I wrote an article a couple of months ago about the massive increase of use of Palm oil by the food industry as an economical alternative to trans fats. Palm oil is also being used as the base for alternative fuels such as biodiesel.
Palm oil popularity has generated related rapid growth industries in Malaysia and Indonesia, which is wonderful for their economies.. but not so great for rainforests. Incredible amounts of Indonesian forests have been cleared – over 2 million hectares (nearly 5 million acres) a year!
Before we go tch tch’ing the Indonesians; we also need to bear in mind what’s driving much of this – us; the West’s demands for cheap oil.
Additionally, Indonesia is also one of the world’s worst countries when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions – they really need to keep every tree they can. Aside from the loss of trees meaning that there’s less of them to help process carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, often the forests are cleared by fire – which in turn dumps millions of tons of CO2 back into the atmosphere. Then there’s the loss of habitat for fauna and flora – it’s just a huge mess that was getting out of control.
It was very pleasing to read today that Indonesia is cracking down on deforestation for palm oil plantations. In fact, if I understand the article correctly, there’s now a total moratorium on it. New plantations will need to be cultivated in existing cleared land – and there’s no real shortage of that; with approximately 18 million hectares currently available.
This should provide plenty of expansion for the palm oil industry for some time to come. It at least buys some time while we all learn that going green isn’t just about purchase choices; it’s also about reducing consumption. Excess consumption of everything is what is driving us like the proverbial lemmings to the cliff.