Palm Oil: Causing deforestation and loss of wildlife homes and clean air
National Wildlife Day is a day to focus on preservation and conservation for endangered species and the environment. Everyone can get involved locally by volunteering or by providing donations. The key idea is just to start somewhere and to expand your horizon on critical issues all around the world.
Educate yourself through seminars, educational programs, podcasts, and seminars. You can even start by researching in your own backyard for little things that you choose to do that can make a difference. We’d like to focus on palm oil and all that it entails.
What is palm oil?
Palm oil is one of the world’s most versatile raw materials available. Found in the fruit of palm oil trees in Africa (and more recently Malaysia and Indonesia), this oil is frequently used for cooking and baking as it has a high melting point and a long shelf-life. The vegetable type oil grows naturally in tropical rainforests, but can be produced on smaller farms called smallholders or large plantations.
Palm oil is responsible for 8% of the world’s deforestation. Palm oil is in over half of the products purchased from supermarkets, according to Dr. Emma Keller of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). She explains that you can find it in soap and shampoo to pizza and biscuits. This is because it can quickly be processed and mixed to produce a wide range of products including biodiesel, cosmetics, animal feeds, pharmaceutical products, and in the industrial and/or service industries.
Why is it bad?
Forests are being burned down to make room for palm oil trees – even if it’s done illegally. Palm oil is directly linked to the destruction of precious rainforests. Green Palm suggests that over 8% of the world’s deforestation between the years of 1990 and 2008 are due to palm oil production – destroying the homes of animals and plants.
Elephants, tigers, rhinos, and orangutans are being affected. These animals are losing their homes, and it is disrupting the ecosystem.
Not only are there animals losing their homes, but the smog from the fire is creating extreme air pollution levels. Researchers say that the consequences of deforestation are high CO2 emissions and catastrophic loss of biodiversity. What’s even harder to hear is that the expected use for palm oil is supposed to double by 2030.
What do we do?
Palm oil production will only increase in sales over time – even with work trying to stop it. The WWF helps palm oil producers around the world by providing strict rules on how to produce their palm oil with hopes of increasing sustainability.
Manufacturers need to be selective upon which palm oils they purchase for their products, selecting only sustainability produce oil that hasn’t been created in a way that hurt the planet. It’s hard to know which farmers have followed the appropriate guidelines.
Labels help consumers choose which products are appropriate, which hasn’t always been a way to purchase.
Riddle me this: Should we stop purchasing products that contain palm oil altogether?
WWF suggests that we should still produce and consume palm oil. This is because it’s more efficient than other vegetable oil alternatives, but do make sure the brands that are purchased come from an appropriate manufacturer, one who is certified and produced with sustainability in mind. You can do this by checking labels and continue to educate yourself on environmental issues.