Planet Earth: Our Loving Home
 
Livestock Raising: Devastating Forests and Driving Climate Change in Australia and Beyond      
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Queensland has now produced a landmark report that shows 20 years of satellite monitoring of tree clearing. If you look at the average, 91% of all tree clearing has been clearing for livestock.

Greetings, eco-conscious viewers, and welcome to Planet Earth: Our Loving Home. On this week’s program Australian scientists Gerard Bisshop and Dr. Clive McAlpine will discuss the severe environmental damage inflicted by livestock raising on our world, most notably deforestation and climate change.

Mr. Bisshop recently retired from a position as a remote-sensing scientist with the Statewide Land-cover and Trees Study (SLATS) group mapping vegetation cover and tree-clearing rates across the state of Queensland, Australia. The group has published a landmark report tracing 20 years of deforestation in Queensland.

In addition to his work on the SLATS report, Mr. Bisshop recently co-wrote a paper on the extremely harmful environmental and climatic effects of livestock grazing. The study will be presented at the Biennial Conference of the Australian Association of Environmental Education in September 2010.

What we looked at was the common cause for land degradation, soil degradation, soil loss, biodiversity loss; that is trees and plants and animals being extinct. And loss of forests; that is deforestation. The common cause, in fact causing 91% of that is land clearing for raising livestock.

Dr. McAlpine, an Associate Professor in the School of Geography, Planning and Environmental Management at The University of Queensland, Australia is lead author of a paper that concludes that beef consumption is the cause of serious environmental injury to the planet and a driver of climate change. The study was published last year in the interdisciplinary journal “Global Environmental Change: Human and Policy Dimensions.”

I have been researching here since 1998 on various issues relating to environmental change, especially land clearing and its impacts on biodiversity and climate in Australia.

I have three main research interests: The first is the conservation of biodiversity in human- modified landscapes; agricultural areas in particular but also in urban regions. I’ve done a lot of work on koala conservation and also other mammal species, gliders, kangaroos and more recently on birds and reptiles.

My other main area of research is the effects of land cover change and land use change related to deforestation in particular, on climate in Australia and globally, and how that applies to climate policy.

According to research conducted by Dr. Clive McAlpine, Gerard Bisshop and their colleagues, livestock grazing is the main cause of deforestation in Australia and an array of other environmentally devastating phenomena.

For the past 16years my group (SLATS) has been involved in mapping and monitoring tree clearing. This has involved field trips to ascertain on the ground what is happening as well as examining the satellite imagery. Satellite imagery tells us there has been a change in the vegetation but we need to test it on the ground to see what exactly that change has been.

And they attribute that to either livestock grazing or to mining, urban expansion, forestry activities and other agriculture like crops, but in that 20-year report 91%, fully 91% of that tree clearing was for grazing animals.

Sometimes they’re tree clearing where they use two large bulldozers pulling a chain between them and they just clear the trees, pull the trees over and leave them lying on the ground or they might use bulldozers to break them and burn them in a pile. Or they might inject the trees with poison, they call that stem injections to kill the trees. Or they might use aerial poison to poison the trees from an aircraft. All of these kill the trees so that grass can grow to feed the livestock.

As Dr. McAlpine explains, tree clearing has had an enormously negative impact on biodiversity.

When you look at landscapes like in Western Australia, South-west Western Australia, New South Wales and Victoria and then in Queensland, that amounts to some areas having less than 10%, or even 5% native vegetation remaining. So there’s very extensive clearing in those areas, and that’s had major impacts on biodiversity and also for catchment hydrology and for feedbacks on climate.

The other changes in the other parts of Australia are not as obvious but there’s also some quite significant changes in terms of grazing impacts on ecosystems and land degradation that don’t involve direct clearing of the land but do change ecosystems and biodiversity in the process of occurring. So those two combined have had a very significant impact on Australia’s environment.

The major decline in species in Australia has been in Australia’s mammals, where approximately 20 mammal species have gone extinct since European settlement. Attributing all of that to land clearing is difficult. I think there are multiple causes there, one is grazing, changes in fire regimes, introduction of exotic predators, and that’s occurred in the arid zone in south-west Western Australia and in western Queensland and New South Wales and into Victoria.

Birds are now in serious trouble in south-east Australia, through habitat loss and also more recently drought, which is starting to have an impact on resources available for birds.

But other species like the koala which I’ve done my research on, and they’re starting to decline quite rapidly and especially in the urban coastal regions of Queensland and New South Wales, and there are some really serious concerns there about koalas.

But even in western areas, in western rangelands where we’re working, koalas are also declining, and we attribute that to land clearing, and to drought and heat waves. Koalas are very sensitive to hot, dry weather, and where they suffer heat and moisture stress.

When we return we’ll learn more about the environmental and climatic destruction caused by tree clearing for livestock raising. Please stay tuned to Supreme Master Television.

Welcome back to Planet Earth: Our Loving Home featuring two highly knowledgeable environmental scientists from Australia, Dr. Clive McAlpine and Gerard Bisshop. In his paper “Increasing world consumption of beef as a driver of regional and global change: A call for policy action based on evidence from Queensland (Australia), Colombia and Brazil,” Dr. McAlpine examines the effects of deforestation on climate variability at both the regional and global levels.

The main cause of global climate change is the increase in atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases, especially CO2 but also methane, and nitrous oxide. And we highlighted those three gases which are either emitted directly from cattle, for example, methane or through the conversion of native forests to pastures, which releases the CO2 back into the atmosphere.

So, the other process which we also highlighted in some other papers is that the clearing of the land actually changes the hydrological cycle and also the energy balance of landscapes so that you are getting more, essentially heat radiated back from the land surface and that’s changing the atmospheric processes and you’re also reducing the amount of moisture that is recycled back in the atmosphere by trees.

It's estimated that native forests can recycle up to 20% of the moisture back into the atmosphere, which is then used to form clouds, etc. So, that impact is more important at a regional scale than it is at a global scale.

In the same paper Dr. McAlpine and his colleagues propose the following policy measures to address the hugely adverse regional and global impacts of the beef industry:

1. Stop subsidizing beef production and promoting beef consumption;
2. Control future expansion of soybeans and extensive grazing to halt deforestation and savanna conversion;
3. Strategic protection and restoration of re-growth forests; and
4. Resources allocated to ecologically sensitive alternative land uses.
Following from the first measure, Dr. McAlpine also discusses concentrated animal feeding operations in the paper and why they are also squarely responsible for accelerating climate change.

I think when you look at the greenhouse gases coming out of feedlots, they’ve got high levels of methane coming from the cattle. They’re also very high in nitrous oxide, which gets into the water table.

Regarding the other measures, Dr. McAlpine further explains:

Just following on from the other points in that paper, it's really critical that we put in really strong strategies now to stop deforestation in regions such as the Amazon, but, you know also in Southeast Asia and in Africa where there’s increasing pressures on forests. We need to do that now if we’re going to start mitigating climate change.

Conservation of native forests is critical in that strategy but we also need to protect these re-growth forests because they have an important environmental benefit both from greenhouse gases and also for biodiversity and for these sorts of biophysical feedbacks from the land surface and the climate.

As Dr. McAlpine asserts, it is vitally important to allow for the re-growth of forests and for grazing lands to revert back to their native vegetation. But what about tree-planting initiatives to sequester carbon? Are they having the desired effect? Mr. Bisshop explains.

Tree clearing and reforestation are very interesting subjects in Australia. The average tree clearing now in Australia is about 100,000- 200,000 hectares per year. This is even now with tighter government controls on tree clearing. The average area of planting is about 5,000 hectares per year.

So, that planting is a combination of planting to offset carbon emissions, it’s environmental planting to reforest rivers and streams and its forestry planting on properties, on private properties. But the combination of all those together is not even one percent of the tree clearing.

It’s abundantly clear from numerous scientific studies and research bodies that halting animal agriculture and adopting the plant-based diet will enable us to regain environmental and climatic stability. When asked about the recent report by the United Nations Environmental Programme urging the world to quickly move away from consuming animal products to avoid the frightening consequences of climate change, Dr. McAlpine responded:

Yes, I would support that. We also need to look at these animal products and the broader issue of land use and how we’re managing land use in a changing climate. If we focus purely on climate change greenhouse gases without looking at land use, including beef cattle grazing and other forms of livestock grazing, then we’re still going to have problems further down the track.

In his upcoming paper, “Deforestation and land degradation in Queensland, the culprit,” Mr. Bisshop concludes that halting livestock farming in Australia would have the following highly beneficial effects:

- Stop 200,000 hectares of tree clearing each year;
- Encourage native vegetation re-growth over 64% of Australia;
- Slow and ultimately reverse species and biodiversity loss;
- Reverse regional climate change;
- Reduce Australia's greenhouse emissions by at least 30%;
- Halt soil degradation and loss; and
- Make us all healthier too!

Our heartfelt thanks, Dr. Clive McAlpine and Gerard Bisshop for your comprehensive research that further demonstrates that livestock farming must be halted now so that we can heal and restore planet Earth to her natural order. May humankind quickly awaken and adopt the nature-supporting and life-affirming organic vegan diet.

For more details on Dr. McAlpine, please visit www.GPEM.UQ.edu.au/Clive-McAlpine

Thank you for joining us today on Planet Earth: Our Loving Home. Enlightening Entertainment is next, following Noteworthy News. Through compassionate living may our world soon cool and return to splendid harmony and balance.

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