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human activity and the destruction of the planet


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Growing palm oil on former farmland cuts deforestation, CO₂ and biodiversity loss

From The Conversation:

https://theconversation.com/growing-palm-oil-on-former-farmland-cuts-deforestation-co-and-biodiversity-loss-127312

Few natural products are as maligned as palm oil, the vegetable oil that’s in everything from chocolate spread to washing up liquid. On the island of Borneo, oil palm plantations have replaced nearly 40% of the native forest cover since 2000. Deforestation releases CO₂ into the atmosphere and deprives rare and endangered species with the complex habitats they need to thrive.

A new study has tried to find out if this valuable crop can be grown without destroying more forests, by converting existing pastureland into new oil palm plantations instead. Could growing more oil palm on land with already scarce wildlife be a solution to the deforestation crisis?

The oil palm tree produces two types of vegetable oil. Palm oil from the fruit is used in cooking and baking and helps feed over three billion people, mostly in Asia. The other oil comes from the palm kernel, or seed, which is used around the world to make most of our detergents, soaps and other cleaning products.

Palm oil comes from the tree’s bright red fruit and is one of the most valuable vegetable oils in the world. Eva Blue/Unsplash, CC BY-SA

The relentless increase in global demand for vegetable oil has driven the logging and draining of forests and peatland to grow soybeans in South America and oil palm in Asia. About 85% of oil palm is grown in just two countries: Indonesia and Malaysia. But other tropical countries, particularly in South America and West Africa, are establishing their own oil palm plantations. These are vast monocultures that very few species can inhabit, especially compared with the tropical forest they replace.

A drainage ditch in a recently created oil palm plantation, Sarawak, Borneo. As the peat dries, it can release large quantities of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Denis Murphy, Author provided

Use farms not forests

In the recent study, researchers measured how much carbon – previously locked up in trees and other vegetation – was lost to the atmosphere when either pastureland or rainforest was converted to oil palm plantation.

The good news is that turning pastureland into oil palm plantations reduced how much carbon was released by 99.7%, compared to when rainforest was converted. Another bonus of using pastureland might be that its starting biodiversity is relatively low anyway, so the plantation may actually have a greater diversity of wildlife than the previous ecosystem.

Areas of forest that have been cleared for oil palm plantations, in Bawa village, Subulusalam, Aceh, Indonesia, July 27 2019. EPA-EFE/HOTLI SIMANJUNTAK

Converting grassland ecosystems like the Llanos in South America to oil palm plantations also released less carbon than converting forests. But in this case, the researchers found there were significant losses for biodiversity. If we have to produce more palm oil, the best outcome for wildlife and the climate would be to make former pastureland the first choice for future plantations.

But would it not be better to ban palm oil altogether? Campaigns have urged consumers to switch to products that don’t contain palm oil, while some retailers have announced plans to exclude such items from their own-brand products.


Read more: Replanting oil palm may be driving a second wave of biodiversity loss


Oil palm plantations produce 73.5 million tonnes of vegetable oil from a total land area of 27 million hectares worldwide. This might seem like a large area, but the second most important vegetable oil crop, soybean, produces 56 million tonnes from 97 million hectares – more than 3.6 times the oil palm area. This means that oil palm actually uses much less land than other crops, which is one reason why it’s so popular with growers.

Scientists measure greenhouse gas emissions and sample groundwater in an oil palm plantation in Sarawak, Borneo. Denis Murphy, Author provided

So boycotting palm oil could actually increase deforestation, since alternative tropical oil crops tend to use much more land. A better approach is to ensure that all the palm oil used in food and other products has been obtained from a “sustainable” source, and not from recently logged forests.

That’s why it’s important to base our decisions on sound scientific evidence. Oil palm will continue to be a vital crop for many developing countries in the future. Using former pastureland to grow the crop could ensure the product’s development isn’t at the expense of vulnerable ecosystems. Given how bad red meat production is for the planet, a switch from cattle pasture to oil palm plantation in the tropics could well be a marked improvement.”


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Natural Climate solutions

Greta Thunberg and George Monbiot have made a video that they would like everybody to share.  It talks about using natural solutions – nature itself – to restore balance in the world.  They urge that funding currently being used to subsidise fossil fuels should instead be used in projects designed to green the planet.  See it here:

 



 


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Successful petition to save the endangered Sumatran elephants

I received an email today from the Rainforest Action Network.  They have been campaigning to stop a palm oil company from destroying the habitat of the rare Sumatran elephants. I signed their petition, as did many others and include their email in its entirety, together with photographs.  Well done!

In honor of this week’s “World Elephant Day,”
we’ve got some GREAT news to share with you!

I’m SO HAPPY to share some great news with you! We’ve really got something to celebrate after “World Elephant Day!” We’re so proud to announce the protection and connection of the rainforest bridge Sumatran elephants use to migrate between important parts of their habitat, their home.

You see, this elephant migration route ran smack dab through a palm oil company’s operation in the northeast lowland rainforests of the Leuser Ecosystem. Actually, reverse that, a palm oil company’s operation ran right through the migration corridors elephants have used to move around their rainforests for generations.

Thanks to your petitions, strong negotiating by our campaign team, and powerful media exposés, Mopoli Raya (said palm oil company) was put on the “No Buy” list by many of the Snack Food 20, including Nestlé and Unilever, and by the biggest palm oil traders sourcing from the Leuser. And once Mopoli Raya was cut out from the global market for long enough, it decided to start doing the right thing. Naturally 😉

So now I have the good fortune of sharing with you that Mopoli Raya has committed to protect the remaining three-and-a-half thousand acres of forests within its operations. The protection of these forests will maintain the connectivity of thousands of acres of surrounding rainforests in this critical elephant corridor. Thank you for everything you’ve done to help make this happen!

Long live the elephants, long may they roam,

 

Gemma Tillack
Forest Policy Director
Rainforest Action Network

 



 


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Scotland plants 22 million trees

In an article in The Independent, Phoebe Weston states that Scotland has planted 22 million trees to tackle the climate crisis, whilst England has not met its target, falling short by 7 million, or 3,000 hectares.

A total of 11,200 hectares of Scottish countryside were covered, according to Government statistics.  But in England just 1,420 hectares of woodland was planted, despite a target of 5,000 hectares being set, figures from the Forestry Commission suggest. This means it missed its annual target by seven million trees.

While the overall figures for the UK in the year to 31 March are up, that success is down to large increases in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the Woodland Trust said.

The percentage of woodland cover in the UK remains at 13 per cent, with 10 per cent in England, 15 per cent in Wales, 19 per cent in Scotland and 8 per cent in Northern Ireland.

trees

The number of trees planted in Scotland now represents 84 per cent of the UK total. Increasing the number of trees being planted is part of the country’s efforts to tackle climate change, with a target of 15,000 hectares a year set to be in place from 2024-25.

After the latest figures were released, Abi Bunker, from the Woodland Trust, said: “The UK needs renewed ambition when it comes to tree planting and woodland expansion. The scale of what needs to be achieved to reach net zero targets is obvious; it will necessitate a three-fold increase on current levels.”

In the meantime, it has been announced on the Government’s website that Sir William Worsley has been reappointed to continue his drive to accelerate tree planting rates. The chair of the National Forest Company was tasked last year with setting a bold direction for the country’s forests and woodlands over the next 25 years.

Now Sir William is marking his reappointment with a call to land owners, farmers and foresters across the country to take up the mantle of tree planting by accessing the Government’s Woodland Creation Grant Scheme.

Through this fund, which is now open for applications all year round, planting grants of up to £6,800 are available to help landowners realise the benefits of expanding woodland cover.

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/tree-champion-reappointed-to-continue-tree-planting-push

A picture of Sir William Worsley leaning on a fence in a field.

Sir William Worsley



 


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Centre for Environmental Research and Education (CERE) in India starts an urban afforestation project

cere-header-2

CERE’s Urban Afforestation Project (UAP) is increasing the green cover in Indian cities by helping companies, organisations, and individuals to reduce their carbon footprint.

CERE calculates the amount of carbon sequestered at each plantation site, taking into consideration species type, age of saplings and projected growth rates. Sequestration values are calculated as projections over 5, 10, or 15 years. Carbon Sequestration Certification is an integral part of the program and clients are provided with a CERE Offset Certificate at the end of the plantation and assessment.

See the locations at which plantation drives have been held and added information on this new website.

cere-team

Katy, Rashneh and colleagues – full list here

CERE’s Rain Water Harvesting programme has proved to control floods and our Carbon Map and Cap project is also growing from strength to strength, helping major companies to go green by mapping their carbon emissions and determining their carbon footprint and thereafter, helping achieve reduction targets to cap their carbon emissions.

Their Schools for Solar programme started this year with three institutions being solarised and the project will expand further next year to cover many more schools and colleges. CERE’s educational books, posters and e-learning courses are being used by various stakeholders.

As they say, most parts of India receive a high amount of solar radiation for 250 to 300 days in a year which-eventually adds up to a potential of producing 6,000 million GWh of energy per year. All will hope that – as soon as possible – the country will tap this resource to generate electricity on a large scale.

With acknowledgements to:  https://notthembutus.wordpress.com/2019/02/23/news-about-the-work-of-cere/