Institution of Affiliation
The palm oil industry is one of the controversial options for cooking oil due to the destructive nature of the industry to both health and the environment (Azhar et al. 2017). Palm oil is an edible vegetable oil that is harvested from the African palm tree. Previously, the palm trees were found in Africa but due to the high demand for cooking oil, the value for the tree increased and this necessitated its massive and widespread plantations in various countries. Some of the continents to which the plants are currently found include North and South America and Asia especially Indonesia. The palm oil finds its use in various products ranging from edible to cosmetics, for example, it is found in bread and most of the processed foods as well as in makeups and soap. Despite finding widespread use in multiple fields, the palm oil remains to be controversial for various reasons.
Deforestation is one of the key reasons as to why the palm oil industries are bad. Between the year 1990 and 2008, palm oil production is estimated to have caused about 8% of the globe’s deforestation (Vijay et al. 2018). Palm oils do not grow by themselves in the plantations and this implies that they have to be planted. For plantations to be possible massive amounts of land needs to be prepared. Most of the lands to which the palm oil fields are grown are previously forests and this means that the forests need to be cleared to pave way for the plantations. Large acres of land that consists of natural forests are cleared and the land is left bare for the palm trees to be planted. The palm trees have a longer life duration that ranges from 28 to 30 years of production and this makes it a long time profit earning plant. However, as the year progresses, the plant grows tall and it reaches a point that the harvesting of the palm fruit is difficult. When this time comes, the palm trees are cut down to pave way for new plants and this cycle continues. More land is cleared for new plantations and in addition, the old plantations as well are destroyed and this leads to massive deforestations, clearing away the rain forests.
The palm oil is a massive project and this implies that large hectares of land is required to make the production effective. Finding such lands in a single geographical location is difficult and therefore the farmers do their best to attain such lands, especially in areas where the crop is estimated to do well. People are among the affected by the palm tree plantations as they suffer displacement as a result of forceful eviction from their original places where they called home. The original inhabitants are either forcefully evicted with no or little compensation and are left to find other places for settlements. Most of the people have their families and have invested largely on their pieces land but all of a sudden they are made refugees in their own land. With little compensation, it is difficult to move to a new settlement and settle fully as it takes time to adapt in a new habitat, far away from home. Thousands of people are displaced from the palm tree plantations and this makes the palm oil industries a controversial subject (Ardiyanti & Anwar, 2018).
Environmental pollution is yet another reason that makes the palm oil industries be referred to as bad (Parthasarathy et al. 2016). Forests are environmentally friendly and contribute a great deal in the maintenance of a self-sufficient ecosystem. Due to this, trees should be planted in abundance to enhance the cleaning of air and at the same time encourage the development of new species of trees and animals in the forests. However, this is not the case in the palm tree plantations. There are frequent logging to pave way for the new fields. The preparation of the new land includes burning of the targeted area and this has various impacts on the environment. Carbon dioxide is filtered by the trees and therefore, cutting them down means that the purification of air will be reduced. There is massive emission of the greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and this contributes to global warming. Besides logging, other strategies for clearing involves burning of the forests. Large amounts of carbon are released into the atmosphere in such cases and this means that it is a threat to maintaining a balanced ecosystem in the region. Carbon is harmful to both the environment and the people involved and therefore should be avoided as much as possible. Apart from the burning of the lands during preparation, most of the industries that are used to process palm oil still use non-renewable sources of energy such as coal which is known to emit huge amounts of carbon into the atmosphere. As previously stated, carbon is toxic and its production needs to be curbed, but this is not the case to the palm oil industries as they contributed heavily to the destruction of the environment through massive emission of carbon to the atmosphere.
Another ill associated with the palm tree plantations is the extinction of the wildlife (Petrenko, Paltseva & Searle, 2016). All the animals living in the biodiverse regions where the palm oil is to be prepared or has already been planted are at great risk of extinction. The deforestation causes the animals to lose their original habitats as they get displaces just like humans. During the production process, most of the animals in the region either get killed or injured for example the orangutans and the Sumatran tigers are among the most endangered species in these plantations. Other animal species that are on the verge of extinction include the Sumatran rhinoceros, clouded leopard, the sun bear as well as the elephants. The animals feeding on vegetation and to whom have their habitats in the rainforests are at a higher risk of extinction. The cutting down of trees also puts the animals exposed and at a greater risk of poaching. Illegal poaching contributes a large percentage of the extinction of the wildlife around the globe and this is not an exemption as the animals are already exposed. Most of the animal products such as the game meat, skins, hooves, and tusks are more valuable and a poacher will, therefore, pounce on unsuspecting animal ready to convert it to money. According to reports, most of the roads that are used for the transportation of the palm fruits and as well provide access to equipment and vehicles in the plantations as well acts as a throughway for the poachers, killing the Orangutans’ mothers and sell their siblings on the illegal wildlife markets. Some of the animals captured alive are sold as pets while others are forced to adapt to new environments such as orphanages and parks serving as tourist attraction animals. Other animals are killed due to human-animal conflict as they are found wandering into the villages in such for a better place as they flee the destruction in the forests.
Food security is another concern that arises from palm oil plantations (Balde et al. 2019). Most of the arable lands that can be used for the growth of food crops are replaced with the growth of large acres of palm trees that may take more than 30 years before being destroyed. The replacement of food crops with palm trees have a negative impact on food security. Despite the fact that cooking oil is profitable and that there are high demands for the product around the globe, food remains a major issue. With no food the population maybe weak and this means that they are prone to diseases and other malnutrition conditions. The replacement of the arable lands with cash crops means that a large population is exposed to starvation in the near future and thus will rely on food aid for their sustainment. Relying on food aid keeps a nation in a state of overdependence and may cost the nations a big lump sum in the importation of food. Most of the profits obtained on the palm oil, therefore, will be directed in the importation of food and other essentials that could rather be produced in the farms. It is, therefore, a controversial issue especially when one is left to choose between the palm oil production and its replacement with food crop to sustain the nation’s food security. A hungry state is unable to conduct its normal duties as the human resource personnel needs the energy to conduct their daily activities which may be halted by hunger. The palm oil production issue, therefore, needs to be looked into again to deliver the nations from crippling.
Health is the utmost goal of every individual in the globe. People need to live a healthy life that is free from injuries, pollution, and illnesses. However, this might not be the case with the people living and working in the palm tree plantations. During preparation, the forests are burnt down and there is a greater probability that people are used to igniting fires deep inside the forests. There are many dangers that may arise when a person is alone in the forest and this may include an attack by wild animals as well as get fried by the same fires they are starting. Besides, a person may get lost in the process and go untraced. During harvesting, the cases of injury may be highly prevalent in that people may be used to climb the tall palm oil trees to get the fruits (Qureshi et al. 2019). Climbing such heights without protective gears puts a person at the risks of death and injuries. It is very possible for a person to fell off a tree without climbing tools and this may maim the person thus putting a dot to their health. During processing, the highest dangers arise, people living around the processing industries may suffer many illnesses such as cancer and lung diseases that are as a result of the industrial chemicals and emissions into the air. Most of the effluents from the factories are discharged into the water sources polluting the water and thus puts the lives of the water users into greater risk. The presence of the palm oil industries is, therefore, a great deal to the health of the people working both in the fields and in the industries.
Labor is one of the factors of production and therefore is an essential component in the production of the palm oil. Right from stage one, human labor is required and this means that a lot of people are hired to provide labor to the plantations and industries. As it is the norm of businesses, making profits is the utmost issue and therefore a company will have to minimize its expenses to maximize the returns. Adult human labor is expensive and this can be attributed to their high bargaining powers. Children on the other side are on the receiving end as they have no bargain abilities. Children are contented with less amount of money as they have not known the real value for money. Due to this, most of the laborers in the farms are children as they are able to climb the trees with ease, follow instructions and above all, provide cheap labor. Most countries don’t have proper laws that prohibit the exploitation of children in the labor market. Indonesia, for example, has laws that protect child labor but the law stipulates that the minimum age is 15 years while those of ages 13-15 can perform minor tasks (Djone & Suryani, 2019). Age 15 is very low and these people are still minors and this implies that the government of Indonesia allows for child exploitation in the plantations which is child abuse.
The palm oil plantations have been helpful to many despite posing a significant threat to their lives. People living in poverty especially in the developing countries have greatly been assisted and this means despite the low wages and displacement, the locals are able to earn something even if not enough to fulfill their daily needs such as food and cloth purchases. Millions of small scale farmers have been provided with job opportunism and this has greatly assisted them to escape from poverty. Palm oil is the best type of vegetable oil to produce. The palm oil tree is a super-efficient crop and this implies that a lot of palm oil can be produced per area of land compared to other crops such as the soybean as the life expectancy for the tree is longer ranging from 28-30 providing more years of productivity.
Various solutions can be used to mitigate the current situation especially at this point where the demand for palm oil is expected to rise in the near future. Environmental pollution is one of the greatest challenges posed by the palm oil production and process due to the emission of carbon and its compounds to the atmosphere, leading to global warming effects due to increase in the level of greenhouse gases. To reduce environmental pollution, the processing industries need to adopt the use of renewable sources of energy such as electricity to avoid emitting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Another way that the industries can minimize pollution to the environment is through waste treatment before discharging it into the rivers to make less toxic and through this, they can help reduces illnesses among the populations as well as reduce the death of aquatic organisms that results from industrial discharge.
Child labor laws need to be strengthened, increasing the age of eligibility to 18 years and above as the age of 15 makes it possible for the plantations to exploit the children as they provide cheap labor. Intercropping is another solution that can be applied to reduce hunger incidences. Taking in mind that large hectares of land are put under palm oil production alone, a large number of people may be on the verge of starvation and to minimize this, food crop farming should be advocated. Food crop farming can be done either through intercropping or the government may set aside certain pieces of land for food crops to make sure that the nation does not suffer hunger.
Deforestation has been another major challenge that has seen the displacement of people and animals from the initial habitats. To prevent further deforestations, the government should enact laws that clearly stipulates the necessities for land being put into palm oil plantation. Some of the laws may include having a certain amount of land planted with trees while the other with the cash crop. Besides, the government should discourage clearing of the fields through burning as it contributes to the emission of carbon in the atmosphere and encourages safer methods of clearing, to as well preserve the ecosystem as minimal species will be lost. Concerning the wildlife issue, the government should institute laws that require government notification of a certain piece of land potential for farming to make an assessment to see to it whether it should be used for farming or left out to the wild.
ReferencesArdiyanti, D., & Anwar, A. (2018). The Dilemma of Human Security on Palm Oil Plantation in Indonesia. Jurnal Hubungan Internasional, 7(1), 60-68.
Azhar, B., Saadun, N., Prideaux, M., & Lindenmayer, D. B. (2017). The global palm oil sector must change to save biodiversity and improve food security in the tropics. Journal of environmental management, 203, 457-466.
Balde, B. S., Diawara, M., Rossignoli, C. M., & Gasparatos, A. (2019). Smallholder-based oil palm and rubber production in the forest region of Guinea: An exploratory analysis of household food security outcomes. Agriculture, 9(2), 41.
Djone, R. R., & Suryani, A. (2019). Child workers and inclusive education in Indonesia. International Education Journal: Comparative Perspectives, 18(1), 48-65.
Parthasarathy, S., Mohammed, R. R., Fong, C. M., Gomes, R. L., & Manickam, S. (2016). A novel hybrid approach of activated carbon and ultrasound cavitation for the intensification of palm oil mill effluent (POME) polishing. Journal of cleaner production, 112, 1218-1226.
Petrenko, C., Paltseva, J., & Searle, S. (2016). Ecological impacts of palm oil expansion in Indonesia. Washington (US): International Council on Clean Transportation.
Qureshi, S. S., Nizamuddin, S., Baloch, H. A., Siddiqui, M. T. H., Mubarak, N. M., & Griffin, G. J. (2019). An overview of OPS from oil palm industry as feedstock for bio-oil production. Biomass Conversion and Biorefinery, 1-15.
Vijay, V., Reid, C. D., Finer, M., Jenkins, C. N., & Pimm, S. L. (2018). Deforestation risks posed by oil palm expansion in the Peruvian Amazon. Environmental Research Letters, 13(11), 114010.