Saturday, 30 June 2018

The "Evils" Of Palm Oil

Let's skip the preamble because I have grown increasingly frustrated with the gullible people of the world, who protest issues without actually knowing the facts. Palm oil usually makes it quite on the list.

Frequently, the production of oil palm is conflated with deforestation that harms wildlife and in particular, orangutans.

Europe has decided to launch an anti-palm-oil campaign. Malaysia and Indonesia are trying to counter it.

Now, I have no qualms about stating my absolute dislike for the practice of widespread logging and deforestation. If I weren't an engineer, I would make a stellar Luddite. Maybe.

But the point is, while it is possible to replant the trees that have been cut down, it is less easy to repopulate the micro flora and fauna that live within the ecosystem that very old trees host. We really shouldn't be cutting down our trees, especially as trees help prevent the climate from heating up to ridiculous levels. And God knows Malaysian temperatures are skyrocketing.

George Monbiot bangs on about the decline of wildlife, particularly where he lives. Unfortunately, we have a similar situation over here. In fact, Malaysia's issues involve even the exotic animals like tigers, orangutan and rhinoceros -- and not just the garden variety, easily overlooked species that tend to quietly disappear without a bang.

This is really sad. We used to be rich in flora and fauna. Inexplicably, most of these conservation organisations prefer to blame the plantations for the loss of flora and fauna rather than the illegal (and purportedly legal; there is no limit to corruption in some places) loggers who plunder the forests.

It is, indeed, lucrative. Cilisos claims that we have an excellent forest management system, but I am less inclined to agree. The truth is, there has been significant deforestation due to logging and it did not involve palm plantations.

Tons of timber go to India, as there is massive demand there. You can't blame the Indians for buying them, but you can blame whoever has approved the ridiculous scale of logging: Taib Mahmud.

Now if there was a termite, an absolute pest, that could get away with anything, it's him. Sarawak Report has over 490 articles on him, so you can read for yourselves his shenanigans. It's not just about logging, it's about land appropriation as well. He doesn't just make wildlife homeless, he also destroys the homes of Sarawak's indigenous populations.

I particularly loathe the guy. He knows how to use all the resources at his fingertips to get away with his crimes. This includes getting the FBI of Seattle to become snivelling little puppy dogs and protect his domain. The FBI are the absolute sh!t.

Where now are the self-righteous protesters from Europe and America who want to "make a difference" and "take the moral high ground"? The truth is, it's just mere bullying; they think they can more easily take on less powerful South East Asian countries rather than the FBI. And then you wonder why it's so difficult to respect these people.

There is a nuance to this anti-palm-oil campaign though. Europe has voted to limit the amount of palm oil, soy, maize and other food crops to be used in biofuels. The problem is, policies to promote biofuels from crops – whether in Indonesia or Europe – are perverse and will continue to boost global carbon emissions.

We need to stop burning stuff to generate energy. We really do. There are other forms of renewable energy available like wind, water and sun. It's just a matter of developing the technology.

However, there is nothing wrong with growing and consuming palm oil. On a per hectare basis, oil palm trees are 6-10 times more efficient at producing oil than temperate oilseed crops such as rapeseed, soybean, olive and sunflower. The land management of palm plantations just needs to be improved, and thugs (particularly those in suits and ties) who (mis)appropriate land need to be jailed.

In the past, there were studies that claimed that palm oil was unhealthy for consumption, and that better alternatives were soy, almond and rapeseed. The truth is, palm oil is high in vitamins and good for cholesterol. Once the truth was made clear, the opponents of palm oil decided to go after the production of it instead of the content of the oil.

Clearly, this is an economic issue rather than a health or moral one.

I, for one, am not going to be suckered into this fear campaign over palm oil, but perhaps we should advocate more caution over biofuels and deforestation.