Robert Steury

Undergraduate Researcher - Microbial and Molecular Pathgenesis, University of Oregon Institute of Ecology and Evolution

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How do we justify consumption of palm oil? What can we do to stop palm oil companies from destroying the African rainforest?

The Consequences of the Palm Oil Industry and African Primates

Primate communities in the African rainforest provide many ecosystem services and they are a critical source of protein for rural human populations. But primates are severely threatened by many activities including logging, development, agriculture, and overhunting for bushmeat and trophies. Rural Africans have little power (less than 2% of the rainforest is publically owned) over land that is increasingly sold to private companies by their governments.

Government of Cameroon recently offered Herakles Farms the use of 300 square miles of rainforest land at 50 cents per hectare per year, with exemptions; it even gave the company the power to "search, apprehend, detain, exclude, and evict” anyone trespassing on their leased land. The American corporation that promised to build sustainable development for local villages in the region started building roads and nurseries before any agreements were official. After 13 months, villagers realized Herakles didn't live up to their promises, so they seized the company’s equipment and nurseries. Now they await their government’s decision whether to allow Herakles to proceed or not. If Harakles’s oil palm plantation is allowed to proceed, it will majorly impact 45,000 indigenous people in 88 villages.

Africa is the next prime target of palm oil development. If this happens, Africa will likely experience the same fate as Asia in regards to deforestation and primate decimation. So, why palm oil? Palm oil is primarily used for household products. It’s farmed due to its low cost, superior production, low space requirements, and the promise of generating jobs. However, in light of the social and ecological impacts of palm oil farms in Africa, should these justifications satisfy consumers of palm oil products? Can consumers make decisions (e.g. petitions and product research) that will empower the indigenous peoples of Africa and protect the remaining biodiversity?

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    May 30 2013: I wrote a paper in a conservation bio class I took last year about palm oil plantations on Borneo. Indonesia and Malaysia provide 86% of the world's supply of palm oil with Indonesia being the world's main supplier. Here is a National Geographic article about deforestation in Borneo with an emphasis on palm oil plantations and orangutans. http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2008/11/borneo/white-text/1

    Here is a link to the photo gallery as well. It tends to make more of an impact when you can actually see the devastation. http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2008/11/borneo/klum-photography

    Here is a specific paragraph from the article I find interesting. It talks about the perspective of the locals: "When Meijaard spends time in villages discussing the choice between forest conservation and oil palm plantations, he never mentions orangutans. "People get bored with that in five minutes. To them it's just another monkey in a tree that Western people want to come and look at. But if I talk to them about fish in the rivers or pigs in the forest, then they pay attention, because those are resources they can harvest from the forest."

    Robert or Ryan: Do the locals around the Ivory Coast in Africa have the same view as those from Borneo?
    By same view I mean how do they view the local monkeys and apes? I believe a really important step in conservation is educating the locals on how important it is to conserve their natural setting while still allowing them to the freedom to harvest the resources they need.
    • May 30 2013: Thanks Laurel. I read the article and viewed the photos. The notion that "hungry people can't appreciate nature" or that "an orangutan is just another monkey" are not views that I encountered in my limited research. However, Ryan did his research in Tai National Park. He may have a first hand sense of this through talking with locals. I think that the Red Colobus in Ivory Coast is the best analogy for the chimpanzee in Borneo. Hopefully Ryan comments on this.
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      May 30 2013: I think the people in Ivory Coast feel the same way because they are not interested in primates for their aesthetic value, but they like what the forest has to offer them in the way of resources. The issue there is, they have never been educated on sustainable practices so most do not have any concept of extinction. Many people claim that when an area appears depleted of monkeys that the monkeys have simply "moved to another part of the forest". I do believe there could be ways to allow locals to utilize the forest, but we need to educate the people and also establish a system, which great management, to ensure sustainable practices are followed.
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        May 31 2013: Well, I tried really hard to find it but there was an article I once read about a country with a large population of endangered sea turtles in which a program was set up to teach the locals about how important conservation of the turtles was. The program was intended not only for education but if I remember correctly, it created paying jobs for the locals to protect the turtles in different ways (educate tourists, patrol the beaches, etc.) It ended up working really well and I believe they were able to stop the population decline. I'm sorry for the vagueness. If anyone knows the article/program I am talking about please post it!
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          May 31 2013: Well in cases where the community is educated and actively engaged you can see successful conservation results.

          http://www.developmentprogress.org/sites/developmentprogress.org/files/resource_document/namibia_environment_widlife_conservation.pdf

          Constant evaluation is also necessary to ensure conservation goals are met and the socio-economic benefits remain for those involved.
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          May 31 2013: In conservation bio we learned that the more you can involve local inhabitants into a plan, the more likely it is to be successful. It is nice to see a real example of where this is being implemented and the positive results that have come from it.

          However, it looks like the Namibian government played a big role in the success of this process. Do you think the government of Cameroon will be as likely to have the same interest in benefiting its citizens and wildlife?
      • May 31 2013: Perhaps not. Historically resource rich countries do not always follow sustainable growth plans in the interest of personal enrichment which often leads to corruption in the government and further explotation of natural resources without regard to the long term impact.
        http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/economics-blog/2012/aug/06/africa-natural-resources-economic-curse

        If the government of Cameroon supports the Herakles Farms against the wishes of the locales in the area who have since halted the development of such plantations. This would then suggest that a bigger problem of needing to work with the government of Cameroon to explain the short term benefit versus long term losses the country may experience if they uphold such a contract. Other African countries such as Botswana have renegotiated contracts with private (in this case mining) companies:

        http://www.un.org/africarenewal/magazine/april-2009/mining-profit-africa%E2%80%99s-people

        I think it is important to help countries such as Cameroon in assessing the value of its natural resources to the benefit of all in its borders (wildlife included) to help it develop in a more sustainable matter so that this concept of "Resource Curse" dissipates
        :
        http://www.wto.org/english/res_e/publications_e/wtr10_forum_e/wtr10_moran_e.htm
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      May 30 2013: Hi Laurel- Wow, you're right, those pictures are really powerful. thanks for posting the link.

      On a brighter note, while I was researching for our presentation I came across some information about collaborative efforts to protect wildlife in Sarawak, Borneo.
      They have been developing what is known as the "Master Plan For Wildlife in Sarawak", and it includes dedicating more land to protected areas, educational programs, and regulating shot gun cartridge availability and wildlife transport in logged areas.

      Here's a link to a brief summary of it. It talked about hunting and logging, but unfortunately I didn't see anything about palm oil regulations or reductions
      http://borneo.live.radicaldesigns.org/article.php?id=195
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    May 29 2013: One thing that I really didn't think about in relation to palm oil is its use as a bio-fuel. Palm oil can be used to make biodiesel which is increasing in demand around the globe. An interesting point was mentioned on this greenpeace site http://www.greenpeace.org.uk/forests/palm-oil that the efforts to reduce carbon emissions by using biodiesel in the form of palm oil might be harm the environment more than using fossil fuels.
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    May 31 2013: Hi

    Stop using Palm Oil.
    • May 31 2013: Simple, right?
      • May 31 2013: To help give people clues as what to look for here are a few links:

        http://www.wwf.org.au/our_work/saving_the_natural_world/forests/palm_oil/fact_sheet/

        http://www.saynotopalmoil.com/palm-oil.php

        http://www.palmoilaction.org.au/downloads/palmOilShoppingGuide.pdf

        http://www.nbcnews.com/id/49466740/ns/rock_center_with_brian_williams/t/products-palm-oil/#.Uake4UC1HAQ

        FYI the fact Nutella is on this list makes me really sad in light of this little factoid from the WWF website (see the link above):

        "Q. How much land/forest is cleared every year for oil palm plantations?
        A. It has been suggested that up to 300 football fields of forest are cleared every hour. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) acknowledges that in Malaysia and Indonesia the main driver for this rainforest destruction is the development of oil palm plantations.
        Yet, there are approximately 300–700 million hectares of abandoned land globally that could potentially be used for oil palm plantations, 20 million hectares of which is in Indonesia alone."

        I am in favor of consumers empowering/pressuring companies to seek out SUSTAINABLE ways produce/harvest palm oil and that may be in part be done through educating consumers. Consumers have power in numbers and it is true that you vote with your choices in products to purchase. Yes, some people may not change their shopping habits but PETA for example as mentioned already in this TED conversation has shifted peoples awareness and as a result preferences for fur products changed. Demand for products is driven in by consumers preferences for products and companies respond accordingly.
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    May 29 2013: To understand why we justify it.
    You need to learn a little bit about "Cognitive Dissonance", or about (social) psychology!
    Here's a great book on the matter :
    "Mistakes Were Made (but Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions and Hurtful Acts"
    http://www.amazon.com/Mistakes-Were-Made-But-Not/dp/0156033909
    However it is worth mentioning that I view it is probably because the trees aren't viewed as human (nor conscious creatures), so we (some may view that) don't have much of a moral duty towards them. Another possibility is that we are more "present orientated", rather than "future orientated" so we don't see the harm in doing something which may harm us in the future. Another being that there is probably a conflict of interest considering that we have made a system where people get paid for such acts, and that you can gain more money quickly by exploiting it. Therefore there is a sense of "conformity" to group norms (regarding capitalism).
    There are a diversity of reasons as to why...
    • May 30 2013: The book you suggested looks relevant. Makes me recall the Prisoners Dilemma, http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/prisoner-dilemma/
      This game theory describes how individuals faced with the choice between liberating themselves now at the expense of everyone later will trump the choice to make a small personal sacrifice, which if all players reciprocate leads to liberation for all players eventually. This sad paradox is what happens in situations where the greed of a few overarches the struggle of many. It's the notion that, someone is going to exploit palm oil, so I might as well be that one even if no one else benefits and there is no rainforest.

      Another part of this is that the generations that will we be hurt most are not yet living (our grands). So it harder to feel a moral obligation to someone who does not yet exist than it is to feel morally obligated to oneself or children who are hungry today.
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        May 30 2013: I agree.
        However it is worth noting that humans do (sometimes) not have the "willpower" (or motivation) to do what is right and good. Considering this can be observed in many studies. Take the "Obedience experiment by Stanley Milgram". No one thought they were capable, yet 90% did it.
        I take this with regards to the environment. Many preach about how we "should" help (sorry to personify) the environment, yet many actually do! Yet I am willing to stand corrected on this point.
        I believe a TED Talk (which may help) is :
        "Dan Ariely: Beware conflicts of interest"
        http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_ariely_beware_conflicts_of_interest.html
        Also (if you don't mind) this also may be worth the watch :
        "RSA Animate - The Truth About Dishonesty"
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XBmJay_qdNc
        With these it might give you a good idea as to why people may exploit the environment, and still think they are the good guys... (A long with that book I told you about!)
        Hope I helped!
        Kind regards,
        Bernard.
        • May 30 2013: I watched both the TED talk and the Animate. Dan's point about our actions being shaded by incentives, incentives that are constructed by social structure, is a very valid perspective regarding the palm oil question. Thank you for sharing this Bernard!

          I also read a bit about the social psych theory of cognitive dissonance. If I understand it correctly, this theory posits that when we find ourselves deciding between our value system and wanting for something, we alter reality in our minds in a way that allows us to rationalize taking what we want, despite much evidence that doing so is against our value system. Often this involves intentionally avoiding being educated about how the thing we want goes against our values.
          To illustrate, I'll tell on myself. I ate a Girl Scout cookie. Because I thought it looked yummy and it would help little girls get patches on their uniforms. Mounting evidence suggests that the ingredients in these cookies are bad for me. Further, the environments and people in the regions from which these ingredients come (including palm oil) are threatened by this. I was able to slide these facts that go against my value system under the rug by justifying eating a cookie on the grounds that my wife bought them, not me, The cookie was not tasty and afterward I felt guilty and sick to my stomach. However, I can't promise that it won't happen again.
  • May 29 2013: Here a link to a video that better describes the situation in Cameroon. It is a 20 minute movie that documents the perspective of villagers in the area affected by Herakles plan. It's entitled, "The Herakles Debacle."

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EgrFvayJhE0
  • May 31 2013: Can consumers make decisions (e.g. petitions and product research) that will empower the indigenous peoples of Africa and protect the remaining biodiversity?

    You know what the simple answer is NO.

    It's been the same since diamond mining, yet people still use them for engagement and wedding rings.
    It's been the same since gold mining, yet people use them for adornments to make them look pretty.
    It's been the same since oil mining, yet people use them for outdated and inefficient modes and of transport, let alone the makeup they use to make themselves look pretty.
    It's been the same since metals mining, yet people still get their iphones and accessories, with wanton disregard.

    And palm oil, is just another in a litany of minerals that have been 'mined' from Africa with no regard for the biodiversity, which conversely and ironically may be our salvation, as nearly all drugs to all diseases are first synthesized from plant life.

    But it's all about making money, and only when we realize that there is something more valuable than that, will we never change.
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      May 31 2013: Well said Tify. Sadly, we often don't see the value in something until it is gone. I think a big part of the problem is that there are just too many people. So any positive impact that comes from responsible consumerism is still off set by large masses of people that are not aware a problem exists.
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      May 31 2013: If you haven't checked it out already, the TED talk that Robert provided by Jason Clay offers a hopeful approach, by focusing on increasing the sustainability of production in 100 large companies instead of consumerism. While it is still focused around these companies being able to continue making money, it did appear to have some promise for decreasing the loss of biodiversity and forest degradation. I found it really interesting.
    • May 31 2013: Tify, you may find it ironic that in the National Geographic's coverage of Chimpanzee conservation in Borneo, the reporter ends her rant against palm oil and deforestation by stating that the solution is to get a hypothetical future Bornean boy an iphone. Because he is entitled to one after enduring all the abuse from palm oil companies. I found it to outrageous!

      http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2008/11/borneo/white-text/1
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    • May 30 2013: Thanks for the point LaMar.
      You prompted me to do a bit of digging on outreach programs presently active in this area. To my delight I found several on short order, here are couple of major outreach organizations in this area:
      http://redapes.org/
      http://www.orangutan.org/

      Nestle caves to pressure from activists: http://news.mongabay.com/2010/0517-hance_nestle.html
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      May 30 2013: Actually a personal consequence of buying palm oil is adding to climate change. While most of us won't suffer immediately like those that live in the habitat, the clearing and burning of forest for palm oil plantations contributes to increasing CO2 emissions which affects everyone worldwide.
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        • May 30 2013: LaMar, your point about product replacement may be valid where consumer choice is concerned. One of my concerns in raising this question was that people all empathize differently, so how do I capture a broad audience? For instance, while one person may feel more compelled to save primates, another may be more concerned about climate change or indigenous people's rights. My hope was that was that we could address a general theme playing out in the world. That is that criminal exploitation of resources for products that are not necessary, are occurring today at the expense of all creatures both today and tomorrow. And if we value all creatures and life in general, how is it that we justify destroying that for some crap product with corn, soy, or palm , etc. as filler in it? Are we inherently bad? Or are we capable of justifying just about any decision we make, despite our value system? Chances are, most of us intrinsically don't want everything beautiful and ecologically valuable to die. But, we do want soap, butter, and fuel. So why do we avoid educational information, go against our values and make these choices?
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          May 30 2013: Hi LaMar,
          I think that Nick's comment supports your original point about education and promoting awareness with media.

          While some people are very detached from where their food comes from, there are others that try to be conscience consumers, and more information is becoming available about how food affects our carbon foot print. So, some people might actually be able to connect palm oil to climate change, and begin to actively exclude it from our diets.

          this is an article about a restaurant that just opened in NY with carbon counts on its menu, and I know they have been doing this for some time now in Sweden
          Carbon Footprints, Life Cycle Analysis, Food Miles: Global Trade Trends and Market Issues
          http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/04/080421161338.htm

          As for corn, we have to choose our battles. At least this shift to Oregon is US farmers effecting their own environment, and it can be better regulated. Herakles is a US company trying to exploit a resource in a foreign country while displacing many local people. I have a larger problem with that.

          and why not cut down consumption of both?
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          May 30 2013: I don't think palm oil would simply be replaced. Palm oil is one of the few crops that are grown successfully over the long term in the tropics because it is a tropical tree. Many other crops do not grow well in tropical climates over the long run because the nutrients in the soil were tied up in the rainforest. When the forest is loss, the nutrients are lost, which forces farmers to seek new land after only a few crop seasons.
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          May 31 2013: yeah I agree, shifting profits from one corporation to another is no way to solve a problem, and your skepticism is definitely warranted. I feel like the more I learn about where our food comes from, and what corporations have their fingers in, the more I am in disbelief or outraged. I am lucky to finally have the opportunity to live in a home with a garden, and am excited to learn and start growing some of my own food!

          I am not holding the megaphone, but I am definitely trying to be more responsible about the resources I utilize and the products I purchase.
          Every little bit helps right
          ....and yeah the US is not doing a good of leading by example, could we ratify they Kyoto treaty already!
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          May 31 2013: The focus of this problem is the protection of endangered wildlife, not a vendetta against one company. Simply search palm oil crisis in Asia and you will come across dozens if not hundreds of articles depicting what has happened to the wildlife there. The expansion of large companies into Africa to develop palm oil plantations is relatively new, but starting to increase. Fortunately, there were some NGO's and researchers working in this region that were made aware of the plans to develop the palm oil plantation in the beginning. Through much research, they were able to understand the background of Herakles and their owners, as well as monitor the "promises" they were making to local people to see whether they followed through on them.

          As far as the other comments, I think that many of these large, wealthy countries are hypocritical. But understand that often the voices that are seeking change from these countries in Africa or Asia aren't the governments but the NGO's operating within them.
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          May 31 2013: Well not to mention that corn is subsidized by the government. http://cornsubsidies.com/ I don't disagree with your comments about biofuel, but corn is also used in a lot of foods as high fructose corn syrup, and like palm oil, companies try to find ways to incorporate it into their over-processed foods in order to increase shelf life and include cheap ingredients. If corn wasn't subsidized so heavily you can imagine that farmers would grow other crops and maybe corn wouldn't be utilized so much in process foods. And instead of feeding our cows corn (http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/pubs/ansci/beef/as1238.pdf) we should focus on natural diets.
  • May 29 2013: As if there was any doubt about the ecological impact of oil palm plantations in Cameroon, here is an open letter from 11 scientists and professionals from around the world, explicitly describing the negative impacts. This letter includes an endorsement from Paul R. Ehrlich, Ph.D.Bing Professor of Population Studies and President of the Center for Conservation Biology at Stanford University, California, USA.

    An Open Letter about the Environmental and Social Impacts of a Massive Oil Palm Development in Cameroon.
    http://www.scribd.com/doc/85383092/Scientists-Letter-on-the-Herakles-Farms-Proposed-Oil-Palm-Plantation-in-Cameroon
  • May 29 2013: The trouble is that companies like Herakles Farm falsely market and publicly campaign to apparently meet sustainability criteria. In this way they get past governmental red tape. Once having gained a foothold on the land and once having formed a trust with community members, these companies quickly clear land and install plantations with little to no regard for the verbal agreements they make with people. These people generally do not understand legal processes and are naturally blindsided by this.

    Here are links to the companies owned by the same entrepreneur, Bruce Wrobel, who owns Herakles Farm.

    Herakles Farms Website http://heraklesfarms.com/

    Herakles Farms is partnered with the nonprofit, All for Africa, which funds projects focused on agriculture, clean water, community health, education, energy, environmental impact, micro-financing and skills training/livelihood creation.

    All For Africa Website http://www.allforafrica.org/

    In viewing these websites, it is plain that many would and have been persuaded by this cunning.

    Bruce and his associates also operate Sithe Global, a multinational conglomerate that is responsible for the controversial $860 million Bujagali Hydroelectric Project on the Nile River in Uganda and SEACOM, East Africa's first international fiber-optic connection to the rest of the world. They have been at this game for thirty years and have mastered their approach.
    Sithe Global Website http://www.sitheglobal.com/

    Herakles Farm is not some non-prof eco-entrepreneurial company with intentions of sustainability and partnership with community members, this is a world economic power that seeks to generate more profit for its stakeholders, a priori.
    • May 31 2013: On the link you provided, allforafrica.org, there is an “open letter” from Bruce Wrobel, the CEO of Herakles Farms in response to the Oakland Institute’s September 2012 report. Much of the letter is devoted to talking up Herakles Farm and its partners, or trying to discredit those who oppose them. Wrobel repeatedly calls himself and his supporters environmentalists but doesn’t demonstrate many ways in which they have supported environmental causes. That, however, does not seem to be their mission. They are supposedly more concerned with helping combat the problem of poverty. He provides examples of when Herakles Capital has helped struggling communities by providing access to modern technology and stimulating economic growth. Herakles farms is, according to Wrobel, already an economic boon for the people and he disputes the claim that they do not have public support. However, this letter smacks of a public relations effort.

      He address the environmental impact the plantation would have, saying that they conducted studies and did impact assessments in the area to determine how to proceed in an environmentally friendly way (I have a feeling these were not peer-reviewed studies). He also notes that the wildlife parks surrounding the area have not provided the local economy with the promised tourism income, and that poaching in these parks is a huge problem fueled by this reality of scarce economic opportunity. He argues that Herakles Farms will bring in revenue that can be used to better serve the parks.

      I do think Wrobel, whatever his true motivation, raised some interesting points in this letter that should be given more thought by both sides. I think social causes are often not given proper consideration by environmentalists and vice versa. A solution cannot be sustainable until both human and environmental needs are met in some way. The hard part is figuring out how.
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        May 31 2013: One thing to understand Chelsea, is that if you clear the forests to make way for palm oil and bring in money for the people (not all will benefit - see Borneo and Sumatra), people lose farm land. There is little evidence to show that people will not stop hunting simply because some people have jobs. Having jobs plus farms and alternative forms of protein will be the key. For example, in Rwanda tourism to see mountain gorillas has brought in millions of dollars to the country, but hunting and deforestation are still an issue because everyone does not benefit. Herakles will not benefit everyone, they are engaged in an industry that has shown very little ability to prevent negative environment effects. Another point about the wildlife is that with hunting so rampant in the national parks, to eliminate the adjacent forest areas would only exacerbate the hunting pressures in the national park. These companies stand to make 100's of millions if not billions, so if they care about the environment like they claim, front the money to ensure protection in those areas and that all the sustainability requirements will be met. The thing is they haven't and they won't because they will say what they want to get their cheap land contracts. For more on this, feel free to talk with Josh Linder at JMU. He's a primatologist who works in this region and has been dealing with Herakles every step of the way.
        • May 31 2013: Those are great points. It’s also true that the problem with the jobs provided by outside corporations or tourism are not necessarily permanent. If the demand for palm oil goes down and the money dries up, or if some event occurs where tourists are no longer interested in visiting that country, the people would be stranded and their land would now be unusable.
  • May 29 2013: Here is quote from the Oakland Institute with GreenPeace that introduces a comprehensive report on the ordeal, " From its very name, American-owned SG Sustainable Oils Cameroon, Ltd. (SGSOC) presents a pro-environment, pro-resources image. This is supported by an impressive-sounding partnership with an NGO by the name of All for Africa and as a package typifies the kind of convoluted modern-day foreign investment going on in Africa. It is sadly all too familiar to communities on the ground. They are unimpressed with promises of infrastructure and jobs, and angry about their loss of land and livelihoods. It is also part of a strategy to deceive the public into believing that there is logic to cutting down rainforests to make room for palm oil plantations."

    Here is the link to the actual report about the deal (PDF):

    http://www.oaklandinstitute.org/sites/oaklandinstitute.org/files/Land_deal_brief_herakles.pdf
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    May 29 2013: http://news.mongabay.com/2013/0523-herakles-halted.html

    Here is an article that briefly mentions the halting of palm oil production in this area.

    Had the stipulations been enforced the people could have received some benefit, while biodiversity would be lost. While jobs and potential "sustainable development" may occur, what often occurs in these situations is the land is sold for cheap to foreign companies. The revenue from the land benefits the government and people are often removed from their land because they need the forest and/or farmland to grow palm oil. Often, people are no longer able to use the forest or maintain their normal lifestyle when palm oil plantations clear the forest (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OrCqjtpJxOc). The government in this case, as in many cases, made this decision to sell the land not on the best interests of the people, but in the best interests for themselves because of the money they would have made from Herakles.

    While bringing jobs to a region is great, clear cutting a large swath of rainforest will result in biodiversity loss and disrupted ecosystem service, while exacerbating the effects of climate change and pollution. Herakles claimed that their palm oil development would be sustainable and not harm the environment, yet their operation would occur adjacent to a large national park (Korup) where many endangered primate species occur. Primates, and other wildlife, don't exist solely in national parks and need adjacent forests to disperse into for gene flow to occur between populations. Deforesting 300 square miles of rainforest will severely impact the primates of Korup even though they are not directly losing their habitat.
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    • May 29 2013: There are examples in other countries where oil palm farming is done in a "sustainable" manner. In Malaysia, for instance, governments, NGOs, and communities have formed partnerships that make conservation of biodiversity, provisions for local communities, and profit all bottom lines.

      https://americanpalmoil.com/pdf/enviromental/Palm%20Oil%20Production%20Through%20Sustainable%20Plantations.pdf

      There are things we all, individually, can do help solve this problem. We can select our consumables wisely, we can sign petitions, we can join activist efforts, and we can educate other people on this situation. These efforts, though, seemingly ineffective, actually do work. For example, Green Peace in conjunction with other smaller activist organizations put enough of the right pressure on the right people resulting in the control of the oil palm farming methods used by Nestle Company. The following article describes this process:

      The Relationship Between Sustainable Supply Chain Management, Stakeholder Pressure and Corporate Sustainability Performance.
      http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10551-012-1603-0#page-1
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      May 30 2013: I think at this point we are at the maximum amount of rainforest lost. With climate change, pollution, and biodiversity loss occurring at alarming rates, it is not practical to discuss allowing more rainforest to be cleared. The conversation should focus on how to preserve current forest, restore previously forested habitats, reduce demand for products that drive deforestation, and limit population growth. It will be important for future projects to work with local people and highlight the value of the conservation/preservation work they are trying to perform. The emphasis in the long run though needs to focus on how we will protect these areas and how we will compensate people for their land, in order to provide alternatives to logging or clearing for palm oil plantations.
      http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/dec/30/ecuador-paid-rainforest-oil-alliance
      THis article discusses how people have come together previously to try and protect a fragile ecosystem. This model should be copied but supported by larger, more wealthy companies as well as top NGO's. This shift in strategy may be the best way for preserving our rainforests and biodiversity.
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    May 29 2013: As you study this area, Robert, are you saying that the government of Cameroon agreed to a plan that would have made sense for the people were the stipulations of the contract enforced, but they have not been?
    • May 29 2013: The government contractually agreed to give Herakles a license to kill the people of Cameroon.

      "The power that the government has bestowed upon Herakles denies the Indigenous Peoples of this region the right to free movement on ancestral lands as guaranteed to them in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the African Charter of Human and Peoples Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, to which Cameroon is a signatory. The local people are claiming their rights are being violated and ask for the voice of the international community to join theirs in urging decision-makers to listen."

      Oakland Institute with GreenPeace