Borneo: Jungle Dream Palm oil plantations make the rainforest disappear

Borneo. A huge island covered with impenetrable jungle, where orang-utans swing from tree to tree, elephants and rhinos roam the forests, wild cats and leopards hunt their prey, and crocodiles reign the rivers.

That must have been Borneo many, many years ago. Now, it’s mostly palm oil plantations as far as the eye can see.

I must admit, I imagined (although “dreamed of” is probably more accurate) Borneo as a jungle-covered island, most of it untouched by humans. Obviously, I was completely wrong and my dream was just that, a dream. Driving overland through Sabah (and the same must be true for Sarawak and Kalimantan, the other parts of Borneo), the destruction of the rainforest is clearly visible. What can we do against it? Not much, I’m afraid. Malaysia’s and Indonesia’s economy are heavily dependent on palm oil as are the thousands of people employed by the palm oil industry.

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Unfortunately, today not many places in Borneo look like that anymore: Pristine jungle in Ulu Temburong National Park in Brunei

The oil is used for a very wide range of products, from cookies to ice cream to soap to detergent to lipstick and shampoo and a lot of other things, so boycotting is not really an option. Also, there are about 170 different names (say: euphemisms) for palm oil which means that it is very difficult to spot it on the ingredients list and companies can therefore easily conceal their use of palm oil. What we can do is consume higher quality products – palm oil is very cheap -, as little convenience products as possible (which aren’t healthy anyway), and watch out for labels such as RSPO or Green Palm. These labels show that the product is made with certified sustainable palm oil. However, for the time being only a very small amount of palm oil is from sustainable production.

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One of the many inhabitants of the jungle

We can’t make to palm oil plantations disappear. If no more palm oil was used, it would just be replaced not by rainforest but by another crop. However, by choosing wisely what we consume, we can do our part that no more rainforest is cut down for new plantations.

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