Indonesia Expands Moratorium on Logging

In 2011, Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono made a deal with Norway to stop logging in Indonesia for two years to protect the rainforests. Norway would give Indonesia one billion dollars for putting a moratorium on logging. Last month, the president agreed to extend the ban another two years. This is a victory for the preservation of the rainforests and animal species of Indonesia. Besides the obvious advantages, this ban also helps to limit the greenhouse gases that Indonesia emits. Indonesia is the third largest producer of carbon in the world, behind China and the U.S.A; except most of their emissions are not from cars and houses. It is from the burning of the soil in the peat swamps that are deforested. In order for the land to be used for the palm oil plantations, the swamps need to be drained. Peat soils contain an immense amount of carbon, that once burned is released into the atmosphere.

This is a great victory for environmentalists and a sign the Indonesian government is headed in the right direction saving their rainforests. Unfortunately, the ban does have some loopholes. No new contracts can be made to cut down trees, but the ones made before the 2011 ban are still in effect. Therefore those companies are still able to cut down trees in the very vulnerable rainforests. It’s not perfect, but it’s a start.

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Why Does Everyone Like Palm Oil So Much?

The African oil palm is capable of producing 2.4-4000 lbs/acre of palm oil. One tree capable of producing up to 1500 fruits and can produce fruit for 25-30 years. Oil palms produce more palm oil per acre than any other vegetable oil plant, and is therefore able to be harvested sustainably (Nellemann, C. 2007). The Roundtable of Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) is trying to contact companies to switch to sustainable palm oil sources, instead of plantations that produce crude palm oil (RSPO. 2007). Crude palm oil comes from plantations that continually use new land to plant oil palm trees (King, T. 2011). Many companies have made the switch, but many have not. In order to be certified by the RSPO, companies have to meet a list of criteria. Some criterion includes providing benefits to workers, using the same land to plant trees and harvest crops, using environmentally friendly pest controls, and not overusing the amount of groundwater (RSPO. 2007).

Because it’s cheap and contains no trans fat, palm oil is increasingly used in many grocery items. The items that use palm oil include baked goods, cereal, juices, pet foods, laundry detergent, and make up. Some brands that use sustainable palm oil are Kellogg, Pepsi Co. McDonalds, Walmart Store Inc., Loreal, All, and Friskies cat food (Palm Oil Shopping Guide. 2012). Palm oil is listed as different names in the ingredients section, such as vegetable oil, palm kernel, palm oil kernel, palmitate, and palmate (King, T. 2011).

Because palm oil is essential to the economy of Indonesia and Malaysia, banning palm oil all together is not the answer to preserving orangutan habitats. Buying products with sustainable palm oil, or none, is the answer. Cheyenne Mountain Zoo has produced a shopping list, which is continually updated, for the consumer to take to the grocery store (Palm Oil Shopping Guide. 2012).

References:

  • King, T. (2011). Palm Oil. Say No to Palm Oil. Retrieved March 14, 2012, from http://www.saynotopalmoil.com/palm-oil.php
  • Nellemann, C., Miles, L., Kaltenborn, B. P., Virtue, M., and Ahlenius, H. (Eds). (2007). The last stand of the orangutan – State of emergency: Illegal logging, fire and palm oil in Indonesia’s national parks. United Nations Environment. Programme, GRID-Arendal, Norway,      Retrieved 11 March, 2012 from http://www.grida.no/files/publications/orangutan-full.pdf.
  • Palm Oil Shopping Guide: Current Better Choices. (2012). Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. Retrieved March 14, 2012, from cmzoo.org/docs/palmOilShoppingGuide.pdf