Did you know that in the US, agriculture accounts for 9% of total greenhouse gas emissions? Sure, 9% may sound low initially, but take a second to really think about. Just growing and sharing food accounts for 9% of our total American emissions, which are quite high.
The other day, I was listening to a podcast called Fit and Fearless, and one episode was discussing how changing our diets to include less meat and dairy would make a massive impact on our planet. At one point, the guest speaker, Marco Springmann, said that global food production and distribution is the second worst greenhouse gas emitter, and that changing our diet is the most important thing we can do to help our climate crisis.
This episode got me thinking. Sure, I’ve gone vegan, so technically, I’ve cut out the most harmful parts of my diet. And yes, Marco did mention that even if you eat food shipped from various parts of the world that are plant based, you are still having a minuscule impact compared to eating a piece of steak. But to be honest, I know that I could do better – better at knowing where my food comes from, who grows it and what the working conditions for the employees are.
Initially, I planned to talk about various foods at once, and give a quick overview of the negatives of each. However, I found that quite difficult to do. Each food has a couple negatives, but they are difficult to wrap up with a few short words, and honestly, it just feels right to dedicate a whole post to each one. That way, not only can we both work together to reduce our intake of a certain food, but also better retain the information I’m about to lay down (not to mention improve my research).
Up first, we’re going to be talking about… avocados! Yes, I know, literally one of the best fruits (yes – fruit). This is one of the foods I personally eat sparingly, due to the price (I’m in college), but also the conditions growers face.
In America, we grow avocados in California. The problem here is that it is often the job of undocumented workers, who are currently struggling to get temporary visas to work on plantations, even though farmers want and need them. Due to Donald Trump’s immigration crackdown, the once easier system of application for a temporary visa is now seemingly impossible, and severely limits the chances people have to get that seasonal farming job. So farmers are doing the only thing they can think of – mechanizing labor.
While I understand the economic advantages of mechanization, it also rips jobs away from the unskilled workforce. Those men and women who were unable to get a fancy degree no longer have access to the labor they relied on to improve not only their lives, but the lives of their future generations. And if by buying avocados I increase the demand, and thereby help speed up the move towards mechanization, then I can live with a few less avocados until the situation improves.
Allow me to also talk about Mexican-grown avocados for a second. Avocados grown in Mexico are delicious, however, they are the cause of a huge deforestation problem there. Since avocado popularity has shot up so much, their production has also increased. Here’s the issue – this has also increased the use of chemicals that now run in groundwater supply, more wood being cut down to create shipping containers for the fruits, and the need for more water, since avocado trees are very thirsty.
Let’s break that down:
-Chemicals in the groundwater supply contaminate all the water that people in Mexico drink, on a daily basis. This means that we are helping fuel an epidemic in safe water resources in Mexico, simply because we want some avocado toast.
-Cutting extra wood down in order to make avocado crates increases the rates of deforestation, which means less trees. Less trees means less oxygen production, as well as less carbon capture, which are both pretty bad things for us humans. Not only do we need oxygen to breathe, but we also need less carbon in our atmosphere, since it’s a particularly annoying greenhouse gas.
-Depleting water supplies goes hand in hand with increased toxins. Less people will have access to water, which is a basic life necessity, and therefore may run up against health problems and possibly even face death due to this.
This demand that we have in the United States for avocados has massively harmful effects on our neighbors down south, and there’s no reason we can’t all just cut back on a treat. Yes, they’re delicious, and they even happen to be my favorite toast topping – but my taste buds are not more important than the health and safety of thousands, perhaps even millions, in another country.
I am definitely not suggesting you never touch another avocado ever again. I know I can’t do it sanely. But I do think we should all be cutting back our consumption – instead of buying it weekly, maybe only buying it once a month, or just eating it if it’s on the menu. While no, I don’t think this is a mandatory change to make, I do think that if you can, then it would be a morally good idea to reduce your consumption of them.