Not since the loss of dinosaurs has the earth lost so many species so quickly, warn the world's leading scientists. The sixth mass extinction is indeed underway and industrial agriculture is to blame for the loss of the world's most majestic creatures, says professor Raj Patel, author of “The Value of Nothing: How to Reshape Market Society and Redefine Democracy.”
According to Patel and other experts, we’re entering an epoch dubbed the Anthropocene, where many endangered species will be lost to extinction in our lifetime, and “form a line in the rocks of the future,” reports the Independent. Many species like the black rhinoceros and the Yangtze river dolphin, have been declared extinct in the wild in recent years.
“The footprint of global agriculture is vast. Industrial agriculture is absolutely responsible for driving deforestation, absolutely responsible for pushing industrial monoculture, and that means it is responsible for species loss,” Patel told the Independent.
“We’re losing species we have never heard of, those we’ve yet to put a name to and industrial agriculture is very much at the spear-tip of that.”
Patel is set to speak at the Extinction and Livestock Conference being held in London in October, an event organized by Compassion in World Farming and WWF (World Wildlife Fund).
Organic Authority recently reported on a massive “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico the size of New Jersey, resulting from toxic algal blooms that form as a result of enormous amounts of animal manure and agricultural chemicals that are seeping into the waterways.
“That dead zone isn’t an accident,” Patel said. “It’s a requirement of industrial agriculture to get rid of the sh*t and the run-off elsewhere because you cannot make industrial agriculture workable unless you kick the costs somewhere else.”
Patel says industrial agriculture is “all about” the externalization of costs and the exploitation of natural resources.
Switching to a plant-based diet is a significant step in reducing one's impact on the environment, but it’s not a cure-all, says Patel. “If you are vegetarian and you walk around with your halo of virtue but you are eating tofu that comes from Brazilian soy, then you’re just as complicit in all of this as if you are eating the beef fed on Brazilian soy.”
Patel says humanity needs to take bigger steps – some of them backwards to times when common land and less excess was the norm. “The idea of a commons that is managed collectively and the way in which nature is managed well and sustainably, that’s a memory that needs to be recuperated.”
He says material wealth and diets heavy in animal products are so unsustainable that they need to become bad habits of the past. “Re-imagining a world with less stuff but more joy is probably the way forward.”
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