Environment: Europe Feeds Climate Crisis With Its Dependence On Soy. Sub-Saharan Africa Does So By Its Unwieldy Practices.

The Finnish finance minister, whose country holds the rotating E.U. presidency, has announced his intention to ban the import of Brazilian beef into Europe in protest of the Brazilian government’s deforestation policy. Emmanuel Macron, supported by counterpart Angela Merkel, opposed the free trade agreement between the E.U. and Mercosur in these conditions. And it would be great if he kept his word. Because so long as countries are the very sponsors of the arsonists, via their meat and soybean imports (intended for breeding), they will forever be co-responsible for what happens in Brazil. And lest we forget, our planet.

As pointed out by NGO Greenpeace in its latest report, Europe seems to feed the climate crisis by its addiction to soy: ‘with over 33 million tons of soy [in all its forms], imported every year, the E.U. is the world’s largest importer of soybeans, after China. This dependence is attributable to industrial farming: 87% of soybeans used in the E.U. are for feeding livestock. While part of Europe’s meat and dairy production is exported, most of it generally stays within its borders in order to satisfy its insatiable appetite. In Western Europe, the average person is thought to consume 85 and 250 kilograms of meat and milk [or equivalent dairy products] per year, respectively. This is more than double the rest of the world’s average’.

Authors Hussel Kroes and Barbara Kuepper, who brilliantly mapped the supply chain for soybeans in Europe, estimated the impact of intensive farming. Their findings suggested that 50% of soybean production intended for livestock production was dedicated to chicken farming, 24% to pigs’ and 23% to cattle’s. When looking at France, one sees how daunting figures really are. According to the French soybean industry, the country imports 97% of soybeans consumed by livestock. 61% of these imports came from Brazil. If the E.U. is to curb its dependence on imports, it would be illusory to think it can entirely produce what its farms consume. What would also be illusory would be to remain obstinate in believing that we can keep producing and consuming as much as we do. We have very little room for maneuver unless we start seriously questioning our eating habits. We ought to (finally) come to terms with the fact that the solution lies in reducing our animal consumption. Otherwise, we will continue to sponsor the destruction of our very own home, for she has been such an accommodating host. Moving towards a plant-based diet in accordance with the National Agency for Food Safety’s recommendations, is a good place to start. 

On the last day of the G7 summit in Biarritz, Emmanuel Macron suggested granting the Amazon Forest an international status, should the region’s leaders take environmentally-harmful decisions. General Augusto Heleno, an important member of the government as security services’ chief, stated, in reply that: ‘[the French] have set foot on, they have left nothing but chaos, confusion, and misery’.  Brasilia had initially rejected the $20 million offered by the G7 to fight fires, advising the French president to ‘take care of his house and his colonies’. On August 27th, Brazil finally admitted to be ‘open’ to financial aid from foreign organisations and states. But under certain conditions: ‘the key point is that the aid […] is not to go against Brazilian sovereignty […] its management is to be under our responsibility’, declared a presidency’s spokesman.  This turnaround in Brasilia comes as fires provoked international outrage and threatened a E.U.-Mercrosur Free Trade Agreement, the fruit of twenty years of negotiations. 

Bolsonaro’s lethargy and inaction regarding the current status quo have earned him harsh criticism from the international community. But as the dispute finally sets in, another part of the world seems to be experiencing a far greater catastrophe. According to satellite images from NASA, even more serious fires seem to be affecting sub-Saharan Africa. A situation all the more sensitive as the region is home to Congo’s Forest Basin. The severity of the two situations might seem akin, but their characteristics are nothing alike. Most fires are actually occurring in Angola, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania, Mozambique and only affecting the southern part of Congo. Yes, the number of fires is indeed higher in sub-Saharan Africa: 550 000 versus 250 000 in the Amazonian region, between August 1st and August 15th. However, before rushing to our smartphones to condemn a seeming indifference on the part of the international community, it is important to note that the provenance of the fires is a whole other story. 

If Brazil’s fires are the product of Bolsonaro’s materialist policies, the African tragedy is the consequence of local farmers intentionally burning land destined for exploitation. Should these fires be controlled, the practice allows for land clearing and nutrient release, which in turn enrich land. No matter how traditional,  if done inappropriately, this process can generate critical consequences such as burning larger areas than destined. Forest fires are responsible for 25 to 35% of all emissions of greenhouse gases. Africa is itself responsible for a third of the latter. 

When Notre Dame burnt, we cried for our past. We ought to be louder when our very own fate is at stake. 

Anne-Sophie Neyra

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The Organization for World Peace