Food for Thought

Landscape - part flowered field, part parched land with dead tree

You may have seen our “Cry of the Earth” article in the last couple of newsletters and Pope Francis’ plea to world leaders. One of the outcomes of the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow has been the decision by many countries to try to reduce their rates of deforestation.

Deforestation is the clearing of forested land to make space for agriculture and animal grazing, also to obtain wood for fuel, manufacturing, and construction.  It has greatly altered our world, for example 2,000 years ago 80 percent of Western Europe was forested; today the figure is 34 percent.

The greatest deforestation is occurring in rainforests such as the Amazon where slash-and-burn methods cause the land to be useable for farming for only a few years, after which it is infertile and farmers move on to repeat the process elsewhere. Deforestation can result in more carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere in two ways – trees take in carbon dioxide from the air so with fewer trees standing, this greenhouse gas accumulates in the atmosphere.  Trees are literally the lungs of the Earth!  Secondly, carbon is locked in their fibres so when they are burned, this returns to the atmosphere as yet more carbon dioxide. With other pollutants it creates a blanket around the world, resulting in global warming.

World governments have met to discuss the problem 25 times previously over the decades and still our world is facing much danger.  Many of us ask what can the individual do as his or her part in helping to preserve God’s creation, as we are called to do?  Here are five simple things to think about as a start. Every little helps in slowing down the process!

  • Use recycled toilet paper : As wealth in the West increases, so it seems does the “luxury” toilet paper industry! Thicker paper is made from virgin pulp and toilet paper alone is responsible for uprooting 27,000 trees a day yet we have a vast amount of paper that could be recycled into toilet paper. It may not look as white but swapping to recycled toilet paper will help stop deforestation.
  • Only buy products with sustainable palm oil : Palm oil is a very lucrative crop which is used in so many everyday foods and other products. But it is the prime reason for deforestation in Indonesia.  If grown sustainably it lessens the impact because of the high yield per land usage.  Look out for the sustainable palm oil logo on products – if it doesn’t say sustainable it won’t be – or use another oil.
  • Buy ethically sourced cocoa : As the worlds appetite for chocolate products increases, cocoa farmers are turning to unstable and damaging practices in order to meet the cocoa demand. It is often grown on illegally deforested land but is one of the easiest products to buy that is fairly traded and so ethically sourced. Look for the fair trade label.
  • Buy fewer products with soybeans : Surprisingly, only a fraction of soy production is used to make vegetarian soy foods! Protein-rich, the majority of soybeans are used to feed animals (cows, pigs, poultry) or to cheaply bulk out mass-produced meat products. This type of soy is a low-grade bean that will be bought from wherever they are cheapest, most often the rainforest. Do check the soy content of your purchase.
  • Eat less beef : Along with the soybeans used as cattle feed, beef is the worst animal product for deforestation! Vast areas of the Brazilian rainforest have been cleared for cattle ranching to meet demand for this meat and it takes hundreds of years to recover. Methane from the cattle is also 25 times more toxic than even carbon dioxide and adds to global warming considerably.

Such switches can be done instantly and if we together make small changes, it can add up to a big change!

Loving God,

We praise your name with all you have created.

You are present in the whole universe,

and in the smallest of creatures.

We acknowledge the responsibilities you have placed upon us

as stewards of your creation.

May the Holy Spirit inspire us all to seek to embrace the changes needed

to foster a more sustainable society.

Instil in our leaders the courage and gentleness to implement fairer solutions

for the poorest and most vulnerable,

and commit their nations to the care of Our Common Home.

We ask this through Our Lord Jesus Christ your Son.