Did you know that our long-armed, super cute, orange colored cousins are found only in the rainforests of Sumatra and Borneo. Their abode? The trees in the lush tropical biodiverse rainforests. These intelligent creatures use large leaves as umbrellas and shelters to protect themselves from the common rains. Our cousins, these cerebral primates eat mostly fruit and leaves gathered from rain forest trees.
And because these gentle gorgeous orangutans live in only a few places, and because they are so dependent upon trees, they have fallen prey to the unfortunate rampant logging and deforestation to clear the rainforests for palm oil monoculture plantations. Orangutans are now in danger of extinction and critically endangered.
This post may sound end up sounding heavy, but there is really no way to make light of the plight of orangutans and is a subject that is very very close to my heart. Palm oil is an ingredient we have eschewed from the outset when I founded Purearth in 2011. And I’m going to tell you why.🌴
WHERE DOES PALM OIL COME FROM?
The oil palm tree (Elaeis guineensis) is native to West Africa and was imported into South East Asia in the mid 19th century. Oil palm flourishes in the humid tropics and produces high yield when grown 10 degrees north and south of the equator. As you know we use 50% of Palm oil is used on a daily bases, in shampoos, soaps, detergent, toothpaste and cosmetics on a large scale.
SOURCING OF PALM OIL HAS CAUSED DEFORESTATION
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) indicated in 2007 that oil palm plantations are the leading cause of rainforest destruction in Malaysia and Indonesia. Surging global demand for palm oil has fuelled massive forest destruction throughout these countries leading to destruction of biodiversities that together account for 85% of the world’s palm oil production.
Another study (by Princeton and a Swiss institution) reported that between 1990 and 2005, up to 60% of palm oil expansion occurred at the expense of primary tropical rain forest. The establishment of palm oil plantations has been a disaster not only for endangered wildlife such as orangutans and tigers (in Sumatra) but has also exacerbated conflict with local communities in Indonesia over traditional land rights. Local people have been evicted from their customary land holdings and local communities impoverished, leading to much conflict with palm oil concession companies.
PALM OIL BEING THE REASON FOR CLIMATE CHANGE
In Sumatra at least 10.8 million hectares have been opened up for palm oil plantations. The situation in Borneo is similar. In addition, deforestation may cause soil erosion and, because most forests have been cleared through the use of fire, massive air pollution from smoke. The draining, burning, and conversion of peat swamp forests to palm oil has been especially damaging to the world’s climate as it has led to Indonesia being the third largest contributor of carbon to the world’s atmosphere.
In 2016, global production of palm oil was estimated at 62.6 million tonnes, 2.7 million tonnes more than in 2015. Indonesia and Malaysia produce about 85% of the world’s palm oil, which is used in everything from soaps, serums, lipstick to pizza, bread and biodiesel. You can see why, as a skincare and wellness brand this matters to us. Palm oil trade has resulted in 15 million acres loss according to research, and Reuters reports that around 39% of forest cover has been lost between 2000 and 2018.
Palm cultivation produces 38% of the world’s total vegetable oil supply and its cultivation has resulted in deforestation, loss of natural habitats, and greenhouse gas emissions. Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth believe palm oil plantations to be more damaging than almost anything else that the human kind is doing! Sadly, palm oil farmers have also been accused of using slash-and-burn methods to clear land for planting palm.
HARM TO THE SPECIES
Every year it is estimated that between 1,000 to 5,000 orangutans are killed in Palm Oil concessions. That is a significant portion of the wild orangutan population which is lost–without fail–every single year. (Orangutan Foundation)
But don't worry, every small change counts! Stay tuned for this beautiful and exciting journey with Bumi.