Palm Oil the Cause of an Environmental Catastrophe in Asia

branch of green palm in drops of rain

Myanmar’s forests have been reduced to 7% of their original size and Indonesia’s to about 20%, according to the Forest Trust, an environmental group in Washington. Most of the deforestation has come from palm oil plantations and logging operations that supply industries in China, India and other countries with wood pulp, plywood and paper products.

Impact on Borneo
The palm oil industry has pushed orangutans to near extinction. While there are around 55,000 orangutans left in the wild, only about 100–200 remain on Borneo, according to a new study.

The History of Palm Oil Production

Palm oil production is a huge contributor to greenhouse gas emissions due to deforestation. In countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia, palm oil plantations are encroaching on rainforests—some of our planet’s most important environmental filters.

The Destruction of the Rainforest
Palm oil cultivation is one of most significant causes of deforestation, which destroys a vital habitat for hundreds of endangered species. By 2020, between 4 million and 6 million acres will have been deforested to make way for palm-oil plantations. According to WWF, if current trends continue unabated, that number could jump as high as 8 million by 2020.

person holding white plastic bottle
Photo by Laryssa Suaid on

How it Affects Us All
Palm oil is hugely popular among consumers, who use it as a common ingredient in all kinds of products, from cookies to ice cream to shampoo. Most packaged goods contain some palm oil and chances are good that you’ve consumed it today without even knowing it. It’s also incredibly profitable: Nearly half of all agricultural land on Borneo (the world’s third-largest island) is occupied by palm oil plantations, with millions more acres being developed every year.

Farming Palm oil in Africa without Ill Effects
Palm oil is a tropical oil made from palm fruit, a type of African oil palm. Palm oil was brought to Africa as a replacement for animal fats used as cooking oils. There are no harmful effects on ecosystems or animals when farming palm oil in Africa, which contributes to a decrease in deforestation and carbon emissions. However, when large-scale farming of palm oil occurs in other parts of Asia, such as Indonesia and Malaysia, there is harm done to ecosystems and animal populations.

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Ubuntu Village will be traveling to Africa soon and we would like to document this trip and any other trips taken in a blog format.