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Picture this. The only home you’ve ever known is burning to the ground, and there is no way to escape. You have nowhere to go.
That’s reality for many endangered orangutans in Indonesia, and it’s happening at a rapid pace. The population of orangutans in the country is believed to have recently dropped by up to 50 per cent.
Animals who are lucky enough to survive the immediate danger from deforestation may subsequently have their suffering prolonged before perishing as well from the after-effects like an increased competition for food while there’s a decrease in its availability.
The cause of all this harm is an oil that is all too commonly used. Palm oil, which is an edible vegetable oil from the fruit of the African oil palm tree, is primarily harvested from Malaysia and Indonesia.
It’s not just animals who face danger for this replaceable ingredient! We all may eventually suffer thanks to how horrible it is for the environment. Deforestation in tropical locales regularly results in around 10 percent of the man-made greenhouse gas emissions that are causing climate change.
It releases more carbon into the atmosphere, and that speeds up global warming.
Biodiversity hotspots are destroyed, too. The Leuser Ecosystem in Indonesia is the last place on earth where tigers, orangutans, rhinoceros, and elephants co-exist. Its diverse terrain includes mountains, rainforests, and peat swamps.
Unfortunately, the palm oil industry threatens the rainforests and the animals who live there. Rainforests that were once so full of animal life are being destroyed. In their place, monocultures of palm trees are planted, yet these uniform fields of trees don’t support the animal life that thrives in the rainforest.
Just who is using this ever-destructive palm oil that is wreaking such havoc for people, animals, and the environment? Pretty much everyone! You may be shocked to find that palm oil is in many of the most popular cookies and crackers.
Open your cupboard, and you may very well discover plenty of palm oil. Snacks may contain palm oil even if the term 'palm oil' isn’t mentioned on the packaging. A big piece of the problem is that palm oil is the most widely used vegetable oil in the world today. It makes its way into shortenings, cooking oils, ice cream, cake mixes, icing, dough fat, biscuits, and snack cakes.
Palm oil is not just in food, either. It can be found in some lipsticks, soap, shampoo, shaving cream, and toothpaste. Such well-known companies as Kellogg, Wrigley, Nabisco, PepsiCo, and General Mills use palm oil in multiple food products. It doesn’t have to stay that way, though.
We can all do our part by taking actions to transform the widespread complacency about palm oil to awareness and change.
For starters, write to the companies who make products with palm oil and ask them to switch to an alternative vegetable oil. Also, spread the word about how others can better co-exist with nature by choosing kinder snacks. Join Leonardo DiCaprio and Adrien Brody in speaking out on social media about the destruction taking place because of palm oil.
Check out these organizations that are striving to help more sustainable palm oil practices become the new normal in the industry.
Robin Raven is the author of Santa’s First Vegan Christmas. She has written for publications such as The Malibu Times, Alabama Baby & Child Magazine, the official website of Melissa Gilbert, and USAToday.com. She holds a BFA from the School of Visual Arts and is now furthering her education. Robin often has her nose in a book and her arms around a rescued animal. She’s a vegan foodie who blogs at RobinRaven.com and loves to connect with readers on social media. You can follow her @RobinRaven on Twitter.
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