The Palm Oil Crisis

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TheSeaWolf
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The Palm Oil Crisis

Post by TheSeaWolf » Sat Mar 12, 2016 3:41 pm

When it comes to nature and conservation, there are a few things that people know about. Things like climate change, going green, and poaching. These are all important issues, but one of the most pressing issues that wild animals and ecosystems face is habitat loss. One ecosystem in particular - rainforests - definitely needs attention, and soon. Rainforests have extremely high biodiversity, which means that there are a lot of different plants and animals within them. In fact, this biome has some of the highest biodiversity in the world. Unfortunately, it is under threat. Rainforests in Sumatra, Borneo, Malaysia, and Indonesia are examples of severe habitat loss and fragmentation. One huge contributor to this? The palm oil industry. And you can help! All you have to do is keep an eye on what you're buying at the store.

What is palm oil?

Palm oil is a type of vegetable oil that is collected from the fruit of the oil palm tree. It is used in an estimated 50% of all grocery store products. From processed foods to toothpaste and shampoo, palm oil really is in a lot of things that we use. Vegetable oil like this is necessary to make these products, and palm oil is seen as the elite; more oil can be extracted from less fruit in comparison to other oils.

What's the issue?

Oil palm trees are grown on plantations. The problem is this is that land has to be cleared in order to have plantations, and what has to be cleared away is rainforest. The palm oil industry has led to large amounts of deforestation. This puts many familiar and beloved animals, such as orangutans, gibbons, Sumatran tigers, Asian elephants, Malayan tapirs, and more in danger of extinction - as well as the rainforest ecosystem itself.

Is palm oil bad?

No. I know that hearing about rainforests being cleared and animals being endangered can cause an emotional reaction. It can make some people very upset, and push for a complete boycott of palm oil...but this isn't the answer. Firstly, it is just about impossible to avoid palm oil. It has over 40 names that it can be listed as in the list of ingredients. Even if you avoid labels that say "palm oil," you will likely still be buying products that contain it, but list it under a different name. The truth is that we need palm oil. The products that we enjoy and depend on require vegetable oil. Palm oil produces the oil we need more efficiently than any other oil producer. Getting rid of it will only mean that palm oil has to be replaced with an inferior producer, which will make matters worse. On top of that, the palm oil industry provides jobs for thousands of people in impoverished places. While we must be good caretakers of wildlife, this should not come at the cost of thousands of livelihoods being destroyed.

What is the solution?

The real solution here is to keep the palm oil industry, but make it better and more sustainable. The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) has been working towards this goal since 2004. They work to develop better farming methods, that allow for more yield for less land used. They certify certain plantations as sustainable, based on their methods. Creating a sustainable palm oil industry will help both wildlife and plantation workers.

How can I help?

There is a way for everyone to help! Go to the iOS app store or Google Play store and search "Palm Oil." Look for the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo app and download it. Don't worry, it's free! The purpose of the app is to enter the names of companies and products, and it will tell you how they rank in sustainability; red, yellow, or green. Red means that you should avoid the company, as they are unsustainable. Yellow is a good alternative, but still not the best choice. Green means that the company is committed to using sustainable palm oil and nothing else. By trying to stick to sustainable products, we put financial pressure on unsustainable companies to commit to a path of sustainability.

Here are some fun examples of companies and how sustainable they are.

Good - Nabisco - Chow down on those Oreos and Chips Ahoy, because parent company Nabisco makes sure that only sustainable palm oil goes into their sweet treats.

Alright - Pepsi - Pepsi is a good alternative when it comes to soda. Opt for a Pepsi rather than a Coke, because Coca-Cola's sustainability status is as red as their logo.

Bad - Kraft - Childhood-shattering, I know. Put down that liquid gold and search for a cheesy snack that doesn't hurt rainforests!

I hope you enjoyed this summary of the issues surrounding palm oil. Post your thoughts!
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Re: The Palm Oil Crisis

Post by duskypack » Thu Mar 24, 2016 8:45 pm

This is really awesome, thank you for putting this together! I'll look into the app, too!
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Re: The Palm Oil Crisis

Post by wolf567 » Mon Dec 12, 2016 7:43 am

Great topic TheSeaWolf!

For anyone else interested in learning more about palm oil. Chester Zoo has two great videos about palm oil:
What is palm oil?
Sustainable Palm OIl Challenge - Supply and Demand

Also more information here!
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Re: The Palm Oil Crisis

Post by Writers Block » Mon Dec 12, 2016 8:43 am

I was just talking about palm oil the other day! Thanks for writing this, SeaWolf! I currently have no available space on my phone, but I'll look into downloading that app once I clear some space out.
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Re: The Palm Oil Crisis

Post by Nor-easter Forecast » Tue Dec 13, 2016 10:02 am

People may find this article insightful and relevant to the matter:
http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk ... m-oil-boom

That app looks pretty cool, I may be using it in the future! Thank you for sharing. Palm oil is definitely a big global issue that receives less attention than it should... I remember driving through Costa Rica a few years ago and passing mile after mile of palm oil plantations. They were so huge it began to be disturbing to think about how much of this product was being generated and all of the different places it was being shipped to.

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