We occasionally feature the writings of Ronald Rovers, a Dutch commenter on sustainability. A 2023 post focused on whether it makes sense for a country in the northern latitudes to grow vines, or soybeans, or to house solar panels.

This is how it begins:

“I’m sitting on a terrace on the borders of the Moselle, tasting some local wine. And looking out over the slopes along the Mosel, I come to a rather confrontational observation: we have deforested an enormous area, in order to be able to grow our wine… All the southern slopes here are filled with vines. As far as Germany is concerned, its about 100,000 hectares. But not only in Germany, of course. In all southern European countries, Spain as much as 900,000 ha, France 800,000, Italy 700,000 ha. [1]

And by the way, large amounts of wine grapes are also grown more north these days. To a total of 3.2 million hectares in the EU (about the same size as the land area of the Netherlands).

And we love it here along the Mosel and elsewhere, enjoying th e view of those slopes with their wine castles.

But then to realize that at the same time we are protesting and agitating against deforestation for soy beans in South America… grown elsewhere for our meat and related products.

The largest wine countries in the EU happen to be also the largest soy importers, not coincidentally perhaps, their own fertile land has already been taken over by wine….

The Netherlands is the exception, they are the largest importer, as far as soy imports are concerned. [2] In 2021, 6.7 million tons of soybeans, soybean meal and soybean oil entered the ports of Rotterdam and Amsterdam alone. Based on average global harvests, this volume of

soy required about 2.4 million hectares (Mha) of agricultural land,[3] (for reference, the Netherlands has about 1.6 million ha of agricultural land).

For the EU as a whole, that it was 20 million tons of imports in 2020, the result of 7.5 million hectares of production land, twice as much as for wine…[4]

So it would be a lot fairer if we would grow the soybeans here, and at least half could already be grown on previously deforested land here. Perhaps a bit far-fetched but I must think of slavery, where people worked for us before, cultivating land, that is we made (forced) others to work for us. While currently we are still making “other land ” work for us. So while we have abolished human slavery, we are still ‘enslaved’ to the land on which they worked. And still work, only now ‘voluntarily’. We do not force anything or anyone, but merely throw money around.

A first thought then is, let’s replace those vines with soy: then we still eat meat, but the impact of the industry would be halved: the vineyards replaced with Soy plantations. Deforestation in South America would stop, we relieve the rest of the world and take responsibility ourselves. We would still have soy for our meat industry, but with a clear conscience about deforestation.

But then, we may no longer have wine…. Of course that is not quite the intention: a piece of meat, but not a glass of wine with it… Why mot then keep the wine, and leave out the soy for cattle feed altogether… !? Its a choice between eating meat without wine, or eating vegetarian but with wine, so to speak. (We’ll leave out the ‘Beer and Barbecue Burgers “ for now…. )

But there’s another claim on the land todaty: We also want solar power. And so it’s actually not fair, to give a luxury product like Wine, that much space, while at the same time we take away new land for huge fields with solar panels… While we actually we already have the land for the panels. beautifully situated on southern slopes. We only have to replace Wine with Solar Panels in this energy transition, right? It won’t happen without sacrifices. …”


You can read the full post here.

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