By George Shears
(This is a continuation from Part I of this two-part series.)
Some Specific Ecocidal Effects of Palm Oil Production
Palm oil production in Indonesia and Malaysia has generated many disastrous ecological side effects that food manufacturers and governments have generally downplayed or ignored and about which most of its end consumers have had little or no awareness. Here are some of the major examples:
• Loss of rainforest – The tropical rainforests in Indonesia have been destroyed at an astonishing rate, diminishing from densely covering 85 to 90 percent of the total land mass a century ago to around 50% in 1997. At the current accelerated rate of depletion—mainly for palm oil production–nearly all of the lowland tropical forests will be completely gone by 2010. Since these forests originally provided habitat for one of the richest populations of diverse plant and animal species in the world, this is a staggering loss.
• Endangered species–As a result of this deforestation in Indonesia, 15 of the more than 400 land mammals in Indonesia are now critically endangered and 125 more are threatened. Similarly, of the nearly 300 mammalian species in Malaysia, 6 are critically endangered, and 41 are threatened. This does not include the many species of reptiles, amphibians and birds that are also at high risk of becoming extinct.
All of these endangered mammals flourished specifically in areas where monoculture palm oil plantations have now replaced the original rainforests. They include the Sumatran tiger, the Asian Elephant, the Sumatran rhinoceros, as well as the Bornean and Sumatran orangutans.
• Extensive pollution of soil, water and air- This negative impact on wildlife has been markedly exacerbated through the contamination of soil and water by pesticides used in the plantations and by untreated effluent from palm-oil extraction mills. Clear cutting of the rainforests has also given rise to marked soil erosion with consequent sedimentation in rivers; and forest fires have caused severe air pollution and massive release of greenhouse gases.
The Driving Forces Behind This Catastrophe
A careful analysis of the collective causes for this catastrophe once again clearly reveals the operation of the perennial Pogo Principle. Although a number of greedy corporate conglomerates are the immediate perpetrators of the horrible eco-atrocities described above, that is only part of the story.
They have been strongly aided and abetted in these nefarious actions by many major world-class policy-makers and institutions, such as the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, and the International Monetary Fund, which have encouraged the short-term economic returns from monoculture palm plantations, instead of from sustainable natural forests.
The other key players, however, are the hundreds of millions of people (such as you and me) who regularly consume the nearly endless products containing palm oil and who, for the most part, have had minimal or no awareness of the terrible effects of such consumption. (The main purpose of this article, incidentally, is to help raise the awareness of consumers in order, hopefully, to diminish or eliminate this key driving force.)
The urgency of this awareness-raising process is underscored by the grim forecast issued a few years ago that the demand for palm oil will double by 2020. In order to achieve the level of production that will be needed to meet this huge demand, 1,160 square miles of additional plantations will have to be planted annually, resulting in the added destruction of around 30,000 square miles of rainforest in Indonesia and Malaysia. It is highly likely that this will kill off the remaining orangutans, rhinos and tigers on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra.
Again, since words are so woefully inadequate in conveying the crucial importance of ACTING NOW in order to help stop this madness, I invite you to watch this moving video that I earnestly hope will effectively convey this wake-up call directly to your heart.
I also strongly recommend that you read the excellent PDF document entitled Cruel Oil, which fully documents the massive eco-catastrophe that has been briefly summarized here.
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