Palm Oil Sounds Nice, But This Killer Crop Is Destroying Rainforests… And You’re Probably Eating It Right Now

Each year, Indonesia’s rainforests are illegally set aflame to clear more space for commercial palm tree plantations. These monocultural land plots exist to advance the mass production of palm oil — an inexpensive vegetable oil that’s common in grocery stores and fast food restaurants, particularly in the United States.

Such “slash-and-burn methods” spark outrage among conservationists. Not only do these intentional fires destroy thousands of acres of irreplaceable rainforest each year, they endanger all the animals living inside!

Photo Credit: NOAA
Photo Credit: NOAA

Rainforests rely on biological diversity to maintain a sustainable ecosystem; palm tree plantations result in a uniform, less eco-friendly environment — one that’s much drier, hotter, and largely lifeless.

Palm oil production in Indonesia has also been blamed for the sharp decline of orangutan and Sumatran tiger populations. It’s also a major contributor to carbon emissions in our atmosphere. When forests are burned, a thick and deadly cloud of smoke is released into the air.

Humans and wildlife alike similarly affected by the haze of smoke, which has engulfed many of the countries surrounding the island of Sumatra. People and animals in those areas remain at high risk for respiratory illnesses, suffocation, and even death.

Photo Credit: International Animal Rescue, via Facebook
Photo Credit: International Animal Rescue, via Facebook

Native endangered species have it worse. Many orangutans, for example, have lost their food supply, habitat, and have been burned, or infected with respiratory disease. Orangutans are already critically endangered, and these fires put even more of them at risk. Even so, the Indonesian government continues to produce palm oil, due to growing global demand.

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Here’s where you come in! Next time you’re at the grocery store, check the ingredients label on on your favorite shampoo, soap, bread, lipstick, laundry detergent — even your favorite ice cream — because these products frequently contain palm oil. It might cost more to support a different brand, but you’ll also be doing your part to avoid rainforest destruction. Conscientious consumption can go a long way!

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