Palm Oil 1

Palm oil is something I’ve read about recently. Apparently it’s in everything. Food products, cosmetics, soaps and detergents. Everything. It’s one of the main ingredients in biofuel. When people are talking about problems with biofuel, it’s really the problem with palm oil. Why is it bad? Well, rainforests are hotspots of biodiversity. They house thousands of different kinds of species. When the trees are cut down those species lose their homes. The loss of shelter often causes those species to go extinct. Not only do we have the animals to worry about, but we have our health to take into account. The trees filter huge amounts of carbon from the atmosphere.

Agribusiness companies are rapidly expanding fuel crop plantations into the Amazon Rainforest and other diverse tropical ecosystems throughout South America, Southeast Asia, the Pacific and Africa. Palm oil expansion is the primary cause of deforestation in Indonesia, where forests are disappearing at a rate of more than 2.8 million hectares a year.

Industrial agrofuel production requires dedicating huge swaths of land to fuel production and drives up the price of basic food crops as food production competes against fuel production for land, water, and market resources. This land that people claim we don’t have enough room for grass-fed beef, windmill farms, or actual fruits and vegetables that aren’t corn or soy.

  • Even if all cropland in the U.S. were used to grow corn and all the corn were used to make ethanol, we would not produce enough ethanol to replace our over-consumption of gasoline.
  • Every ton of palm oil produced results in 33 tons of carbon dioxide emissions—10 times more per ton than petroleum.
  • The corn required to make enough ethanol to fill a 25-gallon SUV tank could feed one person for a year.

A new U.S. government regulation requires that, by January 1, 2006, food labels list a product’s content of trans fat, which comes from partially hydrogenated vegetable oil and is a major cause of heart disease. Many food processors are seeking to eliminate trans fat by switching to other oils. Palm oil is one such alternative.

Palm oil is used around the world in such foods as margarine, shortening, baked goods, and candies. Biomedical research indicates that palm oil, which is high in saturated fat and low in polyunsaturated fat, promotes heart disease. Though less harmful than partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, it is far more conducive to heart disease than such heart-protective liquid oils as olive and canola. The National

Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, World Health Organization, and other health authorities have urged reduced consumption of oils like palm oil.

Malaysia and Indonesia account for 83 percent of production and 89 percent of global exports. Oil palm is grown as an industrial plantation crop, often (especially in Indonesia) on newly cleared rainforest or peat-swamp forests rather than on already degraded land or disused agricultural land. Since the 1970s, the area planted with oil palm in Indonesia has grown over 30-fold to almost 12,000 square miles. In Malaysia, the area devoted to oil palm has increased 12-fold to 13,500 square miles.

Of the more than 400 land mammal species of Indonesia, 15 are critically endangered and another

125 threatened. Of Malaysia’s nearly 300 land mammal species, 6 are critically endangered and 41 threatened. The numbers of threatened species climb higher when terrestrial reptiles, amphibians, and birds are included.

Plantations also pollute the soil and water with pesticides and untreated palm oil-mill effluent, cause soil erosion and increased sedimentation in rivers, and cause air pollution due to forest fires.

Solutions coming tomorrow.

Deforestation: Part 3

Part one was about the causes, Part two was about the consequences and three is about the solutions.

The quickest solution to deforestation would be to simply stop cutting down trees. Though deforestation rates have slowed a bit in recent years, financial realities make this unlikely to occur.

A more workable solution is to carefully manage forest resources by eliminating clear-cutting to make sure that forest environments remain intact. The cutting that does occur should be balanced by the planting of enough young trees to replace the older ones felled in any given forest. The number of new tree plantations is growing each year, but their total still equals a tiny fraction of the Earth’s forested land.

Like I said earlier, two of the largest exporters of their forests are working with the U.S. to come up with a plan, but is that really enough? If the demand is still going to be then there will still be a problem. Some other country is just going to step in and fill those shoes.

So, what are we to do about it?

Recycle for one. There are limitations for recycling paper, but some is better than none.

Limiting your use of paper is the best thing you can do. Here are some tips.

  1. Plant a tree- Pretty straight forward right.
  2. Go paperless.
  3. Recycle and buy recycled products.
  4. Look for Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification on wood and wood products.
  5. Eat vegetarian meals as often as possible- meat takes of space and if we eat factory farm meat then they take up twice as much space because instead of eating the grass, we feed them corn and wheat, so we need the additional space for that. If nothing else, eat locally as much as possible.
  6. Think before you print. If there is any way that you can reduce the amount of paper that it takes to make your copies than do it. Use both sides, ask if you could split the paper and print the information on the bottom half and top half.
  7. Just try to reduce your involvement by not participating in anything that is on the cause of deforestation list.
  8. Reduce your use of palm oil. I’ve just recently heard about this, so I can tell you just a little, but I plan to write about it soon. Palm oil comes from the fruits of the palm oil trees. The problem isn’t the oil itself, but the plantations that are needed to process it. They’re located near the Palm oil trees which are in numerous forests and require a great amout of deforestation in order to be located there. When farmers illegally clear land to make way for palm oil plantations, they often end up destroying natural peat-lands that have been storing carbon dioxide for centuries. When disturbed, the peat releases the carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which along with factors such as global transportation, means that the palm oil trade is responsible for up to 10% of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions. This palm oil is supposedly in one out of ten products located on the supermarket’s shelves. It is also commonly reported as ‘vegetable oil.’ Here is a link to a list of products that use palm oil- and

Deforestation: Part 2

Yesterday I talked about the causes of deforestation and gave the some background on the problem. Today I’ll be writing about the consequences of it and tomorrow I’ll talk about the solutions.

Among the obvious consequences of deforestation is the loss of living space, not for us obviously, but for animals, the unspoken fors. Seventy percent of the Earth’s land animals and plants reside in forests. But the harm doesn’t stop there. Rain forests help generate rainfall in drought-prone countries elsewhere. Studies have shown that destruction of rain forests in such West African countries as Nigeria, Ghana, and Côte d’Ivoire may have caused two decades of droughts in the interior of Africa, with attendant hardship and famine.

Deforestation also drives climate change. Forest soils are moist, but without protection from sun-blocking tree cover they quickly dry out. Trees also help perpetuate the water cycle by returning water vapor back into the atmosphere. Without trees to fill these roles, many former forest lands can quickly become barren deserts.

Removing trees deprives the forest of portions of its canopy, which blocks the sun’s rays during the day and holds in heat at night. This disruption leads to more extreme temperatures swings that can be harmful to plants and animals.

Deforestation may have catastrophic global effects as well. Trees are natural consumers of carbon dioxide—one of the greenhouse gases whose buildup in the atmosphere contributes to global warming. Destruction of trees not only removes these “carbon sinks,” but tree burning and decomposition pump into the atmosphere even more carbon dioxide, along with methane, another major greenhouse gas.

Fewer forests means larger amounts of greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere—and increased speed and severity of global warming.

There seems to be a catch to this though. Temperatures data were collected from a network of specialized weather stations in forests ranging from Florida to Manitoba and compared results with nearby stations situated in open grassy areas that were used as a proxy for deforested land.

The climate cooling benefits of forests and trees are added as you get closer to the tropics or going north.

Researchers calculated that north of Minnesota, or above 45 degrees latitude, deforestation was associated with an average temperature decrease of 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit.

On the other hand, deforestation south of North Carolina, or below 35 degrees latitude, appeared to cause warming. Statistically insignificant cooling occurred between these two latitudes

Surface temperatures in open, nonforested, high-latitude areas were cooler because these surfaces reflected the sun’s rays, while nearby forested areas absorbed the sun’s heat. At night, without the albedo effect, open land continued to cool faster than forests, which force warm turbulent air from aloft to the ground.

Deforestation in the boreal region, north of 45 degrees latitude, results in a net cooling effect. While cutting down trees releases carbon into the atmosphere, it also increases an area’s reflection of sunlight (its albedo).

Deforestation and forest degradation are both a cause and a result of climate change. Plants absorb carbon dioxide and use it to grow, but when they decay or burn, carbon dioxide is released again. Decaying plants also produce methane, a greenhouse gas more potent than carbon dioxide.

So deforestation and forest degradation are doubly damaging, because greenhouse gases are released (e.g. through forest fires, or using the cut trees as firewood), while at the same time the number of carbon dioxide absorbing trees are reduced. Thirty percent of the carbon dioxide added to the atmosphere over the past 150 years is thought to come from deforestation, but this is a small amount compared to what is still stored in forests. The Canadian and Russian boreal forests alone hold 40 percent of the world’s carbon stocks.

Soil erosion, while a natural process, accelerates with deforestation. Trees and plants act as a natural barrier to slow water as it runs off the land. Roots bind the soil and prevent it from washing away. The absence of vegetation causes the topsoil to erode more quickly. It’s difficult for plants to grow in the less nutritious soil that remains.

Because trees release water vapor into the atmosphere, fewer trees means less rain, which disrupts the water table (or groundwater level). A lowered water table can be devastating for farmers who can’t keep crops alive in such dry soil.

On the other hand, deforestation can also cause flooding. Coastal vegetation lessens the impact of waves and winds associated with a storm surge. Without this vegetation, coastal villages are susceptible to damaging floods. The 2008 cyclone in Mayanmar proved this fact to catastrophic effect. Scientists believe that the removal of coastal mangrove forests over the past decade caused the cyclone to hit with much more force.

Deforestation: Part 1

First, this will be a subject divided up into three posts. Today is the subject itself and the causes, tomorrow the problem and tomorrow’s tomorrow will be the solutions.

And second, I was filled up to my eyeballs with information on this subject. The only easy part of this research was that all the sources seem to agree that deforestation is a problem.

Deforestation is defined as clearing Earth’s forests on a massive scale, often resulting in damage to the quality of the land.

Far too little attention has been paid to the role tropical deforestation has in warming the planet. It accounts for 17% of global emissions – more than all the world’s cars, trucks, planes, trains and ships combined.

Forests still cover about 30 percent of the world’s land area, but the world’s rain forests could completely vanish in a hundred years at the current rate of deforestation.

Who do we have to thank for this disaster? Ourselves of course.

The biggest driver of deforestation is agriculture. Farmers cut forests to provide more room for planting crops or grazing livestock. Forests are also cut as a result of growing urban sprawl.

Logging operations, which provide the world’s wood and paper products, also cut countless trees each year. Loggers, some of them acting illegally, also build roads to access more and more remote forests—which lead to further deforestation. Some is caused by a combination of human and natural factors like wildfires and subsequent overgrazing, which may prevent the growth of young trees.

Droughts and forest fires are expected to increase due to climate change. Forest fires can be a normal part of forests – they clear dense brush and are part of some species’ lifecycle. However, forests over stressed by human activity and drought can also devastate them. There are already indications that the Amazon is drying out, which could lead to a dangerous feedback of fires and desertification.

Invasive insect species may also damage forest health. Insects play a role in boreal ecology – they decompose litter, supply food for birds and small animals, and eliminate diseased trees. But insect attacks are likely to increase in frequency and intensity as established forests succumb to the physiological stress associated with warmer, drier conditions. As the Arctic warms, some invasive insect species, which the colder climate normally helps hold in check, are already increasing in population.

Hydroelectric dams are quite controversial because while they help to power communities, they also contribute to deforestation. To build a hydroelectric dam, acres of land must be flooded, which causes decomposition and release of greenhouse gases. Local people can also be displaced by dam projects, causing further deforestation when these people resettle elsewhere.

Mining also results in deforestation. Digging a coal, diamond or gold mine requires the removal of all forest cover, not just for the mines but also for trucks and equipment. Recently, Venezuela denied a corporation called Crystallex permission to dig a mine because of environmental concerns. Way to Venezuela!

Palm oil is potential candidate to be used as a biofuel and is used in many packaged foods and beauty products. But palm oil is another cause of deforestation. Its rising prices make it more valuable, and, in response, Indonesian and Malaysian farmers destroy acres of trees to harvest it. For this reason, several countries are currently debating a ban on palm oil as a biofuel.

According to the World Resources Institute, more than 80 percent of the Earth’s natural forests already have been destroyed. Up to 90 percent of West Africa’s coastal rain forests have disappeared since 1900. Brazil and Indonesia, which contain the world’s two largest surviving regions of rain forest, are being stripped at an alarming rate by logging, fires, and land-clearing for agriculture and cattle-grazing. Brazil has established a goal of reducing emissions from the Amazon by 80% by 2020 and is already making impressive progress in that direction, including robust monitoring and verification systems. Indonesia is moving in a similar direction. These efforts could be focused, honed and replicated globally.