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The Amazon becomes Iowa
June 12, 2005 1:29 PM   Subscribe

"When they emerged after 50 yards, the landscape no longer looked anything like the southern edge of the Amazon forest. It looked like Iowa." In Mato Grosso, Brazil the rainforest is vanishing. And all because of soybeans and beef. "If we were an aggressive tribe, we would have killed the land owners already," said Tupxi, one of the canoeists, who estimated his age at 77. " good Washpost story...
posted by punkbitch (27 comments total)

 
fight the good fight!
posted by Satapher at 1:37 PM on June 12, 2005


Damn. I love my soyburgers, but it looks like I can't even eat those any more without liberal guilt horning in on my meal.
posted by The Dryyyyy Cracker at 1:44 PM on June 12, 2005


As the Union of Concerned Scientists has pointed out, the two most destructive activities on the planet are driving cars and raising cattle. All other environmental depredations, it says, are minor by comparison. Cattle and cars tower over the rest. You may not be able to give up your car, but you Can stop eating meat. It is incredibly easy. Anyone who calls him or herself an environmentalist and eats even a shred of meat is a thundering hypocrite.
posted by Faze at 2:47 PM on June 12, 2005


Meat is easy to give up. Besides, colon cancer's no fun at all.

But as far as pseudo-Iowa goes......

Soon, it may look like the Sahara, Deforestation is drying out the whole region, and the rainforest may soon start to unravel. Pervasive changes have been discovered in the deepest interior.

This concerns us all.
posted by troutfishing at 2:54 PM on June 12, 2005


Faze: Anyone who calls him or herself an environmentalist and eats even a shred of meat is a thundering hypocrite.

The fpp said "all because of soy beans and beef" (emphasis mine.) 10 to 1 says you're eating soy to replace your meat proteins.

I don't own a vehicle, do you? I could just as easily have tossed out "Anyone who calls themselves and environmentalist and drives a car is a thundering hypocrite" and it would have been equally trite.
posted by Popular Ethics at 4:10 PM on June 12, 2005


Amen Popular Ethics - and Faze you meant "... even a shred of beef...," right?
posted by PurplePorpoise at 4:50 PM on June 12, 2005


Most soybeans are grown for animal feed. The conversion of plant to animal protein is very inefficient: it takes many pounds of soybeans to yield one pound of beef. So
i don't think one can contend the rainforests are being cut/burned down to supply the world's vegetarians with soyburgers.
posted by TimeFactor at 5:00 PM on June 12, 2005


Yep, that's what Iowa looks like. But not to worry--we'll just build a rainforest in Iowa.


*head explodes
posted by jaronson at 6:39 PM on June 12, 2005


1) how many acres of rainforest are there?
2) how many have been taken down for farmland?

I remember when I was a kid there was a program where people could donate $50 and buy an acre of rainforest land for preservation. I wonder whatever happened to that.
posted by delmoi at 6:55 PM on June 12, 2005


Buy New Zealand beef. All grass-fed. I'm afraid we cut down our forests already.

Also, if you freaks didn't subsidise the hell out of your agriculture sector, there'd be a lot more of North American returning to wilderness. Exercise your political pressure at home to end market distortions that promote uneconomic land "use".

I'd really like to know what a Brazilian would say about this. Any policy that preserves rainforest has to be justified to a lot of land-hungry small farmers, as well as the big fish.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 7:00 PM on June 12, 2005


Corn and soybean fields extended straight to the horizon. The only bright spots in the flat amber vista were seven green John Deere combines, parked near a farmhouse

John Steinbeck be proud.
posted by Benway at 7:59 PM on June 12, 2005


Man, the more I read about stuff like this the more I wonder if there is actually a way to live an environmentally and socially acceptable lifestyle without simply becoming one of the natives.
posted by ddf at 8:13 PM on June 12, 2005


I'd really like to know what a Brazilian would say about this.

They'd say... yeah sure it's easy for you in the North and Europe to talk about how horrible it is to cut the rainforest because you are all unbelievably rich in comparison. I, on the other hand, have to do this just to survive.

Basically, he would take all of the alarm and "tut-tuts" and say "shove it up your ass."

...But in Portuguese or something.
posted by AspectRatio at 8:24 PM on June 12, 2005


Faze wrote: Anyone who calls him or herself an environmentalist and eats even a shred of meat is a thundering hypocrite.

In my experience, anyone who suggests that vegetarianism is the sine qua non of environmentalism is a thunderingly self-righteous vegetarian who doesn't know terribly much about ecology.

Try reading Richard Manning's recent Harper's essay "The Oil We Eat," just for starters. Or don't. You know, if it's gonna mess up that smug self-satisfied tofu-munching smirk on your face.
posted by gompa at 8:29 PM on June 12, 2005


Wow. Great essay, gompa. Best thing I've read in a while. Full of disturbing little facts.
posted by mek at 5:55 AM on June 13, 2005


The real difference between this and Iowa though is that Iowa looked fairly similar to what it does now before they farmed it and it will look pretty much the same 100 years from now. Brazil will be lucky to get more than a generation of farming in before they either have to start dumping massive amounts of fertilizer on the land or letting it turn into Arizona.
posted by Pollomacho at 6:29 AM on June 13, 2005


Beware of soy : it makes men's brains shrink.
posted by troutfishing at 7:26 AM on June 13, 2005


Oh, stop it. Don't make us rehash that bullshit for the 115th time.
posted by soyjoy at 7:32 AM on June 13, 2005


Pollomacho: Iowa looked fairly similar to what it does now before they farmed it and it will look pretty much the same 100 years from now

Not to detract too much from the discussion on Brazil (some of it excellent, esp. the link to the Harper's essay, some of it predictable crapola), but this is a false statement. Iowa was a sweeping tallgrass prairie before euro settlement, and supported a vastly different flora and fauna. Bison, elk, and mountain lions were all native to Iowa and are now gone. The tallgrass prairie was rich and diverse in plant life, too-- 200+ different plant species could easily be found in a few hundred acres of native prairie. Iowa is now almost completely converted into mass agriculture. A corn field, by definition, is designed to support one species of plant.

Also, 100 years from now it will likely also look different. High density corporate hog factories, are a new evil on this landscape, and will further degrade this landscape.

Not the biological diversity of an Amazon...never was, never will be, but the statement that Iowa has always looked the same and always will is quite a stretch.
posted by mcstayinskool at 7:41 AM on June 13, 2005


I'd really like to know what a Brazilian would say about this.

They'd say... yeah sure it's easy for you in the North and Europe to talk about how horrible it is to cut the rainforest because you are all unbelievably rich in comparison. I, on the other hand, have to do this just to survive.


I don't think it's a subsistence farmer that owns those combines.


This kind of agriculture, ala ADM (What if the world was on big farm field?tm), is heinous, short-term exploitation. It's stealing our options from the present and future in the name of feeding the world now. These folks (i.e. corporate farms) mean well, and they mean to make money, but the system they are involved in is based on massive ecological flaws.

Monoculture is a bad idea. The technology applied and cultural methods used in modern agriculture work at an industrial level, not an ecological one.

Whether you eat tofu, cantoloupes, or beef you're supporting this type of farming.

There are other ways to grow food.
posted by recurve at 8:07 AM on June 13, 2005


I stick by my statement that 100 years from now they will still be farming Iowa, corporate farms or not. I will give you that the prairie was different from the farmlands, my father did enough work trying to save prairie as park director of Minneapolis to teach me the difference.
posted by Pollomacho at 8:08 AM on June 13, 2005


Maybe they will still be farming Iowa 100 years from now, but your statement was that "it will look pretty much the same in 100 years". Can't agree with that. The topsoil that thousands of years of prairie produced is not being replenished with monoculture agriculture. The land will be far, far less productive in 100 years.

In the Amazon what we're seeing is that very same process in hyper fast-forward. The soil is already not rich-- the biomass is all concentrated above ground in the trees. So, they slash it, they burn it, they exhaust what little fertility that releases, then they move on. It's certainly disturbing because of it's destructive speed, and even more so because of the tremendous amount of diversity lost, but the principle in Iowa is the same as in the Amazon. Non-sustainable practices lead to permanent loss. Just a couple of orders of magnitude quicker with the Amazon.
posted by mcstayinskool at 8:30 AM on June 13, 2005


excellent link, gompa.
posted by the cuban at 8:44 AM on June 13, 2005


I don't think it's a subsistence farmer that owns those combines.

True... but the end result is the same. Countries in the Amazon are interested in economic growth. And one of the only means at their disposal for this is agriculture. Unless the rest of the world subsidizes them to not do this, it will continue to be done. Add to that countries like the US are providing such subsidies for American farmers, it is creating a antithesis to a free market.

So, a government official in Peru, Ecuador, Brazil, etc only needs to say to all the people and their outrage about the rainforest going away...

Yeah sure it's easy for you in the North and Europe to talk about how horrible it is to cut the rainforest because you are all unbelievably rich in comparison. We, on the other hand, have to do this just to survive.
posted by AspectRatio at 12:23 PM on June 13, 2005


Good lord.

The world doesn't need any more Iowa. The world already has too much Iowa.
posted by CrunchyGods at 4:22 PM on June 13, 2005


"Oh, stop it. Don't make us rehash that bullshit for the 115th time. - posted by soyjoy at 7:32 AM PST on June 13 [!]"

You seem a bit testy about his. I was just kidding. I don't know where the latest research points. I even ate tofu tonight.
posted by troutfishing at 8:27 PM on June 13, 2005


You seem a bit testy about his. I was just kidding.

Classic.

I'll let you off this time, on the premise that your brain was temporarily shrunken. But I'm gonna keep my eye on you, Mr. Fishing.
posted by soyjoy at 7:40 AM on June 14, 2005


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