On my travels after leaving Bali I headed to Borneo in Malaysia, I have to say it is one of my favourite places I have been in the world and would highly recommend anyone going there, especially if you like scuba diving, wildlife and tropical islands that look too beautiful to be real!
There is a dark side to this part of the world though and that’s the palm oil industry.
It is a vital economy for Malaysia with it being the Worlds second largest produce. It is locally used as cooking oil, exported for use in many commercial food and personal care products and is converted into biofuel. It produces up to 10 times more oil per unit area than soya beans, rapeseed or sunflowers. Although palm oil production does create jobs for many locals there has also been a lot of investigation into the fact that most palm oil plantations have been created without the consent of the local indigenous communities.
Palm oil cultivation has been criticised for:
- Greenhouse gas Deforestation in tropical areas accounts for an estimated 10 percent of manmade CO 2 emissions, and is a driver toward dangerous climate change.
- Habitat destruction, leading to the demise of critically endangered species (e.g. the Sumatran elephant, Sumatran tiger, the Sumatran rhinoceros, and the Sumatran Orangutan.
- Reduced biodiversity, including damage to biodiversity hotspots.
- Cultivating crops on land that belongs to indigenous people in the Sarawak and Kalimantan states on the island of Borneo and the Malaysian state of Sabah.
I visited an orangutan rehabilitation centre in Sepilok, they take in orphaned orang-utans who have lost their mothers due to their rainforest home being destroyed for palm oil. It is an amazing place and it is situated in a part of the rainforest that has now been protected. I also did a river cruise on the Kinabatangan River which is one of the last places you can see orangutans in the wild. The reason they are found in the trees along the river is because they have been forced there because of the destruction. The Borneo orangutan is an endangered species, they are the closest species to us sharing 96.4% of our genetic make up and yet we are allowing them to one day become extinct.
Seeing the impact of palm oil plantations is heartbreaking
You drive through the state of Sabah in Borneo and you see plantation after plantation where there used to be rainforest. I know that some of these plantations help the local people by providing jobs and therefore that helps them out of poverty and I agree with the few plantations that are doing that but the majority of them are not doing that, they are there just to make money and for humans to think that we can destroy the planet that way, in my opinion is wrong. We share this planet with the plants, trees and the other species that live here, like the orangutans and we think it is our right to destroy that. If we keep on like this, we will continue to grow a society that is based on all of the wrong intentions, we are already doing that and it is very dangerous!
The best thing we can do is be aware of what is happening to our planet…
…what we are doing to it and question ourselves, ask why. For now, check the ingredients on your packaged goods and cosmetics and make sure if palm oil is listed that it is sustainable and not part of the reason we are destroying the Earth!