While I was cycling up through Scotland back in May/June, I was struck by scenes of deforestation. What I saw moved me to the point of tears, seriously. I didn’t really know what to expect, visually, regarding the landscape and terrain of Scotland before I got there, other than I knew some parts were ‘bleak’, but I wasn’t expecting that to be due to man’s impact on the planet; I thought the bleakness was just because that’s how it was because of where it was (being further north than Wales and England) and it was, but to see acres and acres of felled woodland saddened me.
Since my return home I have done a little online research to gain an understanding of the timber industry in Scotland, and the history of the trees there. It turns out that most of what is being felled is not actually centuries-old forest, but ‘newer’ and non-native trees that were planted since the original native trees were felled over the past half of a millennium. But that’s not an excuse in my book, especially when I saw little or no signs of trees being planted; which is what we should be seeing throughout the world.
As my thoughts drifted back to my life of normality, this topic took to the back-burner; I had little nudging reminders that this was a topic I wanted to write about, but I didn’t know where to go with it. Then I happened upon a book at my local library about whether we should eat meat or not, ‘Meat – a benign extravagance by Simon Fairlie’ and this coincided with a chapter in Arthur Mee’s Children’s Encyclopedia (Volume 3), also about Meat.
I didn’t immediately see a link to this topic about deforestation but the links are there since woodland has been felled in order to provide both grazing ground for sheep and cattle, and arable ground for growing crops (the bulk of which Fairlie’s book argues goes towards feeding animals which in turn, wastefully, feed us).
The criticism is that 50% of the world’s human population is well fed, while the other half go hungry. And it is argued that those that are well fed are done so at the expense of the others. Meat is classed as a luxury because the crops that are grown to feed animals could be ones grown to directly feed us, which would be 10x more efficient.
The links then came when I stumbled upon an old(ish) interview with Keanu Reeves on Youtube (I’d been looking for a Wayne’s World quote, but found myself possibly mistaken because I should have been looking for a Bill & Ted quote… “No way!” “Yes way!”) There was mention of his ‘rainforest conservation project’. I also stumbled upon quotes by him (serious ones this time) and other celebrities which followed such lines as “I do my bit for the environment; I recycle and switch of my lights.” I don’t mean to come down on anyone at this point, but I have come to learn that while ‘recycling’ is a good thing, 1) it should be done out of routine by all, but more importantly 2) the very act means something is being discarded and perhaps shouldn’t have been purchased in the first place, and I could really ramble on about this here but wont. My reference to Reeves’ project led me to a BBC TV series called ‘I bought a rainforest’.
In the opening episode, Charlie Hamilton James (wildlife documentary maker and husband of TV presenter Philippa Forrester) buys a 100 acre patch of ‘rainforest’ in order to block the efforts of illegal loggers who are assisting in the vast deforestation which are said to terminate in 100 years time, when there will be no rainforest left. We observe Charlie absorbing his newly acquired purchase and coming to the realisation that much of his patch of land has already had the trees cleared some time ago, but in addition to this, part of the land is now being used to grow cocaine plants – this is the reality of things and illustrates to me how we waste our Earth’s resources for the sake of extravagances.
If our consumption of meat is classed as an extravagance then the abuse of cocaine certainly is. From what I could tell, the trees in the TV show weren’t felled to make land available for the growing of cocaine plants but they were felled for their valuable hard woods and then the land was made use of by this further scrupulous activity; once land is being used for agriculture then nature can’t take back her hold to allow the much needed trees to grow there again.
The thing is, we feel like we are subsisting if we in the land of plenty don’t indulge in more than we need every once in a while. I’m a meat eater and I read more and more about this topic to try and wonder why it is that my appetite doesn’t look only towards fruit and vegetables; is it a fear that my active body wouldn’t receive the sustenance it needs, or is it just because I have grown up on a mixed diet and have not been ‘fortunate’ to be around vegetarians?
Returning to Fairlie’s book, just a little way in and he had already stated that in the UK where I live there is actually enough arable land to grow crops for our population; we don’t actually need to use (and abuse) the lands of other countries. This is something I always thought was necessary due to our climate; I thought that’s why we import so much and why it’s so hard (and/or expensive) to buy locally grown produce. I’ve always had a utopian idea in my head where we all live off our own land but I thought that the population here was just too large now to achieve that ideal. I guess I was wrong; it’s not too late, although time is running out… not that we should think it a good thing on this point that the population “isn’t too large” because I’m pretty certain it is. To use our arable land for growing crops means that land can’t be used to replace all our missing trees, so ideally we have all our trees back and nature can fill our woodlands with the food of her choosing; all the animals can roam free, but to ensure none of us starve there needs to be less of us… which means less sex.
Which brings me onto my next finding, which was one of my first, from a few years back. It comes in the form of a leaflet called “Eight Passion Proteins with Care”, written (and published by) Stanley Owen Green (aka Protein Man). Stanley could be said to have been a man with strange notions (I’ve been described in similar fashion), which is probably why I found much truth in his words, namely that excessive protein consumption leads to excessive desire, not only for sex, but for meat too.
Stanley was a human billboard, a well-known figure in central London up until the 1990s. He patrolled Oxford Street in the West End of London for 25 years with his placard and leaflets. He became one of London’s much-loved eccentrics but above all he basically saw truth in what he was doing; it was his life’s purpose and I find that admirable.
While I’m sure there are vegetarians with a high libido, it seems to me that this high drive runs full circle; on a high protein diet caused by the (I’ll use the word extravagant rather than excessive) consumption of meat, we not only continue to crave the consumption of further meat, but we crave sex, which in turn fuels a growing population which at the same time putting greater and greater demands on our available land, world wide, which we find must produce animals for us to eat (which outnumber us by the way) and thus means there is no room left for trees. This is a somewhat simplified view, and ill-researched, I agree, but I feel my notion is the reality of things.
I’ve also been trying to figure out where “The Bible” stands on this consumption of meat. To begin with, it has surprised me to learn that pork is labelled as an “unclean” meat here, when I thought that was only a Muslim belief. Fairlie discusses this also in his book and relates these things to the regions where they began; those that dwelled in woodlands where wild boars roamed all those centuries/millennia ago were pagans.
So yeah, eat less meat and plant some trees.
[EDIT: June 2017] I later saw this: