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The WILD Life Diaries: Agriculture – Reducing Your Impact

Updated: Jul 3, 2023

Agriculture is one of the biggest drivers of deforestation. Through the cutting down of trees to make room for the intensive farming, animal lives, local people’s way of living and the planet are all at stake. Here Charlie Bedwell gives us a brief lowdown on why it’s damaging and what you can do in the second instalment of The Wild Life Diaries:

All forms of travel combined, are responsible for 13% of the greenhouse gases that are being emitted. Considerably lower now having been subjected to plenty of campaigns, such as the encouragement of park and ride, car shares and cycle to school or work. Agriculture however has been estimated to account for up to 51% of greenhouse gas emission and has remained elusive to such schemes.

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Some of the factors involved in deforestation and the percentages for which each driver is responsible

But why is farming animals and plants so damaging?

1. It destroys habitats

To make room for farms, people are destroying animal’s habitats, many of which are endangered. Currently, 38% of land is used for farming but this is expected to increase, especially in developing countries where 120 million hectares are predicted to be converted by 2050. When we are destroying habitats, we aren’t just destroying the homes of a few creatures, we are crushing areas of high biodiversity. Biodiversity is essential for the survival of all creatures. If we lose one species this will have a knock-on effect on other species which may have unprecedented effects upon us as humans.

By over cultivating land for crops we are seeing a deficiency and imbalance of nutrients in the soil. Over time this is causing the land to degrade, becoming useless. A further consequence of deforestation is over-grazing, causing the ground to become more exposed to wind and water which is in turn leading to it’s erosion. This makes the land useless for farming and therefore no longer suitable to sustain wildlife.

2. We’re wasting water

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Image Credits: Markus Spiske

On a global scale the agriculture industry uses approximately 70% of the earth’s fresh water. This is caused by poor irrigation systems, wasteful watering methods and attempts to grow plants that require an excessive amount of water. Irrigation can also cause the washing of sediment and pollutants into nearby rivers which can have a harmful effect on marine life. The amount of water used in agriculture is wasteful, therefor making it highly unstainable.

3. Pesticides

Many farms use pesticides to stop bugs eating the produce. Unfortunately, due to irresponsible spraying methods (by aeroplane) and irrigation these pesticides often end up in nearby streams and rivers, having really negative effects on local marine life. They interrupt hormone messaging in marine species and cause an increase in algae growth which depletes the river of oxygen and results in the death of many creatures. Pesticides are not animal-specific and often kill beneficial insects and enter the systems of animals that eat the poisoned insects.

4. Climate change

As plants and animals grow they require food, water, shelter, warmth, cultivation and management all of which can contribute to climate change. To grow they need space which is provided by cutting down trees which again contributes to the globe's rising temperatures. All of this is more harmful to the environment than all forms of travel collectively.

So, what can we do?

Reduce the demand for meat products

Engaging in meat free Mondays, becoming flexitarian (cutting down on meat consumption), vegetarian or vegan are great examples here. If everyone simply reduced the amount of meat that they eat, greenhouse gases released by the agriculture sector would reduce in relation to the drop in demand.

If you are interested in reducing your meat consumption, check out our food and drink section for some awesome vegetarian recipes.

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Image Credits: Maria Fernanda Gonzalez

Reduce or cut out products containing palm oil

Palm oil is responsible for the destruction of 27 million hectares of forest, an act that we do not want to encourage by purchasing palm oil products. Look out for palm free or sustainable palm oil labels and check out for the many names that palm oil can hide under.

If you have a garden, try out home-grown

See how much you can grow yourself without relying on food from unknown sources. Seeds and soil are super cheap, and you can be left with a product to be proud of.

Shop locally

This way you can enquire about the source of the food you are buying and take control of your ethical shopping. Locally-sourced food can often carry a lower carbon footprint as it travels less distance between field and plate.

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Image Credits: Stijn te Strake

About the Author: Charlie Bedwell is a recent graduate of Psychology at the University of Reading and a lifestyle blogger for Wild. 

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