Palm Oil and its Effect On Native Life

Rainforest destruction is commonly associated with the death of animal life and as a major contributor to global warming or climate change. While it is all of these things, the devastation reaches further into human populations. Millions of people, living in or near areas of the rainforest that are being cleared in Indonesia and Malaysia for oil palm plantations, suffer many adverse health and psychological effects.

Hundreds of thousands of villagers and indigenous peoples live in or near the rainforest. For thousands of years they have tended the land and lived sustainably off its resources. However, with increased demand for the production of palm oil, these homes and habitats are being destroyed at rates faster than anyone can say, “palm oil.” Why? So that consumers in developed nations, like you and I, can buy cheap household items and food.

Natives to Indonesia and Malaysia aren’t just being forced out of their habitats; they are also being forced to suffer from contaminants that are a product of oil palm plantations. For starters, the pollution begins when a rainforest is set fire to clear it for oil palm plantations. The haze and fog from these fires have been estimated to have caused adverse health effects in at least 70 million people (Brown, Jacobson). To add to this staggering number, it has been reported that the amount of pollution accrued and dumped from palm oil plantations and factories every year is “equivalent to the domestic sewage produced by 20 million people” (Brown, Jacobson). This pollution and waste is dumped into rivers and other bodies of water where native habitants drink, bathe, and fish. In addition to this, those working at palm oil plantations and factories are being exposed to harmful chemicals whose damaging side effects include ulcers, nosebleeds, eye infections, and nail loss.

So the next time you munch on Oreos or Kit Kats, or use your favorite cleansing soap that contains palm oil, think of those who may have lost their homes where their ancestors before them lived for thousands of years. Think of the injury, sickness, and adverse psychological affects that oil palm plantations and mills have caused them to suffer. You can help put an end to this type of life that is forced upon the natives of Indonesia and Malaysia; start by not buying products with palm oil in them. Sustainable palm oil production is possible. Until sustainable production begins to happen, boycott products with palm oil in them. To find out more on this issue, visit

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