Despite the Amazon rainforest being “the lungs of the planet”—as more than 20 percent of the world’s oxygen is produced there—it took three weeks of it being up in flames for anyone to even acknowledge it was happening. And unfortunately, it wasn’t an accident.
Developing untouched rainforest land isn’t anything out of the ordinary in Brazil, and there’s one main reason for destroying all that land: cattle ranching, which is responsible for up to 80 percent of the deforestation of the Amazon. The wildfires—which are still raging on, by the way—are commonly started by loggers and ranchers in order to make room for cattle used for meat. This one is currently burning down three football fields worth of land per minute, killing everything in its path and putting our planet in even more danger than it already is.
So, what can you do to save the Amazon rainforest? While donating to organizations like Rainforest Action Network and Rainforest Alliance does make a difference, ditching meat is the single most important thing you can do as an individual. According to CNN, Brazil is the world’s largest beef exporter in the world, as it’s responsible for 20 percent of total global exports. Don’t just stop at meat, though. Animal agriculture in general—which includes meat, dairy, and eggs—causes 14.5 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.
By eating plants instead of animal products, the demand for meat will go down. If there’s no demand, there’s no reason to burn down the rainforest. Another perk? You’ll be healthier, as going plant-based can lower your risk of heart disease, diabetes, colon and breast cancer, and more. With all the vegan options available both in stores and at restaurants, there’s no longer a reason to stick with old habits. Because what’s more important: Eating a burger or saving the world?