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Indybay Feature
Consumers Demand Action Against Conflict Palm Oil
by Tomas DiFiore
Tuesday Jan 26th, 2016 3:15 PM
Lend your support and learn from “Kids Cut Palm Oil is an international group of school students who want to see an end to the destruction of our forests. We want this destruction to stop killing critically endangered animals. We want the destruction to stop because it is killing people, and leading to tremendous global carbon emissions that have never been seen before on this scale. We know how to stop it. We can stop it. And we will stop it. We can challenge this by becoming educated on the issue and boycotting products containing conflict palm oil.” (Green School in Bali, Indonesia - Green Generation)
Consumers Demand Action Against Conflict Palm Oil

It may have been the over production and surplus of palm oil by 2011, or competitive oil seed agricultural production, that began what has become, an extended commodity market price collapse for palm oil.

Some would say it was the combined world outcry, boycotts and consumer actions, innumerable uprisings by peasant farmer organizations and Indigenous cultures, global protests, lawsuits and human rights statements signed by civil society groups and International NGOs, along with campaigns focused on key players which pressured the industry's largest businesses and governments of producing countries since 2000 - that has helped to sustain the extended commodity market price collapse for palm oil.

Commitment To Continue Deforestation To 2030

The rapid emergence of zero-deforestation commitments within the industry in the period 2013-2015 was encouraged by effective NGO campaigns and is a reaction to the sense of urgency consumers feel about saving the remaining tropical rainforests. The RSPO sustainability standards weren't working. Thus, the zero-deforestation commitments emerged, culminating in the New York Declaration on Forests in September 2014, when a number of governments also committed to end natural forest loss by 2030.

No Deforestation, No Peatlands Development, No Exploitation - NDPE

“So, the idea of the New York Declaration on Forests came from a meeting of the world’s highly privileged elites in Davos. The draft came from Climate Advisers, a Washington-based consulting firm headed by the man who “spearheaded” the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility. Nigel Purvis, head honcho at Climate Advisers, gets paid US$639 per hour for his work promoting REDD. The targets for stopping deforestation are weak. And somehow everyone forgot to ask Brazil.”

The New York Declaration though, “is a voluntary non-legally binding, political declaration. There are no sanctions for countries or companies that are in breach of the declaration. Greenpeace did not sign on. The idea of the New York Declaration on Forests came from a meeting of the world’s highly privileged elites. The draft came from Climate Advisers, a Washington-based consulting firm headed by the man who spearheaded the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility.”

NDPE, and The Humble Beginnings Of The Zero Deforestation Myth

"Seventy-five percent of all palm oil will be produced responsibly, and it means that 75 percent of all the palm oil produced will be grown without cutting down rainforests.” (Fall 2014)

One year later (Fall 2015) “Ninety-six percent of global oil palm production now falls under a no-deforestation commitment.” It all happened so fast. Additional information from the time period: “Overall, since their highest point in February 2011 at $1,248.55 per metric ton, global palm oil prices had dropped approximately 47% by summer 2014.”

In “Zero-deforestation Commitments In Indonesia” published by CIFOR November 2015 it is explained that: “The concept of zero-deforestation commitments can essentially be understood in two different ways.” 1) Strict and generalized commitments by companies along the supply chain lead to verifiable indicators of no deforestation for commodity production; 2) severe deforestation events are gradually removed from the supply chain, at least for the main actors.

“The first approach implies that consensually agreed methodologies are systematically applied on the ground in order to avoid any loss of forest cover, which ultimately leads to a halt to deforestation for agricultural development. It relies on methods such as High Carbon Stock (HCS) or High Carbon Value (HCV) in order to actually define a forest and what should in turn be protected from development. The second approach provides a vision of a world where agricultural expansion would spare the most valuable natural forests as much as possible. With this broader scope in mind, one could envisage, for instance, differing standards for companies and smallholders.”

Past Practices Should Not Be Forgotten

“The issue of legacy is critical and has been underestimated so far. The main groups committing to deforestation-free agriculture have previously been involved in large-scale deforestation. A number of forest conservation and indigenous rights groups object to the premise that recent zero-deforestation commitments may absolve or excuse past destructive practices, particularly because past behaviors have enabled corporate groups to gain control of vast areas of land.”

“A balance needs to be struck between rewarding historic deforesters for successfully implementing deforestation-free policies and holding them accountable for their past actions. One option is to encourage investment in restoration. Another complementary option would be to address social issues as well, by requiring land restitution when communities have been deprived of their rights to land.” Zero-deforestation Commitments In Indonesia: CIFOR Published November 2015

Zero Net Gain - The externalized debt to future generations due to the reckless industrialization of new landscapes by the plague of deforestation for the expansion of palm oil plantations over the last 20 – 30 years and continuing into the foreseeable future for food and fuel, by the corporate commodity driven agricultural systems of transnationals (backed by corrupt repressive regimes worldwide), is difficult to grasp – while making up a shopping list.

Give The Land Back

Sustainable Palm Oil Certification by the Roundtable On Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) came under fire again in 2015. Please read this new report: “Who Watches The Watchmen? Auditors And The Breakdown Of Oversight In The RSPO”

“The allegations detailed in a new report by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) and Malaysia-based NGO Grassroots cast doubt on the credibility of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil’s (RSPO) network of auditors - a vital component of the organization’s certification process and its primary contact with oil palm growers on the ground. The report, titled, “Who Watches The Watchmen? Auditors And The Breakdown Of Oversight In The RSPO” uncovered evidence of RSPO-approved auditors conducting “substandard assessments” on repeated occasions and, at times, apparently colluding with oil palm companies to cover up serious violations of the organization’s standards.”

Throughout 2015, many research papers and reports challenged the myth of certification and the efficacy of voluntary company commitments.

Zero net-deforestation

“What does zero actually mean? In its purest sense, zero deforestation means no cutting of natural forests to create commodity forests such as palm oil plantations. Most corporate 'no-deforestation commitments' however, commit only to zero net deforestation. This accounting technique combines reforestation (adding together both natural and commodity plantings) with deforestation to create a zero balance.” (RAN)

And across the time line of the global palm oil debate, the transformation of the industry has been presented to consumers with a different set of linguistics than that used within the industry, and at the 'negotiating table'.

“The most heavily consumed oil in the world has given rise to a prosperous agro-industrial supply chain, buoyed-up by the demand for plant-derived fuels. It still bears the vestiges of old colonial routes between South East Asia (including Malaysia and Indonesia) and the Port of Rotterdam – the destination of cargoes shipped to Europe. That is belied by the fact that the shipping routes now run primarily towards India and China - the center of gravity remains in Asia. And a whole section of the world, including the United States, has little interest in the matter.” That was published in 2011, and since that time, US consumption of palm oil has grown substantially.

Along with large NGOs, and private consulting firms such as Catapult, a key voice in the process that helped to assuage the consumer demand for deforestation-free palm oil, and helped forge a pathway for palm oil products through world outcry to markets, was TFT. “Established in 1999, TFT (The Forest Trust) is a global non-profit that helps businesses bring responsible products to market.”

The Forest Trust states: “Certification schemes are only one way to demonstrate a company’s responsible sourcing policy. They aren’t a global driver of market transformation. Worldwide, consumers know, and recognize brands but they really don’t know certification labels. In fact, they don’t want to have to know about certification labels.”

“Segregating ‘good’ and ‘bad’ palm oil in every facility that processes palm oil or palm
fractions is expensive and cannot lead to widespread industry transformation. Requests for segregated supply chains are therefore not recommended because of the large expense incurred through the logistics of segregating oil, while little benefit goes back to the plantation level where the leverage is needed.”

Said policy transformation in the palm oil industry began by 2012 and in March 2013, TFT released a short strategy paper called ‘an approach to transforming the palm oil industry: lessons learned and ideas from TFT. In 2014 TFT released: “TFT Palm Oil Industry Transformation: TFT's Perspective One Year Later.”

And although this is a well written perspective of the history of transformation of policy – it is framed within the context of continued 'sustainable growth' of the industry based on it's own projected production and market demand. (13 pages PDF 5.3MB)

Another Historical and Contemporary Perspective

Published soon after, “Forest Pledges Multiply” is a really good article of 37 pages, and depicts a summary of Palm Oil from the framework of the consumer/NGO negotiated corporate supply chain certification schemes. In the article, Annette Gartland illustrates the many concerns that remain, and numerous failures along the way. Deforestation continues, land grabs for oil palm and displaced people and human rights abuses continue, species extinction draws nearer and more products containing 'certified sustainable palm oil' are in the supermarkets and natural food coops. Read “Forest Pledges Multiply As Palm Oil Companies Respond To Clean-Up Demands” By Annette Gartland published on November 7, 2014

Transnationals Without Borders

Referring back to “The Forest Trust” admonition that “requests for segregated supply chains are not recommended because of the large expense incurred through the logistics of segregating oil...” we can see a rift wherein this sentiment flies in the face of educated consumer concerns and what consumers want – corporate accountability of transnationals without borders.

But the dumbing down of various regional market populations is not the solution, and neither is the continuance of certified deforestation and poverty.

Riding On The Bandwagon Of Gluttony and Materialism

"Dumbness, to paraphrase the late senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, has been steadily defined downward for several decades, by a combination of heretofore irresistible forces. These include the triumph of video culture over print culture; a disjunction between Americans' rising level of formal education and their shaky grasp of basic geography, science and history; and the fusion of anti-rationalism with anti-intellectualism."

“If we look at other certification bodies like the organic label or fair trade label, when you buy something that is organic or fairly traded, that’s what it is. No one else has offsets like the RSPO where brands could say we couldn’t find organic product so here’s a conventional one and the offset we bought to make it organic.” (POI - Palm Oil Investigations)

The Palm Oil Industry Landscape (of) Transformation: TFT’s Perspective One Year Later

Quoting TFT: “One year later, the palm oil industry landscape has changed significantly! Nonetheless, as of today traceable oil is not yet available in large quantities on the market. There is a risk that requests for traceable oil alone, without the broader discussion of how to strategically move towards fully traceable and No Deforestation - No Exploitation palm oil, will just lead to expensive short-term solutions based on segregated supply chains that exclude smallholders. It is important that brands and refiners/traders look at building traceability and responsible flow on 100 percent of their supply and don’t get distracted by short term ‘fixes’ for certain customers based on segregation, because what looks simple and easy may end up more being rigid and costly in the long term.”

Yet, Identity Preserved is the highest trusted certification rating.

So then, how much has the palm oil industry landscape actually changed?

A study by Sustainalytics, a leading provider of environmental, social and governance (ESG) research for investors and financial institutions made the news in July 2015.

“Three-quarters of the 20 biggest publicly traded producers, refiners and traders have pledged to have all of the large-scale oil palm plantations under their management certified as sustainable by 2020, according to an analysis Sustainalytics performed for Bloomberg BNA. Today, just over half of those companies certify some portion of their plantations. The analysis excluded smallholders and companies that operate plantations of 100,000 hectares or less.”

I'm pretty sure the 'excluded groups' are the same ones promoted as being responsible for somewhere around 45 percent of the global production! That's supposed to be acceptable to consumers - like what you don't know can't be hurting anyone.

Larysa Metanchuk, an analyst at Sustainalytics, a leading provider of environmental, social and governance (ESG) research for investors and financial institutions states: “I have no doubt we will see more sustainable palm oil on the market starting in 2015 and moving forward resulting from increased demand, as evidenced by the deadlines that are in those commitments.”

Reading that again; “more sustainable palm oil on the market - increased demand, by the deadlines in commitments” it seems to allude to a return on investment in a bull market for land grabs. Transparency - where the proof is in the columns and ledgers!

“Consumer groups Palm Oil Investigations of Australia (POI) and Palm Oil Consumers Action (POCA) of the United States issued a joint statement against the green-washing that is prevalent among Western brands that use palm oil in their products.”

RSPO Green Palm Is Outside The Physical Supply Chain

“Brands are taking advantage of the cheaper Green Palm certificate - offset program option - and using it for long term supply, rather than making the vital switch to 100 percent certified sustainable palm oil.” Consumers are losing faith!

“Separate from the physical supply chain, RSPO certified plantations convert their certified tonnage into certificates, placing offers for these on the GreenPalm market. Product manufacturers purchase certificates, offsetting their physical oil usage. GreenPalm certificates are a kind of green offset trading scheme which guarantees that a tonnage of palm oil/derivatives equivalent to the tonnage a company uses, has been produced somewhere, from RSPO certified plantations).”

“RSPO certified palm oil growers can convert their certified tonnage into certificates, each ton converts to one GreenPalm certificate. Palm oil, palm kernel oil and palm kernel expeller certificates are available. This means that there is no guarantee that the end product contains certified sustainable palm oil, but this option directly supports RSPO certified growers and farmers. It also allows manufacturers to support sustainable palm oil instantly despite complicated supply chains especially for the use of complex palm and palm kernel fractions and derivatives.”

“High-end organic products use Identity Preserved or Segregated (which is similar to the identity preserved option) where certified sustainable palm oil is physically separated from non-certified palm oil throughout the supply chain.”

“Then there's Mass Balance where Certified sustainable palm oil and non-certified palm oil is mixed to avoid the costs of keeping the two separate. There is no guarantee that the end product contains certified sustainable palm oil. However, this option supports certified sustainable palm oil through mixing, and the oil is consumed somewhere by someone.”

Another cogent view by Magdalena Antuña published on May 18, 2015 states: “Certified Sustainable Palm Oil means one of four things, as defined by the RSPO”

“Please, let’s retire the phrase Certified Sustainable Palm Oil once and for all. Or at least, narrow the practices that can fall under the ‘CSPO umbrella’. When you write your next e-mail asking about the sustainability of someone’s palm-oil, show your knowledge and use terms like ‘segregated‘ and ‘identity preserved.’ Ask if they can trace the source of their palm-oil from the mill to the refinery to you. This is the most desirable form of certified palm-oil. It is, as the name suggests, guaranteed to be from one, singular identifiable source, kept away from unsustainable conflict palm-oil throughout the supply chain.”

Identity Preserved and Segregated Palm Oil

Identity Preserved: “This is the most desirable form of RSPO certified palm-oil. It is, as the name suggests, guaranteed to be from one, singular identifiable source, kept away from unsustainable conflict palm-oil throughout the supply chain. The chupacabra of palm-oil, we have not encountered it yet through our research but welcome finding it someday.”

Segregated: “Very similar to the definition above but with one important distinction – this is sustainable palm-oil from multiple certified mills and supply bases. It is still fully traceable, though some argue that the inclusion of more than one mill means that deception can likely occur. Acceptable, maybe...” by Magdalena Antuña on May 18, 2015

A debate brews - What about the effects of a boycott on palm oil products? Boycotts work, and the industry fears this most. Effectiveness may be measured only to a degree in the near term. But I would bet that actual results over the long term will be of greater merit than any proposed zero net deforestation commitment (2020, 2030).

Palm Oil Biodiesel Mandates and palm oil blends are being reduced globally. The reduction in use of palm oil blends saves rainforests! “Crude oil prices have dropped to a 12-year low of around $28 a barrel, widening the price gap with biodiesel fuel. The Indonesian Palm Oil Association said current subsidy mandates could not be sustained if crude prices remained low.” (01212016)

As both Indonesia and Malaysia crack down on journalists, human rights advocates, and community leaders, for speaking out, world attention and concerns are summed up in a legal format at the European Parliament: “Official Condemnation: The European Parliamentary Resolution On Malaysia” passed in December 2015 (in partial summary) it states:

“Whereas Malaysia is a Member of the UN Security Council and the current ASEAN Chair, and the 27th ASEAN Summit was held in Kuala Lumpur from 18 to 22 November 2015; The European Parliament (2) Deplores the deteriorating human rights situation in Malaysia and in particular the crackdown on civil society activists, academics, media and political activists; expresses concern with regard to the spike in the number of people facing charges or arrest under the Sedition Act; (4) Urges the Malaysian Government to immediately release all political prisoners (8) Deeply deplores the rise of supremacist groups which contribute further to the creation of ethnic tensions; and (10) Calls on the Malaysian Government to ratify key international human rights conventions, including the ICCPR, the ICESCR, the CAT, the ICERD, ILO Convention 169, the ICC Rome Statute, as well as the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its optional protocol;

“The European Parliamentary Resolution On Malaysia” - (December 19, 2015)
Full Text at Sarawak Report:

Curiouser And Curiouser

I am always curious how the 'global growing demand for palm oil' is quantified when there are Fresh Fruit Bunches (FFB) of the oil palm left rotting on the ground and surpluses every year, and the price per ton is still barely half what it was in 2011.

The 'New Frontiers' for palm oil expansion (Latin America and Africa) are being purchased by the same 'Groups' (Conglomerates) and extended family 'Groups' like Wilmar out of Singapore - known for all the brutality of oil palm expansion (throughout Malaysia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea). The new push is for greener reputations and forests elsewhere on the planet. Cheap labor is of critical importance.

After The Greenwash Fades: Conscious consumer action requires balancing knowledge and awareness of the effects of causality, against the promotional images of consumption.

“Planet Palm Oil: Peasants Pay The Price” covers impacts of oil palm plantation expansion across Africa, the Papuas of Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea. (Published September 2014, PDF 9 MB 88 pages) The report can be downloaded at the GRAIN website. GRAIN is a small international non-profit organization that works to support small farmers and social movements in their struggles for community-controlled and biodiversity-based food systems.

Read the well documented report: “Planet Palm Oil: Peasants Pay The Price”

“Demand is set to grow even further, as free trade agreements come on line that make it easier to import palm oil as a substitute for local animal or vegetable oils, as multinational food companies and supermarkets expand sales of processed and packaged foods in the South, and as national mandates for biofuels, especially in Europe, create new markets for vegetable oils that indirectly increase demand for palm oil.”

But it's not consumer demand that is driving the expansion. “Oil palm plantations are a hot target for investors, whether from agribusiness, pension funds or corrupt tycoons looking for a safe and profitable way to launder funds. These days money is flowing into the bank accounts of palm oil companies, and they are using this cash to expand their land banks.”

“Producing all this cheap palm oil exacts a high price. Destruction of rainforests, labor exploitation, and brutal land grabbing: these are just a few of the nasty consequences that come with today's oil palm plantations. And, with growing demand, those consequences are spreading out to more parts of the planet.”

So, the purpose of a boycott, at the least, is to scale the industry back, way back. Investments in land grabs must fail, with no redemption, except to return the land - restoration may be necessary. People will still need to eat - highlighting agroecological systems of food security, and food sovereignty, and the rights of nature will gain stronger footholds in societies. The conservation conversation will move from “how much can we take and still be carbon neutral” to a conversation on how much can we rightfully leave intact and nurture with healing and shared respect for natural ecosystems and species, human rights and cultural survival.

What to do, what to do now? Consume less for starters.

There are several purposeful and personal answers to that question. One might begin by merging the mind, the heart and the body. Fasting is a way to relinquish over-consumption. Consumers are well trained through advertisements across all media types (even at the gas pumps we are barraged by animated messages promoting purchasing more consumption) which take up an increasing amount of audio and visual space in people's daily lives. Fasting is also healthy and cleansing.

Boycotts Work!

A boycott can be quite personal, in the hopes of collapsing the transnational corporate commodities market structure for palm oil and stimulating redemption from the transnational plunder of land grabs, deforestation, and personal moral harm. This is a real market solution. A whole new worldwide movement of manufacturers and small cottage industries has emerged that avoids the use of palm oil. There are some creative hands out there, and many great products that are unquestionably palm oil free.

The Boycott Debate

People don't need palm oil, but the transnationals need our support! The new myth of responsible palm oil, I mean the new math, of sustainable palm oil, really adds up at the checkout stand. And it seems like every year, noble gestures are celebrated, and grand fiascoes are exposed – corruption, deforestation, devastation, and exploitation for oil palm.

The Battle of the Brands - A Necessary Dilemma

“Despite calls to ban palm oil on environmental grounds, campaigners and NGOs agree that an EU-wide ban would do little to stop palm-oil related deforestation. The 28 countries of the EU currently account for roughly 15% of global palm oil imports. China alone, in contrast, accounts for almost 13%. Our experience in Italy is that boycotts have limited leverage,” says Martina Borghi, forest campaigner at Greenpeace Italy.”

That limited leverage, though, may mean the difference between a large ecosystem's resilience, or fragmentation by deforestation and conversion under carbon neutral patterning in the planning of land use changes across the larger mosaic of the landscape.

Some NGOs alongside other organizations including WWF and The Forest Trust – argue that companies and consumers should work together to support palm oil produced in a more sustainable way. Not everyone agrees that this is the benchmark against which progress should be measured.

It's just a proposal... but visualize palm oil commodity market collapse for a moment!

“How Does The Global Commodity Collapse Impact Forest Conservation”
Published December 21st 2015 by Rhett A. Butler

“Low commodity prices will reduce the pressure on forests from investments in commercial agriculture, extractive industries, and forests,” said David Kaimowitz, Director of Natural Resources at the Ford Foundation. “They will do this both directly by making investment in these areas less profitable and indirectly by reducing tax and royalty revenues that governments can use for infrastructure investments.”

“James Deutsch of Vulcan Philanthropies, Microsoft Co-Founder Paul Allen’s charitable foundation, has already seen evidence of this potential deforestation slowdown in Africa.”

“I know of at least two huge mining projects in Central Africa that were likely to have significant biodiversity impacts that are either stalled or proceeding more slowly because of declining commodity prices,” Deutsch told Mongabay. “In these cases, I think the impact for conservation is very positive, buying us more time to establish policies and systems such as no-net-loss and biodiversity offsets, so that if these projects do eventually go forward their net impact is less severe.”

“The slowdown buys conservationists time, whether they are operating in forests or deserts, says Stephen D’Esposito, President of RESOLVE, a Washington, D.C.-based policy group.”

“During any period of low minerals prices, fewer projects will be developed, particularly larger, capital intensive projects,” he said. “In areas where projects, such as mines, don’t advance, there may be an opportunity to rethink land use. This could have benefits for developers, conservation and communities. Too often conflict occurs when development projects proceed quickly without fully taking account of competing values.”

“Commodity producers make decisions based on expected prices. So as long as they believe prices will continue to rise in the long run, a short-term dip may not dissuade investments by well-capitalized players. In fact, those bigger players may see it as an opportunity to consolidate their market share by buying up competitors and marginal operators.”

“Much of this depends less on current prices than on expectations about the future. Many of these are long-term investments,” explained the Ford Foundation’s Kaimowitz. “So the key is not what prices are today, but what companies think they will be in 10-20 years. There might be reasons for companies to be relatively bullish about longer-term commodity prices than about short-term prices.”

Indigenous And Traditional Peoples

(Rainforest Foundation) “The rainforests of the world are the home and a source of life and culture for many unique and diverse indigenous and traditional peoples. As the rainforests are destroyed, their ways of life can change and become poorer economically, culturally, linguistically and politically. According to Survival International (2000), 940,000 indigenous people live in the Amazon rainforest alone. In Brazil, at the time of European contact, indigenous people numbered around 5 million. The number has since dropped to less than 200,000, and anthropologists believe that a forest dwelling tribe has been lost in Brazil every single year since 1900. In addition, there are fisherfolk, rubbertappers, Maroons, Quilombolas, and other traditional peoples who depend on a healthy Amazon for their survival.”

“A crucial priority for indigenous people is gaining the rights to the land they live on. Obtaining the legal right to their ancestral land enables indigenous and traditional peoples to choose for themselves how the forests will be used and to prevent unwanted development such as mining, logging, ranching and deforestation.”

“Indigenous lands are 20% of the preserved lands in the Brazilian Amazon, and on satellite maps, one can see that indigenous and traditional peoples’ lands are some of the best preserved zones. Indigenous people of the Amazon in Colombia control 15 million acres of land among more than 50 ethnic groups and 70,000 people. Chiribequette Park, created in 1989, protects 2.5 million acres, some of which is the indigenous peoples territory. Colombian law protects the peoples’ rights to follow their own customs and traditions and develop and organize their own health and education services. 80 % of the world's biodiversity is found on indigenous lands!”

Remarkable things you can find in tropical forests
-80% of all insects live in tropical forests!
-In Borneo, 700 tree species were found in 25 acres!
-In Columbia, there are over 1,500 bird species!
-In the Tambopata Reserve in Peru, 43 ant species were found on a single tree!
-In Panama, 18,000 beetle species were found in only 2.5 acres of forest!

Did you know?
-The current rate of destruction is about 1 acre each second, which is a bit less than a US football field. Expanded, that amounts to 60 acres/min, 3,600/hour, 86,400/day, 2.6 million/month, and 31.5 million acres per year.
-The natural extinction rate is approximately 1 species per year. As a result of deforestation, species will become extinct at a rate 3 to 4 times higher than that.
-Tropical forests comprise approximately 7 percent of the earth's dry land surface (2% of total surface) and sustain over 50 percent of all species.
-The Amazon River basin contains 20% of the world's fresh water.

2015 - New, Improved, Responsible Palm Oil

Agropalma, Brazil (member of the Palm Oil Innovation Group)

“Occupy The Amazon In Order Not To Lose It” - The owner of Agropalma was a recipient of the Brazilian government’s tax incentive program in the 1980’s which encouraged industry and individuals to relocate to the Amazon. The philosophy of the government was “Occupy the Amazon in order not to lose it.” The Agropalma complex - 107,000 hectares (264,402 acres) is located just three hours south of Belem, in the Brazilian Amazon.

-Since 2002, Agropalma has only planted palm oil in cleared land, before that time (since the early 1980’s) rainforest was cleared to make way for the plantation.
-The Agropalma complex contains 3 residential villages for employees, has a total of 350 houses, houses 2500 people, has 4 clubs, 1 school, and 1 medical center.
-Oil palm cutters and collectors get paid extra based on productivity, e.g. how many bunches they collect.
-The organic palm plantation (30 percent of total) is at the farthest north end of the complex and is separated by about 150 meters from the conventional plantation
-Agropalma’s organic certifications come from the Biodynamic Institute, BioSuisse, USDA, and JAS (Japan Agricultural Standard).

"These images show 37 years of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon …"

“Taken by NASA's Landsat 1 satellite in 1975 and 2012, the two images reveal dramatic effects of clear-cutting for roads and agriculture in Rondônia, a rural state in western Brazil. This process began with the construction of a major north-south highway in the 1970s, according to NASA's Earth Observatory, followed by secondary roads through dense forest at right angles to the first road. As settlers continued expanding over the decades, first by cutting down trees, then burning ground cover, their merging agricultural tracts took on a "fishbone pattern," as NASA describes it. Roughly 224,000 square miles of the rain forest have been lost since 1980, including more than 1,000 square miles per year in Rondônia from 1980 to 1992.” Square miles are a measurement of area equal to one mile length by one mile width making an area of 640 acres.

“In recent years, the focus of deforestation in Brazil has shifted from Rondônia to the eastern states of Mato Grosso and Pará, where large swaths of forest are being cleared for mechanized agriculture rather than small farms. According to data released by Brazil's National Institute for Space Research (INPE), Rondônia lost 14.5 square miles of rain forest in July and averaged 8.8 square miles over the past four months. By comparison, Pará lost 35.9 square miles in July and has averaged 18.1 per month since April, while Mato Grosso's numbers were 19.7 and 30, respectively.”

“On October 4, 2015, satellite images revealed that there were over 900 fires burning in the Brazilian Amazon. That figure was reported by Brazil’s Institute for Space Research, known as INPE, which said that the region most affected by the fires was the northern state of Amazonas. Some 11,114 forest fires have already been observed in Amazonas this year, a 47 percent increase over the same period last year, according to INPE.”

From Indonesia to Brazil, Tropical Forests Are Burning

“The Brazilian Amazon Is Burning Too” - for two months fires have raged.

“The cause of the fires remain unknown but it was likely to have been either an arson revenge attack on indigenous groups who have fought back against loggers, or a fire set by loggers to clear a route to denser parts of the forest.”

“Almost all of Maranhão’s forests have been cleared. Those that remain are on indigenous lands or in nature reserves. Loggers enter these areas illegally, cut down trees and then launder the timber for sale to the UK and other foreign markets. Such degradation of the forest increases the vulnerability to fire. Efforts to prevent illegal logging have also raised tensions. Last week an Ibama ranger was shot in a confrontation with loggers during a fire combat operation. Indigenous forest guardians have also been involved in several confrontations.”

By late October into November, the forest fire in the Brazilian Amazon was shaping up to be one of the largest in the history of Brazil. It had already “consumed about 190,000 of the 413,000 hectares that make up Araribóia - that's larger than the entire area of Rio de Janeiro.”

“It wasn't until government inspectors who worked in fire fighting were attacked by an armed group within Arariboia Indigenous Land the government began taking Guajajara requests for help more seriously. The Maranhão Fire Department yesterday sent 40 fire-fighters to the Araribóia Indigenous Reserve.”

The government's slow reaction has come with heavy costs. When the Guajajara protest took place, 25% of Arariboia had been impacted by fires. Now, just over two weeks later, the impact area already accounts for 45% of the territory. And this fire could lead to more fire in the future. Because fires like this deeply damage the rainforest and lower the humidity of the area, they actually increase the chance for future naturally-caused fires later.”

“Illegal logging in Indigenous lands is happening all over Brazil. And as Indigenous Peoples take measures to stop it, retaliation and violence like starting fires in the forest, grows. In early September, Greenpeace Brazil was working with the Ka'apor people to support the independent monitoring of their territory using the latest technology as well as traditional methods. During that time, local reports indicated that loggers set fire to the edges of Indigenous lands and that some villages were already surrounded by flames.”

Dr Alberto Setzer, co-ordinator of the Nucleus for Forest Fires at INPE, Brazil's national space research institute, which monitors deforestation says: “The increase in forest fires contributed to the general 16% increase in deforestation registered in 2015. And these figures present a stark contrast to Brazil's commitment at the COP21 climate change conference in Paris last month to reduce carbon emissions by 43% by 2030.”

“To achieve this, the government promised it would ensure zero illegal deforestation. Yet a lot of deforestation is technically legal, thanks to changes to the country's Forest Code. Also in jarring contrast to the government's Paris commitment are two bills now under debate in Congress, which, if made law, will greatly increase 'legal' deforestation. “One will overturn the ban on infrastructure projects inside indigenous territories, with a payoff to the communities of 2% of the value of the project. The other will 'streamline' the environmental licensing system for major infrastructure projects, such as roads, mines and dams.”

“Of the fires, 8,000 occurred in the central region, where the states of Maranhão, Tocantins, Piauí and Bahia share borders. This area, of the central region encroaches on the cerrado, a vast tropical savanna ecoregion that is one of Brazil's most threatened biomes, and has become a fast-developing new agricultural landscape producing soy, maize and cotton.”

“In one of the few remaining pre-Amazon forest areas in Maranhão, the Arariboia reserve, the fire raged for two months, destroying much of the habitat of groups of uncontacted Awá indigenous people.”

“The monster fire, believed to have been deliberately ignited by illegal loggers, destroyed an immense area the size of 260,000 football fields. The lack of firefighters contributed to the unchecked spread of the blaze. A total of 999 fires for the first four days of January 2016 - an increase of 85% over the same period in 2015 - was recorded by INPE.”

Brazilian Amazon Fires 2014 in time lapse animation - “A stunning visualization from InfoAmazonia shows where forest fires have occurred in the Amazon rain forest between January 2012 and December 2014 using satellite data collected by NASA.”

The full visualization from InfoAmazonia shows a complete time lapse over the previous two years. Clips posted on Business Insider show “fires in January and February of 2014. The small red and yellow dots popping up show where fires cropped up during this time, with the red dots representing any fires hotter than 116 degrees Fahrenheit and the yellow dots representing particularly high-intensity fires.”

It's 2016 and the largest economy in South America, Brazil has some problems - there has been a trend in falling commodity prices. Iron ore makes up 13.5% of Brazil’s exports with an export value of $33.4 billion in 2013 with soybeans coming up a distant second at 9% and crude petroleum at 5.3%.”

“It does not help that Brazil’s largest export partner for iron ore is China (48%) which equates to $16 billion in exports. These values have been and are predicted to slow down dramatically as China slows down its infrastructure building.”

NASA views the Fires in Indonesia - Published Oct. 30, 2015

Fires in Indonesia have spread hazardous carbon monoxide over the Asia-Pacific region. The map shows average concentrations, in parts per billion by volume, from Oct. 13 to 26 at an altitude of about 20,000 feet (6,000 meters). Normal background concentrations range between 50 and 120 parts per billion, according to the World Health Organization.

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Tomas DiFiore
Saying No To Palm Oil

Consumers Demand Action Against Conflict Palm Oil, NDPE, No Deforestation No Exploitation No Peatlands Development, Zero net-deforestation, Zero-deforestation, zero-deforestation commitments
by Tomas DiFiore Tuesday Jan 26th, 2016 3:15 PM
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