Palm Oil is in many things we consume daily. It is an ingredient in our soaps and shampoos. It removes dirt and oils as well as moisturize our hands and hair. Palm oil is used in our pizzas to make the dough malleable. Palm oil is also in our chocolates and ice creams. It adds sheen and a creamy texture, respectively. Because of it’s sweet taste and solid structure at room temperature, it is also an ingredient in cosmetics such as lipsticks. As well as a solid contributor to biofuel.
Though palm oil is in most of our everyday items, (http://www.worldwildlife.org/pages/which-everyday-products-contain-palm-oil ) palm oil production is a leading contributor of deforestation. Deforestation is culmination of many actions. Deforestation occurs when farmers cut trees down for agricultural needs. Such as plant production or grazing fields for their livestock. Deforestation also occurs when trees are cut down for wood production. The results of deforestation are; lack of nutrients in soil (moist soil originally shaded by trees becomes dry from exposure to the sun), dramatic fluctuations in temperature (tree canopies keep the areas below them cool during the day and also trap in heat during the night), a significant loss of water vapor in the atmosphere (which can lead to deserts) and specific to Malaysia the extinction of orangutans. (http://environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/global-warming/deforestation-overview/)
These all seem like they are incredibly detrimental to the environment. However, think about this, in 1957 the Federal Land Development Authority (Felda) gave out 10 acres of land (with a 20 year payback plan) to the impoverished people of Malaysia with the hopes that they (Felda) could eradicate poverty if people used those 10 acres to produce palm oil or rubber. Two years later the worlds rubber stock falls, people were then encouraged to plant oil palms. In 2008, eighty-four percent of Felda’s landbank was Oil palm production. Currently Malaysia contributes 39 percent of world palm oil production and 44 percent of world palm oil exports. (http://www.mpoc.org.my/Malaysian_Palm_Oil_Industry.aspx)
This brings me to my final point and a thought for you to think about. If we choose to stop using products with palm oil in them we stop the need for deforestation. Which is good for the environment. However, sixteen percent of Malaysians are farmers (rice, banana, and rubber, among other crops). And twenty-four percent of their land is dedicated to agriculture. If we stop consuming palm oil products we eliminate what Felda set out to do, which was to end poverty. Aside from stopping use of palm oil and ending jobs, is there another way to stop it’s deforestation and keep those farmers employed?
Authored by Brian Dodson