What's the issue with palm oil?

What's the issue?

Palm oil is the most widely used vegetable oil in the world. Current demands for the product cannot be met sustainably and as a result we are experiencing mass loss of habitat, wildlife loss or displacement, violations of human rights and intensifying effects of climate change. It is estimated that 193 species labelled as critically endangered, endangered or vulnerable on the IUCN Red List are affected across regions in South East Asia, Africa, and Latin America, (IUCN) as a result of the negative impact of palm oil.

The commodity can only be grown within 10 degrees of the equator which is the tropical regions of the Earth. Current high demands for the product places high pressues on this region and as a result demand cannot be met sustainably and have led to widespread devastating deforestation. Due to the verstility of palm oil and a growing human population, demand will inevitably continues to rise, placing more pressue on natural ecosystems. We must find sustainable alternatives to allow tropical regions to restore and thrive.

0 Sumatran Orangutans - In the wild

0 Bornean Orangutans - In the wild

0 Tapanuli Orangutans - In the wild

0 Sumatran Elephants - In the wild

0 Sumatran Rhinos - In the wild

0 Sumatran Tigers - In the wild

Loss of Habitat

Rainforests are cleared to make way for plantations. Various species are killed in the process of deforestation or die of starvation after their natural habitat is taken away. Since 1980, palm oil production has increased tenfold with estimates that production will increase 50% by 2050 (Greenpalm). Indonesia is the largest producer of palm oil, followed by Malaysia - both countries account for 85% of the world’s palm production. There has recently been an increase in palm oil production in South and North America.

Human-Wildlife Conflict

Human-wildlife conflict often increases following the establishment of plantations. Once species loose their habitat and become displaced they often run into human settlements resulting in conflict. Several species including but not limited to over 50% of orangutans (WWF) are found outside of protected national parks due to the high rate of deforestation. When wildlife is forced out of their habitat, they often killed due to the disturbances they cause.

Climate Change

Tropical deforestation accounts for 15% of total global warming pollution annually. Forest are one of the world’s major natural carbon sinks, meaning their health is essential in mitigating climate change. When the trees are cleared or burned this releases CO2 into the atmosphere. Non-sustainable palm oil production is destroying carbon rich tropical forests and peatlands making it a significant contributor to global warming. Destruction of peatlands is especially polluting as these ecosystems store massive amounts of carbon and can cause more than 2,000 times more greenhouse gases than burning diesel oil.

Human Rights

Palm oil plantations often interfere with indigenous lands and villages. Indigenous villages are rapidly losing their traditional forests and livelihoods in order to make way for palm oil plantations (Mongabay).