Rainforests are our planet’s lungs. They suck in all of the carbon dioxide we emit and, in return, produce the oxygen that we require to breathe. As such, they are necessary to our life on Earth, and yet, we continue to destroy them at an astronomical pace. What used to extend as a green belt around the earth’s tropical waist has become splintered by human “need” that is more accurately characterized by human greed. In the last century alone, we have decimated half of this planet’s rainforests—half! Scientists are now predicting that they will disappear altogether within the next 100 years if something isn’t done, stat!
These rainforests comprise only about seven percent of the earth’s surface, but they are home to over 50 percent of the world’s plant and animal species. Sadly, many of these species are already critically endangered and quickly approaching extinction as their habitat is increasingly destroyed. NASA estimates that up to 137 individual species disappear worldwide every single day, and ecosystems are collapsing as a result.
The primary offenders of this destruction are all human-driven. They include palm oil and rubber production, logging, cattle and soy farming, water dams, and population expansion. This photo from conservation photographer Paul Hilton depicts the devastation caused by the palm oil industry in the Leuser Ecosystem in Sumatra, Indonesia. As you can see, all natural plant life has been razed so that row after row of non-indigenous oil palm trees can be planted in its place.
The rate of deforestation from palm oil plantations alone is alarming – and one we have great power to stop. That’s because palm oil is primarily produced for use in consumer products, such as snack foods, cosmetics, and household cleaners. By avoiding these products and consciously choosing to make palm oil- free purchases, we can crush the demand for this ingredient, subdue the expansion of palm oil plantations, and save the swaths of rainforest that remain.
Some countries are taking great steps to limit palm oil production – like France, which is imposing a tax on palm oil imports. Elsewhere, like here in the United States, it is up to individual people like you and me to take a stand. Here are a few articles that will help you lead the way:
- Why You Should Avoid Palm Oil, and How to Do It
- Put Down the Palm Oil: Planet-Friendly Alternatives For Your Home
- Snacking Smarter: How Rethinking Palm Oil Can Save Animals and the Environment
- How to Wean Yourself Off Palm Oil
Image source: Paul Hilton / Instagram