Modern technology is a wonderful thing. We live in a world where vast amounts of information is sitting in our pockets. Practically all of us would have learnt an actor/actresses entire film catalogue just because we watched one film and wanted to know what else they were in. Also, whilst we were there, we learnt where they were born, who they married, their favorite food and what sports team they support. The point is, with a little bit of research, you can learn the facts you want to know. So, if you have done this to learn about your favorite celebrity or to create a new diet plan for yourself, why not use those tools to learn more about your carbon footprint?
What Can You Find?
Let us put the theory into practice and take Palm Oil as an example. Palm oil is a natural resource, it is a vegetable oil that comes from the fruit of oil palm trees. Most people will know that and will tell you it is not safe for the climate. But why? Taking a look into palm oil plantations, they currently cover over 27 million hectares of the Earth’s surface which is an area the size of New Zealand. These plantations have replaced rainforests and put animals like the Orangutan, Sumatran Rhino and Sumatran Tiger at extreme risk of extinction due to the loss of habitat. This is common knowledge, but what else can we learn about the negative effects of the palm oil industry?
The palm oil industry is not just a climate issue because of deforestation and endangerment to animals. There are other negative effects caused by mass monocrop plantations.
Air Pollution: The quickest and cheapest way of clearing large amounts of vegetation is by burning it. Burning a forest releases smoke and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere polluting the air. This will cause health concerns for residents and animals in the surrounding areas and in large quantities of burning the region of Southeast Asia. Fires in peat areas like rainforests are particularly difficult to put out.
Water Pollution: A Palm Oil mill generates 2.5 metric tons of effluent for every metric ton of palm oil it produces. Direct release of this effluent can cause freshwater pollution, which affects downstream biodiversity and people.
Soil Erosion: Erosion occurs when forests are being cleared to establish plantations and can also be caused by planting trees in inappropriate arrangements. The main cause of erosion is the planting of oil palms on steep slopes. Erosion causes increased flooding and silt deposits in rivers and ports.
The £60 billion industry certainly has more negative effects than appears on the surface level. So what products actually have palm oil in them?
Here is a list of a few products known for containing palm oil:
Most, if not all, are everyday household essentials.
Are you involved? What can you do to help?
There are a range of reactions when learning information like this. Some will completely swear off any product causing problems while some will continue on as they were, not paying any attention to any issue at hand. Everyone else fits in somewhere between those two reactions. Your reaction is not what is important however, that is your decision. The takeaway of this article is to show how easy and simple it is to obtain information about climate issues.
Your level of response is up to you and on how strongly you feel about the issue. In the case of palm oil, you can look for products containing the RSPO (Responsibly Sourced Palm Oil) label as a start.
Today, I challenge you to spend 10 minutes researching an issue you have an interest in. Learn what you can and then start to ask the questions, why is it this way? What can I do to change? The answers are right in front of you.