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Author: Thomas King
Over the past thirty years the demand for palm oil has been rapidly increasing on a global scale. This widely used vegetable oil was originally from Western Africa, despite the Malaysian Palm Oil Council claiming that palm oil is “the world’s gift to Malaysia”. The industry is at an all time high and is expected to grow substantially in the new year due to the oil’s low-cost and diversity in use. You could say that palm oil is like the most popular kid in the schoolyard of manufacturing.
Whether it be the baked goods, spreads and confectionery that we all love to eat, or the shampoos and soaps we use to make our hair and skin silky smooth… palm oil is all around us. It’s even found in the toothpaste we brush our teeth with each day and possibly even the fuel we pump into our cars!
Lets face it – palm oil is virtually impossible to eliminate entirely from our lives. Which is frustrating knowing that it is having detrimental impacts on the environment, indigenous people and wildlife of South East Asia, and has the ability to dramatically worsen cardiovascular health.
Surely in 2012 we can begin to make a transition into a more sustainable form of palm oil production? This is the question on many people’s minds. But my question is: how can a crop plantation that only lasts approximately 25 years, and then leaves the soil desolate, possibly be considered sustainable? Yes palm oil is a very high-yielding vegetable oil, and it’s all well-and-dandy for my parent’s generation to say that palm oil is currently our most sustainable option as far as vegetable oils go, but what about when I’m their age? When the islands of Borneo and Sumatra are barren wastelands that have been raped by the palm oil industry? When species like the Sumatran orangutan, tiger and rhinoceros no longer exist? When the delicate ecosystems that this planet cannot survive without are obliterated and the valuable carbon stores burnt-up?
There are so many questions but unfortunately not enough answers. And often when someone formulates an answer - a possible solution to an issue of this nature - it is usually struck down by “competing” individuals and organisations within the cause. I’ve seen this time and time again; like-minded people who are working towards the exact same mission let their egos dominate their morals. As a young person, I often feel helpless as I watch these adults bullying one another while my future quality-of-life slowly deteriorates. There is always going to be disagreement and difference of opinion, and with that comes a tangled web of politics – but how much longer can this kind of behaviour continue? With the current state of the planet, we have no time for it.
Governments, big business and the world’s palm oil councils will tell you otherwise, but the bottom line is that palm oil is a short-term commodity, which is not only destroying rainforest, endangered species and indigenous culture, but ultimately my future. Small steps such as avoiding palm oil, companies adopting “sustainable” practices and implementing palm oil labeling laws are great in the short-term, but they are still not enough to protect our planet once the current generations are no longer here.
It’s another one of those large dilemmas fueled by human ignorance and overpopulation… can we devise a long-term solution before it’s too late?
The best time to act was 20 years ago. The next best time is now.
To learn more about palm oil you can visit my website: www.saynotopalmoil.com
In addition to managing his extensive SAY NO TO PALM OIL website, Thomas volunteers for AOP and is dynamically involved in all aspects of raising awareness about palm oil and its impact on the environment.