Oil palm & politics in Malaysia

Oil palm plantation at the border of intact forest. photo credit to CIFOR on flickr
Oil palm plantation at the border of intact forest. Photo credit to CIFOR on flickr

I visited Malaysia last year and was blown away by how dominant oil palm is over there. They even have it on their 50 ringit note.

50 ringit note
A bad photo I took of a 50 ringit note last year.

Palm oil is obviously bad news for biodiversity a region that has so many unique species. It will almost definitely lead to some global extinctions over the coming century. it’s also bad news for climate change since it can cause massive carbon emissions especially where it replaces forest on peat soils. However, it is so dominant and provides so many jobs I’m at a loss for the best way to argue against it. The only thing I can think of is that we should push for stricter rules on certification of ‘sustainable’ palm oil so that plantations do not come at the expense of logged and secondary forests – which can still be host to many forest dependant species. I’ll try to write a proper article on this soon.

Anyway, the Malaysian elections are coming up on May 5th and corruption is at the heart of the opposition’s campaign. Some of this surrounds the alleged corruption of Malaysian government MPs who have granted rights companies to convert forest to oil palm plantations. Unsurprisingly this has annoyed people who have traditionally used these forests to collect timber and food. There was a nice piece about this on BBC Radio 4’s ‘The world tonight’ programme last night, so I nicked it. It only addresses some of the issues very briefly and I am ashamed to admit I know very little about the situation in Malaysia. Anyway, I hope you enjoy the clip and I’ll  get back to some ‘proper’ blogging soon.

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