This is a guest post by Glenn Hurrowitz, author and senior fellow at the Center for International Policy.
Can destroying a tropical rainforest be “sustainable”?
Well, according to a decision taken yesterday by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), the major industry-NGO body, this greatest of environmental crimes is now officially “green.”
Palm oil plantations have driven the destruction of more than 30,000 square miles of tropical forest in Indonesia and Malaysia alone, pushing species like orangutans and Sumatran rhinoceroses and elephants to the edge of extinction. It’s the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Southeast Asia, and has propelled Indonesia to be the world’s third largest climate polluter behind only China and the United States.
Nonetheless, at its Extraordinary General Meeting in Kuala Lumpur, the RSPO formally rejected longstanding calls from member companies, scientists and nonprofit organizations to stop certifying as “sustainable” palm oil produced through deforestation and other environmentally damaging practices like destruction of ultra carbon rich peatland and use of highly poisonous chemicals like the notorious paraquat, which is linked to kidney failure, respiratory failure, skin cancer, and Parkinson’s disease.