It is 2017, and I am still struggling to understand how the Palm Oil industry has taken flight and bolstered into one of the world’s most rapidly growing industries.

Controversial enough, palm oil is in high demand as an inexpensive alternative to trans fats, mainly used in processed foods and cosmetic products. 53.67 million metric tons of palm oil is produced each year, and it wouldn’t be surprising if everybody owned and/or used at least one product containing it, as it is practically present in everything. 

You may be asking yourself how an oil could have such a dramatic impact on the planet but the reality is devastating.

In Indonesia, Malaysia and surrounding islands, large plots of land are created by mass deforestation for flourishing palm oil plantations. Because palm oil is a demanding industry, the plantations have replaced the tropical rainforests that previously prospered in South America, Africa, as well as expanding in Asia. This has a negative impact on the environment, as habitats of animals like orangutans and Sumatran elephants are dwindling away. Orangutans are native to Indonesia and Malaysia, unfortunately, any wild ones still wandering are expected to be extinct in 25 years.  

Sumatran elephants, rhinos, and tigers, as well as Bornean Pygmy elephants, experience the same severe treatment as orangutans in the palm oil plantations. Are the lives of wild animals worth the mass production of this commodity?

Due to mass deforestation and peatland fires that burn for months, if not years, Indonesia serves as the world’s third-worst producer of greenhouse gases and is being deforested at the fastest rate.

Palm oil is the silent killer of the indigenous people and species residing in Indonesia and Malaysia, as well as their environment. Smothered by smog and unfathomably high carbon levels from the slash-and-burn method used to clear land, these areas further prove the need to diminish production of palm oil.

Unless we bring awareness to the dangers of this product, the extinction of orangutans will become unavoidable and the environment will continue to deteriorate for a product unworthy. Not taking this environmental catastrophe seriously is encouraging the production of palm oil, and I refuse to stay silent as the rainforest’s biodiversity suffers.

In recent years, companies like Ben and Jerry’s have become more progressive by becoming fully palm oil free. Other companies have made commitments to using only certified palm oil or becoming palm oil free in the near future. While this is better than no change at all, this industry is still skyrocketing and must be stopped.

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