Palm oil- serving us the rainforest on our dinner tables and in our fuel tanks
We are not always aware of it, but palm oil is literally everywhere – as the most commonly produced vegetable oil it is in our foods, cosmetics, cleaning products and fuels. Yes, palm oil is a source of huge profits for multinational corporations with its low market price. However, the extremely high and ever-increasing demand for it is – just like cocoa and coffee – a major cause of deforestation.
According to rainforest rescue.org; oil palm plantations currently cover more than 27 million hectares of the Earth’s surface. As a result, forests and human settlements have been destroyed and replaced by these ‘green deserts’ containing literally no biodiversity.
This shocking occurrence is still actively taking place in Southeast Asia, Latin America and equatorial Africa. As a consequence; vast amounts of carbon is released into the atmosphere as more indigenous forests are being bulldozed or torched to make room for more plantations. In actual fact, Indonesia – the world’s largest producer of palm oil – temporarily surpassed the United States in terms of greenhouse gas emissions in 2015 (rainforest rescue.org).
With only 70,000 orangutans still roaming the forests of Southeast Asia, the EU’s biofuels policy is pushing them towards the brink of extinction. It gives one shudders to consider that every new plantation on Borneo is destroying a further piece of their habitat, while the Borneo elephant and Sumatran tiger are being pushed closer to extinction.
What is more, smallholders and indigenous people who have inhabited and protected the forest for generations are often brutally driven from their land. In Indonesia, more than 700 land conflicts are related to the palm oil industry. Human rights violations are everyday occurrences, even on supposedly “sustainable” and “organic” plantations.