The palm forest issue

Audio: Medium

We face environmental problems more and more often, and that shouldn’t surprise us anymore. We are the ones who have the most harmful impact on it. It’s sad every time I have to approach these topics and that’s because it reflects the dysfunctional reality we live in. Today I would like to go a little on the subject of palm forests and what impact they have.

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Without realizing it, we use palm oil in everything from our beloved Nutella to makeup products. And no one says it’s not good, it even has very good properties. But the major problem is that in order to make room for these palm forests, certain pieces of land must be cleared.
I had recently seen a documentary on TV called The Year Earth Changed, about what happened to nature when we were all in lockdown. Impressive how much they all recovered, from aquatic to terrestrial life. But in this documentary, I saw something worrying.
In India (Assam), elephants still own only 5% of their original territory, and hunger forces them into human agriculture. Both humans and elephants die every day, fighting for “supremacy.” The same happens in the countries where the palm forests are and where the animals are left with less and less territory and fewer and fewer forests from which to feed. Changing the ecosystem, so drastic and fast, will lead to the loss of many species of animals, which still have low numbers if we look at the statistics for 2021.

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Photo source: IG @animalelite

According to ”Indonesia and Malaysia produce more than 85% of the world’s palm oil and are the only remaining home to orangutans. Fewer than 80,000 of these animals survive today, their habitats under constant threat of deforestation. […] The elephant population across the island is crashing, with far fewer than 3,000 surviving, as herds are left homeless, harassed, and killed due to intense conflict with people over shrinking habitat. […] The smallest in size of the Asian elephant subspecies, only 1,500 or so of these pachyderms live on Borneo, an island where palm oil production continues to encroach on their habitat.”

I know that in these countries, the palm oil business is the one that supports their economy and it wouldn’t help if we suddenly gave up consuming palm oil, but this problem of ever-expanding palm forests is something that would we have to worry about. At least reducing its consumption I think would help to keep a balance between the business with this oil and the uncut forest. If we destroy the ecosystem, we are practically destroying ourselves.
The fact that it is being deforested massively also contributes to the climate change we are facing, and the country that suffers the most is not even to blame for this problem, namely Madagascar. This climate change has led to a massive drought so they have come to consume the insects they catch. The UN warns that by October this year, up to 28,000 people will be affected by famine.

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As long as demand grows, then plantations will grow. Each of us needs to think better before choosing what to buy from the supermarket. Very often small actions had a major impact. What if we took responsibility this time too? As I said above, we must not give up this product suddenly and forever, but we must somehow control its consumption.

I hope you liked this article as well, that it sounded a little alarm and that it will make us all a little responsible. As usual, dear readers, I am waiting for you in the comments section with your opinions or even with suggestions related to the topic. See you next Sunday with another interesting article.


Sources: The Year Earth Change – documentary by David Attenborough,,

2 responses to “The palm forest issue”

  1. To begin on a light note, I am doing my part in this problem by not eating Nutella…the fact that I don’t like it helps me to do that! But on a serious note, the problem you have highlighted is happening all over the world. Rainforests, for example, are disappearing at an alarming rate because the world’s hunger for wood is at an all time high. The sad thing is that we see this mostly in developing nations where the only thing of value they have is their natural resources.These countries tend to have a poorly developed infrastructure and almost no significant manufacturing sector. In many cases they also depend on tourism but with recent events, tourism has all but dried up in these regions. So, what to do? Do we ban the sale of palm oil? If we do we will destroy the economies of the producing nations. Do we find a substitute for palm oil? Will champions of the organic movement accept a simulated version of palm oil? Palm oil is about as organic as you can get, after all. So while this debate rages on and as more land is lost, the only losers are the creatures who call these places home. What is the answer? First, the world, if it’s interested in the future of elephants and other species who are holding on for dear life, must help these nations develop alternate means of self-support, perhaps through the development of eco-tourism. Second, we must accept alternatives to such things as palm oil as we did with whale oil in recent history. But we cannot sit here in the West and condemn these very poor countries for using the only resource they have to survive. It all starts with the desire to make a change and the will to do so….lastly about the climate change argument you make, the climate of the earth has changed even before we humans got there…if not we’d still be living in the Ice Age so I am not one who so readily accepts arguments such as that.
    Thank you for a thought provoking article.


    1. That’s what I wrote in the article, that the final and sudden giving up of palm oil is not an option.
      I agree that we humans have changed the climate, but it has reached the point where anomalies appear and only to our detriment.
      And as for other countries to help those living from the palm oil industry, no one will. I would not like to open this subject because I avoid political discussions.
      Thanks for the comment and for your interest in this topic. Enjoy the rest of the weekend.


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