I’m writing in response to April and Earth Day, for I think it’s important knowing about ongoing environmental issues, so I would like to address one most people might not know about. When people learn about it, they can know how to locate this substance in their products and how to remove it from their daily lives.
Palm oil is a substance used in most products we use including food products, detergents, beauty products, and biofuel. Overall, almost half of U.S. packaged products contain palm oil, with 66 million tons produced annually.
The environmental costs of palm oil is massive. The palm oil production happens by clearing out land, leading to major deforestation in Southeast Asia, Latin America and Africa. As the deforestation grows at the same rate as demand for palm oil, illegal plantations and shipments are created to meet this demand.
The overall health of both animals and humans is at risk from palm oil. Too much consumption in humans leads to cancer, and multiple human rights are violated when natives are forced off their land for development. The animals most at risk are endangered species, like the Borneo elephant, Sumatran tiger and orangutan, which face extinction by deforestation. If the biodiversity of these areas is permanently damaged, we could see total loss and degradation of natural ecosystems.
The negative impacts are overlooked since palm oil is needed for making all products it’s incorporated in. The best way to lower demand is to stop using products containing palm oil. Look for ingredients with the words “oil” or “palm,” look out for “contains: palm oil,” or don’t use biofuels made from palm oil. We need to be aware what goes into our products, and use this information to make better decisions in our future. This is clear for everything that happens in our lives, as we must be aware of any environmental and health costs of what we buy. The difference between using less or more palm oil can determine how long these ecosystems can survive.
– Kenneth Schlegel