Your shoes might contain used soybean oil from Brazil

Copyright: Amazon – held onto its new forest protected area.

Before they used to spray Agent Orange on their jungles in Vietnam, and after they began drilling and burning their wildernesses in Uganda, the most civilized nations did what humans had always done: they burnt down forests. And so it is today in America. America as the new Slum Heaven.

That is the conclusion of a new analysis by Google and Nature, which shows that the Americans have dramatically increased their consumption of soybean oil – a major component of leather in luxury vehicles – in recent years, while at the same time cutting down their forests to grow these beans.

More than 9 million hectares of savannah, peat, and pine forest in the Amazon have been destroyed between 1995 and 2014.

The soybean oil industry has grown explosively in Latin America in recent years, and has even been called “the other black gold” by the Brazilian government. This prompted Nature to investigate, in a study published on the web last week, what had driven this boom in soybean oil.

“Soybean oil” in the science world is known as “soy oil-based leather,” according to the study. Leather made with soybean oil contains 92.6% soybean oil. “They decided they wanted to study who was using soybean oil in leather and who was using meat as a primary ingredient, and what was driving that trend,” Florian Claffey, a paleobiologist with Nature, told me.

“So far, we did not know about soybean oil-based leather,” he said. “They studied those areas where soybean oil has now been used for 20 years. So a basic assumption came from that: if the Americans have shifted to soybean oil-based leather, then soybean oil use must be rising in Latin America, too.”

Take a glance at the map below: Google produced a map of countries where leather has flourished, including Brazil and Argentina, and ranked them with red dots representing certain types of leather, which were found to be made from soybean oil.

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