The perils of palm oil

3 05 2010

More than just a channel to inform our loyal readers about the goings-ons of the River House Outdoor Program, this blog should also be used to create dialogue about issues pertaining to the outdoors. As such, we may dabble in some current events from time to time, as is the case now.

Palm oil is rapidly becoming one of the more profitable crops in the world. With the ability to produce nearly 6,000 liters of crude oil per hectare compared to less than 500 liters per hectare for the soybean, it’s easy to see why. Indonesia alone produced nearly four and a half billion dollars in palm oil in 2004. But at what cost?

Palm seeds used for palm oil production

Oil production from palm seeds has increased exponentially in the last few years, and production is expected to continue rising rapidly.

Rainforests are rapidly disappearing in Indonesia at the expense of the ubiquitous palm plant. Along with the destruction of these beautiful forests, the ecosystem is suffering tremendously. This rapid increase in production has led to decreased biodiversity, increased vulnerability to fire, and affected local communities dependent on services and products offered by the forest.

It’s our responsibility as consumers to be conscious of what’s in our daily, household products and how purchasing those perpetuates this problem. One of the biggest users of palm oil is Nestle, although they’ve made a number of concessions of late to alleviate the problem.

This is a step in the right direction, but more needs to be done. For example, Indonesia has announced plans to double its palm oil production by 2025. According to the 2008 Guinness Book of World Records, Indonesia has the highest rate of deforestation in the world. Its also the third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, due in large part to deforestation process.

Large producers have been asked to create wildlife corridors to stem the loss of biodiversity. A nice sentiment, sure, but what happens with a particularly enterprising animal leaves his or her “corridor”? And none are suffering more than the orangutan, whose numbers have declined at a shocking rate in Indonesia because of deforestation for palm oil.

So, cliche though it may be, do your small part as a socially responsible citizen, help save the rainforests and be conscious of products containing palm oil. Check out Greenpeace to see other ways to get involved.

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