therefore the fad for gluten free food is purely for profit.

The Internet has provided more people today the chance to navigate the lies we are fed by the food industry. Especially when their dollars work in collusion with retailers, urban developers, drugs companies, healthcare providers and the media.

Natural and health food stores tend to be a spaghetti junction of eating concerns. Is it organic, natural, free range, suitable for vegans or made with “sustainable palm oil”? Is it a superfood? Or is it just ‘free from” medical or nutritional scientific evidence? Maybe it is simply hipster food? Healthline reports on 15 “health foods” that are actually junk foods.

Whether you care most about the environment, animals, nature or humans or all of them equally, the antagonists in this deforestation epic are:

Advertising fast food is akin to advertising smoking
More fast food joints seem to be built in poorer urban areas with fewer alternatives – Image by andreas160578 from Pixabay

Fast food chains – Fast food changed the make-up of meat forever. Cattle ranchers had to greatly increase their output to meet demand. Animal welfare went out of the window. McDonalds and Burger King locked horns. Their advertising agencies jostled for prime time TV advertising slots. The Food Empowerment Project shows how urban areas have more fast food chains, which leave less room for places to buy quality and real foods. People who live the furthest from grocers, supermarkets and farmers markets could have driven annual fast food profits to over $200billion in 2015. Fast food is processed to remove natural nutrients. This causes over-eating and addiction as it will never give people the nutrition their bodies require. The drug industry also benefits with sales of remedies such as statins for the health problems caused by junk food.

A gluten allergy means Coeliac disease
People confuse gluten with glucose as the sugars in vegetables cause insulin intolerance, not the protein – Image by Kurious from Pixabay

Processed food manufacturers – This Body Ecology website shows, processed food manufacturers use ingredients to drive maximum profit. Palm oil and soya often appear as hidden or unexpected ingredients (2 of the 4 main drivers of deforestation). Manufacturers ought to show ingredients but  soya and palm oil are often given other names to conceal them from consumers. Consumers want to watch what they eat. We are being deliberately deceived with false or misleading packaging. While the protein in vegetables gets the death sentence in “gluten-free” foods, the real culprit, sugar or glucose gets clean away in “hearty” foods. Even healthcare providers such as the UK’s National Health Service tell this lie. Here, the New Scientist shows how the sugars in carbohydrates (vegetables – carbon from photosynthesis + water = carbohydrate) lead to insulin resistance.

The Media – The Huff Post talks about how fast food outlet advertising aims to trigger the reward centre of the brain to see out extra junk food. Real food doesn’t require advertising. The more people self-educate about healthy eating and mass farming’s cruelty to animals, the more fast food outlets will advertise. We banned cigarette advertising, so why not fast food? Where is the transparency here, as the Independent asks? The media is complicit in the money it takes from fast food advertising and the resulting biased messages it sneaks into its news reporting to justify itself.

We have also allowed another of the 4 drivers of deforestation fool us, which is wood products, or pulp to make paper. While we target plastic, people turn to paper products instead. Americans use paper bags for shopping and paper straws have replaced plastic ones. Paper requires more water to produce and the use of pulp is driving deforestation.

The clustering of fast food outlets and other junk food retailers in urban areas is a little reminiscent of the American government allowing Nicaraguan drug dealers to swarm American inner cities with crack cocaine to fund weapons to fight communism. Here is Gary Webb, a journalist who died of a shot in the back of his head, talking about how he exposed this in his 1998 book Dark Alliance.

More information can be found on the Union of Concerned Scientists website. However, to fight deforestation, we could:

  1. Avoid processed and fast foods. If buying processed foods, to particularly avoid ones with palm oil or soya in any shape, name or form.
  2. To stop consuming media that allows fast food advertising.
  3. To expose companies that sell products that lead to deforestation.
  4. Find and share information about good nutrition and healthy eating. Particularly if you are responsible for feeding anyone else. Don’t be sold fake health foods.
  5. Help more people access real and healthier foods so they too can avoid junk food.
  6. Use Twitter to let fast food chains know you hold them largely responsible for deforestation. Keep campaigning and sharing this message to reach more people.
  7. Ask nutritionists for real, scientifically proven information about healthy eating.
  8. Follow the money. Inquire whether the media or any spokespeople have a vested interest behind their message.
  9. Find out more about natural health and nutrition and sources of information about it. To question attempts motivated by profit to discredit natural health practitioners.
  10. Encourage drugs companies to provide more qualified information about pharmaceutical medicines of any sort and for regulators to increase testing and disallow bribery and corruption to pass medicines as safe.
  11. Ask media regulators to toughen the rules for fast food and junk food advertising.
  12. Request governments to tax fast foods and other products that contain foods from deforested land to fund sustainable food production.

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Sophie Sweatman
Born in south London and brought up in Surrey I had a very enjoyable social and active childhood and then got sent to boarding school where the only escape was team sports and music. I greatly enjoyed trying to predict number one records. My first published piece was in the school magazine, then after my O’levels I got the plum work experience job on the local paper and after a second attempt at house style, got all the wedding reviews printed that I had written up, plus a few extra pieces. This led me to a job offer at GQ magazine but my “housewife and mother” education was continued and I went to cookery school. I started work writing for a café and booking bands, which led to work experience at Lynne Franks PR, where I learnt to do music listings, putting me in good stead for 10 years of music promotion. I booked bands at the Laurel Tree in Camden in 1997 amongst various other places, some sadly gone. Some curdled mayonnaise later I went to an art college, which was part of the American College in London to do all sorts of art-based subjects and being taught English in American was interesting but they taught Harvard Referencing so well it was no bother and I got a top grade for a 10,000 word dissertation on music law focusing on George Michael’s court case against his record company. After looking for work in non-arty south west London I moved to Crouch End and had a painting exhibition in 1994. After working for the local paper I got into the London College of Communication to do a postgraduate in periodical journalism. This was followed by an industrial placement at the Camden New Journal, where I wrote health columns inspired by What Doctors Don’t Tell You a newsletter started by Lynne McTaggart that still goes today. The Camden New Journal also inspired me to do theatre reviews, which I did each week for the London Newspaper Groups stable of papers from 1998 til 2000. My thirties was spent on self-development, resulting in a good job by 2010, when I started planning a move out of London. With an unconditional place at London College of Communication to do an MA in Broadcast Journalism but instead I moved to Falmouth and did a Professional Writing MA. In Cornwall I write for various publications and work for a record company promoting musicians and local artists. I still read What Doctors Don’t Tell You and research on health, nutrition, ancient humanity, science and various other subjects.