High demand for palm oil is destroying our environment and threatening the lives of orangutans. Palm oil is used around the world as a biofuel additive, but it can also be found in everyday grocery products such as crackers and soap. Palm oil production is taking over countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia. These plantations directly pollute the environment with carbon, demolish food crops, violate human rights, and are driving orangutans to extinction. The orangutan population has shrunk to a mere 60,600. Environmental campaigns from organizations such as the Rainforest Action Network pressure companies to stop producing products with unsustainable palm oil. Unfortunately even with the help of environmental advocates, the European Union refuses to cooperate.
As of 2013, European Union use of palm oil has increased by 40% since 2007. Biofuel subsidies are driving this unsustainable practice. American companies such as Kellogg, Hershey’s, and Pepsi also contribute to the problem by continuing to use palm oil. As palm oil production grows, more and more acres of land are being used for production, destroying local communities. This further contributes to deforestation and ultimately death of the orangutans.
Source: Mike Gaworecki and Leslie Moyer, “How Palm Oil in Everything From Food to Fuel Is Killing Orangutans and Exacerbating Climate Change,” AlterNet, November 18, 2013, http://www.alternet.org/environment/how-palm-oil-industry-driving-orangutans-brink.
See also: Carolyn Fry, “Malaysia deforestation: Why is palm oil so controversial?” The Telegraph, February 1, 2011, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/malaysia/8295815/Malaysia-deforestation-Why-is-palm-oil-so-controversial.html.
Student Researchers: Rachel Spielman & Gladys Cifuentes (College of Marin) and Sharon Whitfield (Indian River State College)
Faculty Evaluator: Susan Rahman (College of Marin) and Elliot Cohen (Indian River State College)