In the past twelve months some 2,000 square miles of the Amazon rainforest has been lost to clearing – equivalent to 50 football pitches every minute.
Although some of these losses are due to illegal logging, much of it has been to meet the demands of the cattle industry.
In 2009 the multinational food giants McDonald’s and Cargill were named and shamed by Greenpeace for their role in the clearance of large areas of Amazonian rainforest, either to graze cattle for burgers or to grow soy beans as feed for cattle destined to end up in burgers.
The current scale of the losses of forest land is unsustainable.
Without the protection of the forest canopies, soils quickly dry out and become vulnerable to wind and rain erosion.
Trees are a vital part of the water cycle, returning moisture from the soil to the atmosphere, which will later return in the form of rain. Cutting down forests not only disrupts this natural process of water recycling between soil and atmosphere, it also releases stored carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, contributing to greenhouse gases and global warming.
Perhaps it is no coincidence that Brazil has just emerged from its most severe drought in living memory. At the height of the drought, the city of Sao Paolo, with 20 million inhabitants, was running on emergency water reserves and introduced water rationing, with some parts of the city given just two hours access to clean water. Other Brazilian cities faced similar shortages. The drought also affected agriculture, with coffee and sugar crops particularly badly hit.
It took torrential rains brought on by El Niño (a complex, recurring climactic phenomenon) to bring the two year drought to an end, but experts predict that drought will return to the country in the future.
It is desperately ironic that so much of the clearing of these precious forests has been for the benefit of the fast food industry, which not only makes us fat and unhealthy but also, through its massive impact on forest land, endangers continued human existence on our precious planet.
If demand for meat and fast food wasn’t there then demand for grazing land would subside and we would be in a better position to protect these precious forests which are so vital to our long term survival as a species.
On to the recipe.
I love salads. They should not, in my view, be confined only to the balmy days of summer. With a little imagination it is perfectly feasible to eat salads all year round, adapting to whatever seasonal produce happens to be available at the time.
Chickpeas are a great source of plant protein, and they work really well in this delicious salad. For the uninitiated, let me tell you that a roast chickpea is a truly wonderful thing, all the more so when flavoured with a little smoked paprika. In this example they add crunch and flavour to this beautifully wholesome and nutritious salad.
roast chickpea and avocado salad
1 romaine lettuce or similar, chopped
½ red onion, thinly sliced
25 g sprouted cress
400 g can organic chickpeas
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp smoked paprika
for the dressing
100 ml extra virgin olive oil
juice of 1/2 lemon
½ tsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp fresh basil, finely chopped
1. Pre-heat the oven to 180C. Drain and rinse the chickpeas in cold water then dry them on kitchen paper. Mix the olive oil and smoked paprika in a large bowl. Add the chickpeas and toss to coat them with the oil and paprika. Tip out onto a flat baking tray, drizzling over any oil remaining in the bowl. Roast in the preheated oven for 20 minutes, gently shaking the tray half way through, or until the chickpeas are light golden and crisp. Remove from the oven, drain on kitchen paper and put to one side to cool.
2.For the dressing, whisk together the mustard, olive oil and lemon juice until emulsified. Add the basil and garlic and whisk again.
3. Halve and stone the avocado and cut each half in half again lengthways. Chop each quarter into three roughly equal pieces. Place in a bowl with the lettuce, red onion and half of the roast chickpeas. Add the dressing and toss to combine. Scatter the remaining roast chickpeas over the top and serve.