A Climate Change Essay by Stella Capolicchio SA17EA PalmOil and Deforestation Palmoil is an edible vegetable oil derived from the fruit of the oil palm tree.Palm oil is the most widely used vegetable oil in the world, representing up to45% of total consumption and can be found in half of the products in thesupermarket shelves. However, in order to meet the worlds increasing demand of palm oil, largeportions of forests are burned down just to make place for plantations. Twoyears ago in Indonesia, the country that supplies more than half of the globaldemand, were burning down over 10 000 square meters, creating fires so big theycould be seen from outer space.
(1) All of this unleashes massive amounts ofcarbon and other gases into the atmosphere making Indonesia the third-largestglobal emitter of greenhouse gases. Now,the question you´re asking yourself might be; How come it´s so demanding when it´sharming our planet? Well, there are a lot of different factors contributing towhy palm oil has taken over the vegetable oil industry so heavily. In thisessay I will go through them all , however the most important one being theeconomic driver. The palm oil industry provides millions of jobs and generatesbillions of dollars in export earnings for producing countries. (2) Mostof the palm oil trees are planted and harvested in the Sumatra forest inIndonesia. This forest is the most biodiverse tropical forest found on earthand the only ecosystem where creatures like rhinos, elephants, tigers and orangutanscoexist. A special place like this should be valued and taken care of in termsof the health for our planet. However,in todays society, money can change everything.
The locals, living near by theforests are extremely poor and are in desperate need of money. – So they utilisethe agriculture and purchase land to develop palm oil companies. With the moneythey earn from selling the palm oil they can provide their families and thekids can be sent to school. As time goes by the demand of palm oil gets lagerand the companies want to purchase more land in order to grow more palm treesto make more money. Tomeet the worlds increasing demand of palm oil, huge areas of the forestscontinue to be cleared.
Often using slash and burn techniques. These rareforests are replaced by endless roads of oil palm wish leads to loss of habitatand animals dying. Indonesia is the worlds biggest producer of palm oil, yetit´s also loosing its forests at an alarming rate.
The consequences that occurhave a heavy effect on the environment. When the forests are slashed and burned down, billion tons of CO2(carbon dioxide), smoke and other greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere which iscontributing to air pollution and climate change. Fires in these areas areparticularly hard to put out since the smoke and haze give health consequencesthroughout Southeast Asia. (3) ThePalm oil trees absorb a lot more water than the ecosystem is regulated to. Thisresult in the water resources slowly vanishing because the increased numbers ofpalm oil plantations depletes the soil of the water and nutrients. One palm oiltree can use up to 25 litres a day whish leaves the little wildlife that’s leftin life threatening danger.
The water is hard to get and the poor people livingin the communities nearby, either have to buy water (price is rising) or get itfrom the rain which isn´t sustainable. RioArdie, from Team Restoraisi Sei Netung one said in an interview (4):”Overthe years, we have seen a big change in the Indonesian forest. In the 90´s, theIndonesian forest had an incredibly rich biodiversity. – As the years went by,the forest got smaller and as a result, the population of orangutans, tigersand other animals decreased” Over the past 65 yearsthere have been a decrease in orangutans population by 50%. Despitethis being a heart breaking fact it´s also affecting the tropical forest´secosystem. For example: Orangutans are known as gardeners of the forest andplay a crucial role in seed disperse. Whenthey eat, they will move around to new places and disperse seeds through theirwaste.
This makes it possible for the forest to grow more trees and theorangutans have maintained the health of the forest ecosystem. So when acreature with such a huge role is taken away by 50% from the ecosystem,everything can collapse and the forest will be harder to save. What can we do to benefit theevolution of the palm oil industry? Thismeans that we must put an end on palm oil, right? Wrong. Palm oil can be used sustainably withoutclearing valuable forests and habitats. In fact, it´s already starting tohappen. The round table for sustainable palm oil certifies companies and smallholders are working towards producing palm oil in a environmentally friendly way.
Forexample WWF is working with companies to train and educate small holders sothat they can learn how to make more palm oil in a waythat doesn’t harm the environment. They learn how to grow more palm oil withthe land that they already have. In this way companies won´t have to cut down forestsand harm the earth. However,there is a solution that involves you. Be courious and ask your local super market ifthey use certified sustainable palm oil in the product the make and sell. Arethey awere of what´s going on in Indosesia with the plantations? I´m sure that people are willing to help ifthey´re educated in the subject and understand the seriousness.
https://www.conservation.org/publications/Documents/CI_Palm-Oil-Sourcing-Guide.pdf3. https://www.worldwildlife.org/industries/palm-oil4. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7P078b7UPVI