by Eric W |
Palm oil and its derivatives are in 70% of personal care products. Despite its widespread use, the production of this vegetable oil results in the destruction of ecologically valuable tropical rainforests.
Every six seconds, an area of land roughly the size of a football field is lost to deforestation. The cattle industry in Latin America, and Southeast Asia's palm, paper, and pulp industries are the most significant contributors to tropical deforestation. Palm oil is harvested from a type of palm tree that only grows in a tropical climate where rainforests thrive.
In order to expand production, palm oil producers often clear-cut these ecologically valuable rainforests and burn the remaining vegetation. Their “slash and burn” process releases large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, contributing to global warming. According to the National Geographic Society, these ecosystems only cover 6% of the Earth’s land, but they contain half of the world’s plant and animal species.
As shown by the maps below, palm oil plantations are located within the tropical rainforests closest to the equator. These plantations cover an area of this ecologically valuable land roughly equivalent to the size of Colorado. As demand continues to rise, palm oil agriculture will continue to destroy valuable rainforests.
Paul Tullis, “How the World Got Hooked on Palm Oil,” The Guardian (Guardian News and Media, February 19, 2019), https://www.theguardian.com/news/2019/feb/19/palm-oil-ingredient-biscuits-shampoo-environmental.
Adam Morton, “Football Pitch-Sized Area of Tropical Rainforest Lost Every Six Seconds,” The Guardian (Guardian News and Media, June 2, 2020), https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/jun/02/football-pitch-area-tropical-rainforest-lost-every-six-seconds.
Hannah Ritchie and Max Roser, “Deforestation and Forest Loss,” Our World in Data, February 9, 2021, https://ourworldindata.org/deforestation.
Heather J. Johnson, “Rainforest,” National Geographic Society, accessed July 22, 2022, https://education.nationalgeographic.org/resource/rain-forest.
Land area utilized for palm oil: “Palm Oil – Deforestation for Everyday Products,” Palm oil – deforestation for everyday products - Rainforest Rescue, accessed July 25, 2022, https://www.rainforest-rescue.org/topics/palm-oil.
Area of Colorado: “U.S. Census Bureau Quickfacts: Colorado,” US Census Bureau, accessed July 25, 2022, https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/CO.