So if we’ve already mentioned a few of these harms, you’ll pardon the repetition because when it comes to the environmental evils associated with oil palm plantations when they are not planted sustainably – well we cannot stress enough just how bad they are.

And trust me, it was NOT easy to limit this list to 6.

Indigenous protest in Sarawak.Credit: Borneo Project

Indigenous protest in Sarawak (One of the two Malaysian states on the island of Borneo). Credit: Borneo Project

1. Land Grabbing – Tens of millions of people rely on rainforests and peatlands for their livelihoods. A land grab is when a company directly or indirectly pressures or outright takes land belonging to the local peoples to plant palm oil plantations. This is often done through threats of violence and more often, actual violence. There have been countless cases of land disputes escalating between plantation companies and local villagers.

2. Animals Killed, Habitats DestroyedDay 1 and Day 11 have probably told you all you wanted to know (and probably didn’t want to know) about  the animals whose homes are destroyed when forests and peatlands are cleared to make way for oil palm plantations.

3. Droughts and Floods – Peatlands are great storage areas for water, and help regulate the water levels of surrounding areas.  For example when there is flooding, water can overflow into these swamps, and during droughts, peatlands act like reservoirs and slowly release water into surrounding areas. So when peatlands are cleared to grow oil palm trees, they lose all of these amazing qualities. As a result, the surrounding lands, wildlife and people who rely on this peatland suffer!

4.  Peatlands Destroyed Can No Longer Feed Local Communities –  Not to mention the other uses of these areas is lost as well. Peatlands benefit local communities when they are kept standing because of: money from tourism, sustainable forestry, harvesting of forest products that aren’t timber (like fruits, nuts etc), and they are also a great source for fisheries. All of these activities are not possible once these areas are cleared and dried to make way for plantations.

5. Global Warming – Call it what you want: Climate Change, Carbon Pollution, the Whole Earth Heating etc. If peatlands are dried and then possibly burned, this means that the huge amounts of carbon that are stored in their soils (Go to Day 5 to see the Numbers) go straight back into the atmosphere. Carbon Dioxide is one of those  greenhouse gases which traps heat, causes changes in our Earth’s atmosphere, and can be directly linked to things such as: desertification, extreme weather events, sea level rise, ocean acidification, increases in temperature resulting in animal species extinction, we could go on but do we really need to to convince you it’s not a good thing?

6. Rampant Fires As we shared with you on Day 3, sometimes fires are set because it is a cheaper way to clear the land without using a bulldozer. If they aren’t set on fire on purpose, once these lands are drained, they are more likely to catch fire from lightning, which results in massive wildfires that destroy surrounding peatlands and forests, and kill hundreds and thousands of animals living on these lands. This is already a big problem in Southeast Asia, as forest and land fires kill an additional 15,000 people every year  – a lot of this is because there is so much smoke polluting the air which causes a lot of lung and heart problems.


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