Palm Oil…the Other Vegetable Oil?
If you have Facebook, than maybe you’re familiar with the ‘suggested posts’ that pop up through your feed once in a while. I took notice when one of my feeds was a petition to stop deforestation for the production of palm oil in Indonesia and Malaysia. Wait what? Palm oil? The ‘vegetable oil’ ingredient that is advertised as having zero trans fat. Isn’t it supposed to be healthy?
Photos via The Guardian
After a little research, this is what I discovered.
In a nutshell, the demand the for palm oil is responsible for the destruction of rainforests, human rights violations (removing indigenous people from their land, child labor and modern-day slavery), massive carbon pollution, and the extinction of many wildlife species.
Unfortunately, palm trees can only be grown in a rainforest climate. As a result, an estimation of
- 2.47 acres (1 hectare) per second: equivalent to two U.S. football fields
- 150 acres (60 hectares) per minute
- 214,000 acres (86,000 hectares) per day: an area larger than New York City
- 78 million acres (31 million hectares) per year: an area larger than Poland – earthlyissues.com
of rainforest are slashed and burned in order to clear the land for the purpose of growing palm plantations…selfishly disregarding the many inhabitants that have been sustainably living within their forest’s ecosystem for a very, very, very long time.
Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need, but not every man’s greed.
– Mahatma Gandhi
Let me put this into perspective in regards to common American purchases.
When you purchase processed food like this…
Logos via Union of Concerned Scientists– ‘Palm Oil Scorecard 2015: Fries, Face Wash, Forests’
that contains this (palm fruit for palm oil)…
this is what happens…
Rainforests can take between 60 million and 100 million years to evolve. They support countless wildlife and medicinal plants. It is currently estimated that rainforests contain more herbal remedies than all the pharmaceutical drugs ever created in a single square mile of forest. Indigenous groups have only begun to share their pharmacological and botanical knowledge with mainstream science.- Nation of Change
Enough is enough, don’t you think?!
Please, Please, Please…take the next 10 minutes of your life to watch this video narrated by Jane Goodall. I promise you, it will be well worth it!
85% of the world’s palm oil is extracted from the rain forests of Indonesia and Malaysia. You can easily find palm oil in many items all around us (i.e. fuels, makeup, shampoo, dish soap, detergent, and so on). However, some of the largest offenders of this highly destructive farming practice are companies that produce massive amounts of unhealthy processed snack food (it’s extremely high in saturated fat, which is horrible for your cardiovascular system, among other issues).
‘We’ are also responsible if ‘we’ continue to turn a blind eye to this costly destruction.
I emphasize ‘we’ because it is ‘we’ that are purchasing products containing palm oil and clearly, companies will give us what they think we want. Just think, every time you go a fast food restaurant or fill your grocery cart with cereal, cookies, ice cream, donuts, soft drinks, etc. for your family, you are helping businesses (large and small) promote climate change, enslave other humans, as well as wipe out many important species of plants and animals (i.e. Tigers, Rhinos, Elephants, Orangutans, Borneo Bay Cats, Proboscis Monkeys, etc).
Supply and demand my friends! – Conflict Palm Oil
Selfishness and greed, individual or national, cause most of our troubles.
― Harry S. Truman
What about sustainable palm oil?
The Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) was formed in 2004 for the purpose of defining ‘sustainable’ oil production practices and “to develop a credible standard to reflect this” (worldwatch.org). Of course, not without loopholes…
Firms are allowed to burn-and-slash forest lands as long as the area is not considered a ‘high-value conservation forest’. Unfortunately, ‘high-value’ is a vague definition and is subject to opinion by many different countries. (Conservation International)
Bottom line, this organization has not been able to stop deforestation. According to environmental groups like Greenpeace International and Wetlands International , these loopholes allow companies to improve their images (with an RSPO certification) without actually making serious efforts to stop major local and global destruction.
Most recently, RSPO released a, ‘Looking back at 2015’-News, 23 December 2015 , that included the following statement,
Next is our latest initiative to raise the bar higher, to allow companies to reach standards that will recognise their efforts at promoting best practices around NO Deforestation, NO fire, NO planting on peat, Respect for Human Rights and Transparency.
I only pray that the very next statement released will not ‘allow companies to reach standards’ but demand high standards to be reached by everyone involved in the farming, manufacturing, and selling of palm oil.
At the end of the day, this was a very difficult post for me to write. I have learned that money talks loudly in regards to deforestation and ugly politics. Therefore, my money will be screaming when I stubbornly choose not to purchase items that directly cause so many horrific problems!
What can we do? Maybe we can help save the rainforest, it’s inhabitants, and our health all at the same time by simply educating ourselves and let our money speak for us. Shop smart!
The following is a list of some of the alternative names for palm oil.
Food for thought…
What if someone forced their way into your home and ruthlessly forced you and everyone you love to destroy it. Sadly, this is exactly what is happening to Southeast Asian elephants today. That’s another teary-eyed issue I’ll be researching in the future.