Palm oil is derived from a type of palm tree that is from an area in the Congo Rainforest. It is a cluster-fruiting tree that require a tropical climate; making any tropical rainforest the perfect place for these trees. This leads to the destruction of rainforests mainly in Indonesia due to the similar climate.
Over the last century the island of Borneo has experienced extreme rate of rainforest loss, causing scientists to predict 32.6% rainforest coverage by 2020. Indonesia produces 90% of the world palm oil. In the Early 20th century only 250,000 tonnes were produced annually, now over 60,000,000 tonnes are produced. They use slash and burn methods to clear out rainforests and peatlands causing a loss of 300 football field sized patches of rainforest to be cleared a day. This cause the release of CO2 into the atmosphere. CO2 is usually a good thing but when 3750-5400 tonnes from one hectare, over 25 years, is let out from a small island the size of Texas and Florida combined there is going to be greenhouse gas effects because there aren’t enough plants to take it all in.
The leading buyers of palm oil are India consuming ⅔ of Indonesia’s palm oil. Italy has 90% of its goods containing palm oil. Australia with 60% and America 50% of the goods containing palm oil. Palm oil is high in saturated fats and consuming 2.5 tablespoons of it will have exceeded the amount of daily fat intake. It is also directly linked to heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and hypertension.
Borneo is one of the world’s most biodiverse places on earth. There are species there that are only found on that island. The posterchild for palm oil awareness is the orangutan. They have been the most impacted. Their numbers are being poached to extinction with the prediction of them being wipeout in 25 years.
How you can help? Please, beware of what is in your food. Reading the labels and knowing the alternate names for palm oil is one of the easiest ways to help stop unsustainable production. Looking for RSPO Sustainability and Green Palm labels promotes eco-friendly productions. Also, finding alternative foods and products are good to, an example is buying Skippy peanut-butter instead of JIF. Tell friends and family about the damage we are causing to the environment and our bodies through our heavy use of palm oil. Raising awareness is the quickest way to change.