However, it turns out that more than 80% of the tropical rainforests in South East Asia have been clear cut and burned down to make space for Palm Oil production. The clearing of these forests is a big factor in global warming, given how much carbon dioxide (CO2) trees store when left alone. Once forests are cut, tons of CO2 heads skyward into the atmosphere. Also, when not replaced by palm oil plantations, rainforests help maintain water resources by absorbing rainfall and then releasing it into streams and rivers minimizing flooding and soil erosion.
The problem is that with this Plam Oil production not only comes the decimation of ecosystems but the annihilation of many endangered animals and bio-organisms. The most saddening to see suffering are the Orang-utans. Orang-utans are the most similar to humans of all the great apes, in fact, the word ¨Orang-utan¨ means ¨Man of the Forest¨ in Indonesian. They are gentle creatures and pose no threat to anyone yet the unnecessary suffering they go through is horrendous. In Sumatra there are only about 4000 left in the wild and it is said they will become the first great ape species to become extinct in the Wild if nothing is done to save their remaining habitat (http//www.saynotoplamoil.com).
In my travels though Indonesia I once saw a baby Orang-utan in the market in Jakarta. Through deforestation for Palm Oil Plantations the locals capture animals and sell them on the black market. The problem is the conditions the are subject to are so bad, most don’t even survive. If any survive the deforestation, they are left with no food and they start to go into human populated areas looking for food where most of the time they get beaten away or captured for sale. The suffering of some of our most humble brothers on the planet should be avoided at all cost and this can only be done by us making the right choices in how we consume and mainly what we put on our plate.
What can we do to help? Well there are a few very easy things we can do to help:
1. Stop buying any products that have Palm Oil as an ingredient. I used to buy some Natures Valley cereal bars until one day I looked at the ingredients and saw that Palm Oil was one of them. No problem, there are plenty of alternatives that do not use Palm Oil. It does take a bit of effort as you have to start reading the ingredients more carefully, even companied like Justin’s (justins.com) who pride themselves on being a natural food company under the About Us – Our Values section in their web you can read “Justin’s values not only sustainable practices, but also integrity and transparency at every step of the way. By sourcing the highest-quality, local ingredients, simplifying the supply chain, and initiating environmentally friendly office practices, we strive to mitigate our environmental impact.” Yet they use Palm Oil in almost every nut butter they manufacture.
2. The most ridiculous issue are Bio Fuels. Everyone mistakenly things Bio Fuels are sustainable but they as bad as petroleum as the ethanol contained in the bio fuel is made from Palm Oil. To add insult to injury, companies now get subsidies to produce ethanol (from Palm Oil) as it is seen as “sustainable” which is just accelerating the destruction of some of the last remaining rain forests in the world.
3. Lastly, don’t buy any of these nice thick Solid Wood tables you see in stores. There are plenty around and I see them all the time. All this imported wood comes from Borneo, one of the last remaining habitats for Orang-utans where old tropical rainforest are cut down for furniture or just burned down to make space for Palm Oil. Attached is a picture of a table and you can see a picture of a baby Orang-utan with his dead mother. This was a famous case that got some press where they went into a village looking for food and they were tied and beaten so bad that the mother never survived. This is the real cost of a solid wood table.
Most of these issues are not very well publicized but we all need to make and effort where we can.
From my part I tell people the provenance of these types of wood and explain the implications of buying such wood and avoiding Palm Oil products. Educating people we can turn our society into an intelligent buying society where people buy non-destructive and ethically manufactured products. The large problem of course, is what we eat. As Arnold Egret said “life is a tragedy of nutrition” and although he was referring to the damage we do to our bodies in 1920, today, that tragedy is damaging not just ourselves but everything around us. Remember to look at the labels when you buy food and lets all try and make our best efforts to not buy any Palm Oil. Doing so, the world will be a better place.
If you want to learn more or want to donate to the cause please visit www.saynotopalmoil.com they are a great resource and have a lot of up to date information.