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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Palm Oil Problems
I was just thinking that I wanted to tackle writing about the ever more serious situation of the growing impact of palm oil production on the wildlife of Southeast Asia. I've been mulling over how to tackle this complex issue and today found an interesting article that we can all relate to. Glenn Hurowitz wrote an op-ed piece for the Los Angeles Times, Clean Hair or Clean Air?, that is definitely worth checking out for a brief overview of the wide-ranging use of palm oil in foods and cosmetics. The destruction of tropical forests to make way for palm oil plantations is accelerating throughout Southeast Asia, particularly in Indonesia and Malaysia - most notably on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo. This rapid growth is due in no small part to the use of palm oil for biofuels. It's hard to miss the irony of vast environmental destruction for the use of a purported environmentally friendly fuel. While there are little data assessing the impact of palm oil plantations, it is logical to assume that wide scale destruction of tropical forests will irrevocably damage the region's incredible biodiversity. One of the most prominent species already being impacted is the orangutan, an animal completely dependent on large tracts of primary rainforest. Early evidence indicates that clouded leopards may be impacted by this habitat change to a lesser degree as individuals have been observed on palm plantations. However, their survival would be totally predicated upon enough prey remaining in these new agricultural areas.

The CLP is supporting several studies that are examining how changes of the forest structure impact clouded leopards and other cats in the region. Hopefully we can learn enough, quickly enough to address the problem. In the meantime, check the list of ingredients of products you buy and look for ones that leave out the palm oil. It's better for you and as Glenn Hurowitz noted, this is a way to try and "keep dead orangutans out of our hair, food, and gas tanks."

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