I’m not a huge avocado eater. Don’t get me wrong, I like avocados–on a sandwich they’re nice, they go really well with scrambled eggs, etc. My issue is that I don’t really like cilantro very much, and consequently I don’t eat a lot of guacamole even though I like everything else in guacamole. And, of course, guacamole is still the most common way you encounter avocado these days.
For those of you who can’t get enough of the stuff, well, unfortunately I have to tell you the same thing I told the pesto people once upon a time: you’re (unwittingly, I hope) hurting the environment:
Avocados grow best in the same climate and altitude as the pine and oyamel fir forests in Michoacan, a state that produces 88 percent of Mexico’s avocados. The Associated Press reported Tuesday avocado demand is driving local growers to slash and burn forest to plant avocados, a crop that has enjoyed exponential prices in recent months.
The U.S. is a major importer of Mexican avocados. And over the past several months, demand across the country has increased as some major national avocado growers in California have experienced heat waves that have hurt local production. In a time of increasing trade between the two countries, U.S. consumption is likely boosting prices and encouraging Mexican growers to expand into new territories.
“Even where they aren’t visibly cutting down forest, there are avocados growing underneath [the pine boughs], and sooner or later they’ll cut down the pines completely,” Mario Tapia Vargas, researcher at Mexico’s National Institute for Forestry, Farming and Fisheries Research, told the Associated Press.
Mexico’s natural oyamel forests are almost gone, and the loss of habitat has helped shrink the monarch butterfly population, which, since monarchs are pollinators, isn’t good for a whole host of native flowering plants throughout the monarchs’ migration path. Losing forests anywhere is bad news because trees are a natural carbon sink. Oh, and increased avocado production means more water usage, and we all know where we’re going to wind up when the water starts running out–but if you’d like a preview, Egypt and Ethiopia are in the process of giving you one. The Mexican government is trying to crack down on tree cutters and is offering incentives for people to preserve the native forests, but those incentives are inadequate compared with the price that avocados are fetching these days.
I know, if you’re a big guac lover it’s been rough out there–on the one hand you’ve got presumably deranged people telling you to chuck some peas (!) into your favorite dip, and now on the other you find out that your guac is destroying Mexican forests. I don’t know what to tell you, except that maybe you should think about grabbing a pizza tonight instead of grabbing a burrito.