Friday, November 29, 2019

Borneo is Burning

If you search through your bathroom and kitchen cupboards you will almost certainly find a number of products which contain palm oil. Which means that you are indirectly responsible for the burning of the rain forests in South-East Asia. Palm oil is an ingredient in nearly half of all packaged products that you buy from your local supermarket. It can be found in pizzas, doughnuts, chocolate, shampoo, toothpaste and even in make-up.

85% of the world's palm oil comes from South-East Asia. This palm oil is produced by destroying the rain forests and the habitats of endangered species like the orangutan, the Sumatran rhino and the pygmy elephant. Which is why your consumption of palm oil is an environmental and natural tragedy.

In a special report, Borneo is Burning, CNN uses a story map format to explain how the consumption of palm oil is causing the destruction of Indonesia's rainforests. In order to clear land to grow oil palms farmers light illegal fires. And it isn't just the rainforests which are burning. This is a double whammy of an environmental crisis, because these fires are also destroying the peatlands that lie beneath the forests. Peatlands which are the world’s largest natural terrestrial carbon sink.

And it doesn't stop there. The illegal fires started by palm oil farmers has produced smoke which has spread across South-East Asia where it has affected the health of people living in Indonesia, Java, Singapore and Malaysia. This summer, in Indonesia alone, 920,000 people were treated for acute respiratory problems caused by the smoke from the burning of rainforests.

And we still haven't finished. By destroying the rainforests palm oil farmers are also destroying the natural habitats of orangutans and many other animal and plant species. In fact the scale of deforestation in Borneo means that the orangutan is now one of the most endangered species on the planet. Mainly so that we can have clean hair and eat crappy pizzas.

In 1973 three quarters of Borneo was covered by tropical forest. Since 1973 over one third of that forest has been lost due to industrial logging and the spread of industrial oil palm and pulpwood plantations. The Atlas of Deforestation and Industrial Plantations in Borneo shows where Borneo's tropical forests have been lost and the incredible scale of this continuing deforestation. The Atlas also visualizes the loss of rainforests in Papua.

So far the Papua region has managed to avoid the scale of destruction witnessed on the island of Borneo. However the government of Indonesia has now decided to accelerate infrastructure development in the Papua region. The Papua Atlas allows users to track the now accelerated rate of forest loss, plantation & mine development, and road construction in Papua.

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