by John J. Berger, Ph.D and Lani Maher
Recently, deforestation has been a prominent issue amongst scientists and policy makers worried about climate change. The UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen has called worldwide attention to the issue and challenged us to find a way to slow the destruction of forests around the world.
Palm oil is a type of vegetable oil derived from the oil palm (Elaeis guineensis) that is used in many commercial food products sold in the United States. However, as a recent CNN article points out, most of those products simply list palm oil as ‘vegetable oil’ in their ingredient list labels. Therefore, many people are completely unaware of palm oil’s existence, let alone its uses and the environmental damage that is occurring as a result of its production. Indonesia and Malaysia are the world leaders in palm oil production and much of the rain forest in these countries is being clear-cut and burned to make room for expanding palm oil plantations. The island of Sumatra in Indonesia has already lost about 85% of its rainforest to palm oil production.1 Oil palm crops are also being cultivated to make biodiesel fuel. However, the destruction of carbon-sequestering rain forests, which contributes to global climate change, under the guise of biofuel production, which connotes environmentalism, is misleading for the consumer and only benefits palm oil producers. To learn more about deforestation and climate change, palm oil production in Sumatra, and the threats it’s posing to Indonesian forests, watch the video below.
For more information about forests, their global importance, and strategies for their protection, please see out Forests Forever: Their Ecology, Restoration, and Protection by Dr. John Berger