Article by Poem Schway
Why is unsustainable palm oil so harmful?
Palm oil is drowning the world. According to the World Wildlife Fund, it’s in “close to 50 percent of the packaged products we find in supermarkets,” from candy to makeup to toothpaste. Behind the disguise of shiny plastic labels, here’s the real toll palm oil takes on the environment:
- It’s the leading cause of orangutan extinction. The orangutan’s native habitat has been systematically demolished to make room for oil palm plantations, an environment completely unsuitable for them. The increasing difficulty of finding food and water leads many orangutans to venture deeper into dangerous areas, where many of them die from poaching. Every year, it’s estimated that up to 5,000 orangutans are killed directly due to palm oil concessions, a number made even more horrifying by the fact that there are only around 60,000 surviving wild orangutans.
- Unsustainable oil is directly responsible for deforestation and biodiversity loss. In Borneo, an island that was once 75% covered by rainforest, at least half of all deforestation between 2005 and 2015 was caused by oil palm plantations. Now, forty years later, the amount of rainforest left is around 45% and shrinking. Hundreds of species have thrived for centuries in those jungles, living in harmony with their environment, but they are systematically being cut down, burned and replaced by endless rows of identical palms.
How can we stop this?
It might feel like you don’t have much power to stop this brutal destruction, but that’s not true. All the greatest revolutions start with the voice of the people – and if you shout loud enough, eventually the world won’t be able to ignore you anymore. Think of every injustice in history that was eventually toppled. We’re facing another one right now, one of the most significant of our age. Here are three ways you can fight for the cause:
- Boycott unsustainable palm oil. As long as customers keep happily buying palm-oil-rich products, profits remain steady and corporations have no motivation to make any sort of change. Don’t worry, we’re not asking you to cut out palm oil entirely: instead, you can support sustainable palm oil growers and companies that are members of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil. Don’t know where to start? This search tool is particularly helpful, letting viewers sort companies by sector and country.
- Sign this petition from Greenpeace to end dirty palm oil
- Donate to Orangutan Land Trust and help secure 100,000 hectares of rainforest habitat for orangutans
WHAT IS REWRITING EXTINCTION?
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by David Schneider, Paul Goodenough, Amber Weedon and Safely Endangered