Over half of the products we use every day contain palm oil or palm kernel oil. From soap to ice cream, the oil is near omnipresent and its production causes deforestation, child labor, and Godzilla sized carbon foot print. These traditional West African oils now come primary from Indonesia and Malaysia. “The recipe for palm oil expansion is cheap land, cheap labor, and a corrupt government and unfortunately Indonesia fits the bill” says Ashely Schaeffer of Rainforest Action Network.
Indonesia has lost 46% of its forest since 1958 due to harvesting of palm oil. Currently the rate of deforestation is about 1.5 million hectares (an area the size of Connecticut) per year. Shockingly, the Indonesian government has plans to expand palm oil production an additional 8.3 million metric tons by 2015. The harvest and production of palm oils causes damage to the ecosystem, threatening to destroy Indonesia’s peat swamps.
You may ask yourself who cares, that’s on the other side of the world, right? The problem with that thinking is we share this Earth (look at the FACTS of climate change and it’s effects). Therefore, if it’s happening on Earth it affects us all and it’s all of our problem. So, the sooner we start thinking as global citizens the sooner real changes can be implemented– and maybe just maybe we can save ourselves.
The destruction of the Indonesian peat swamps causes high carbon emissions (which lead to global warming and climate change) so much so they are, in fact, the world’s third largest carbon emitter after the U.S. and China.
Not only is this process wrecking the environment but it also violates human rights in the form of child labor. The children used to work the palm oil plantations are slaves, used for their labor with NO compensation. Furthermore, they are exposed to toxic chemical fertilizers without any protection whatsoever.
One of the things we can do right now about this ugly problem is to avoid buying products with palm oils. This tough task is well worth it not only to reduce demand of these oils (and therefore production) but also because most processed foods contain palm oils and not consuming them will have positive effects on your health. There are a tiny few products that use fair trade palm oils such as Dr. Bronner’s soaps but most do not and should be avoided.
Be careful because palm oils are listed under many names including: palmitate, palmate, sodium laureth sulphate, sodium lauryl sulphate, glyceryl stearate, or stearic acid and even turns up in so-called “natural” products, like Earth Balance. Palm oil is also used in “renewable” biofuels. The harvest and production of palm oil is an environmental and human rights nightmare that needs to cease immediately and that can only happen if we all do our part.