Palm Oil is a product farmed from the African Oil Palm across South-East Asia in palm oil plantations. Palm Oil is the single most consumed vegetable oil around the world and is used in a wide variety of products. It is flavourless and odourless, making it very desirable for products that sell themselves based on a certain flavour or smell that requires a vegetable oil in the recipe. Due to this the demand for palm oil is extremely high. This causes deforestation of natural palm oil on massive scale.

 The palm oil forests are the natural habitat of many native animals, and several have already been driven to extinction or endangerment due to the destruction of their natural habitat. One of these animals is the Javan Tiger. Formerly it was commonly found on the island of Java amongst the palm forests. It was driven to extinction by the removal of its home and hunted in the belief that it was eating the palm trees. It was later discovered that native reptiles were consuming the plant.

Change is needed because the ratio of palm oil products to the area of land cleared is hugely disproportionate and unsustainable. At some point in the future the supply will simply run dry when the forestation catches up to the growth and all current sources of ripe palms are depleted, resulting in a situation similar to that of Nauru and its silicone production.

Another reason change is needed is because of the impact on the already declining population of endangered animals in South East Asia such as the orang-utans. In the past the Javan Tiger was driven to endangerment by the effects of deforestation, and the job was finished off by the clearers who hunted the remaining population to extinction.

Another reason why we need change is that the act of deforestation is having a pronounced effect on the environment of the cleared areas, with the removal of tree roots leading to the breaking down of river banks and flooding of low laying areas, removing the nutrient rich soil used for crops, and the destruction of farmer’s crops.

What needs to be done to reduce the impact and effects of palm oil production? We need to find a sustainable alternative to palm oil which can be produced without unwanted side effects on the local animal populace. We also need proper labelling for products containing palm oil, as most of them simply list it as vegetable oil. Because of this it can be hard to know whether or not you are purchasing palm oil products.

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