Why is palm oil critical and devastating for the world?

Why is palm oil critical and devastating for the world?

“Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not for man’s greed.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

Did you hear about Iceland’s much-publicized Christmas advert that was banned for violating political rules last year? The animated advert pictured a rare orangutan who was about to lose his tropical home because of the deforestation of the forest for palm oil plantations.

As an outsider with a limited understanding of the environmental issues, you might wonder what the big deal about palm oil is. Well, for starters, it is responsible for the deforestation of more than 25% of the Indonesian rainforests. Borneo Island, shared by Malaysia and Indonesia, loses over 877,000 acres of rainforest every year to palm plantation.

How can a tree be responsible for such devastation? We decided to find out how and why.

Why is palm oil critical for the world?

Palm oil comes from the fruit of African oil palm. It is a native African tree, but the Dutch colonies introduced it in Indonesia and Malaysia in the 19th century. As of today, these two countries fulfill 85% of the global palm oil demand.

Palm oil is the most consumed vegetable oil in the world, accounting for roughly one-third of the total vegetable oil consumption. In 2018, its global consumption was estimated to be around 72 million tons, with India (17%), Indonesia, the EU, and China being the largest consumers. The European Union accounts for roughly 50% of the global imports. Half of its imports are used for producing biodiesel and another 15% for heat and power.

Palm oil makes an essential ingredient of most of the packaged items available in any supermarket. These include shampoo, lipstick, pizza dough, ice cream, detergent, soap, biscuits, chocolate, packaged bread, biofuel, cosmetics and much more. You can rarely pick an item that doesn’t contain the oil.

Why is palm oil critical and devastating for the world?

The destruction caused by palm oil plantations

  • The global palm plantations cover more than 27 million hectares of land, causing large-scale deforestation in Southeast Asia and Africa.
  • More than 150,000 orangutans lost their lives due to industrialized palm plantations. Additionally, these plantations threaten over 193 endangered species.
  • Roughly half of Indonesia’s greenhouse emissions come from deforestation-related activities, causing approximately 12,000 premature deaths in 2015 alone.
  • The deforestation of tropical rainforests releases millions of tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, causing climate changes.

Is there a better way?

Looking at the widescale destruction caused by these plantations, one of the obvious response would be to ban it. However, the growing demand for vegetable oil in the world, the high-efficiency of palm oil crops against other oil crops, and the reliance of the Indonesian and Malaysian economies on this industry make palm plantations a necessary part of the equation.

It is critical to understand that these circumstances are entirely human-made, and it is possible to resolve these problems through sustainable oil production. The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) certifies sustainable producers and is responsible for the certification of one-fifth of the global supply. While the efforts of institutions such as RSPO are commendable, the world needs more actions for the local palm-oil-producing governments, as it’s up to the local governments to intervene in illegal deforestation activities.

Why is palm oil critical and devastating for the world?

TreeCoin: Taking the sustainable plantation approach from day zero

Learning from the mistakes committed by palm oil producers, TreeCoin is implementing a sustainable timber production model right from the beginning. Our goal is to plant over 10 million trees in Paraguay, covering more than 12,000 hectares of land. TreeCoin aims to create a sustainable timber production model that can be implemented by other timber producers in the future. Additionally, TreeCoin has chosen degraded land for its plantations, thereby limiting the destruction of tropical rainforests for timber.

Are you interested in finding out more about our project? Do you have questions about sustainable timber production? Our team will be happy to answer your questions.

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