Palm Oil Non Sequitur

Weird argument in the World Wildlife Fund's magazine for why Swedes shouldn't avoid buying palm oil.

"Sweden has such a small population that it doesn't matter to the environment whether we buy environmentally destructive palm oil or not. The big markets are in other parts of the world. But if we buy environmentally certified palm oil, then we get to have a voice in the discussion about palm oil production."

How would a small group of people buying certified oil have any impact on the market for uncertified oil? Makes no sense. I don't want those producers to cultivate any oil palms whatsoever.

To protect the environment, I prefer to buy local rapeseed oil.

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The producers would just make a mental note that Swedes are willing to pay more for oil certified by somebody-or-other, and send the uncertified oil to customers who are not willing to pay the premium required to feel morally superior.

I read that grapeseed oil is good, but I don't know. I assume it is a by-product of the wine industry, and nobody gives a stuff about whether cultivating vast areas of vineyards to produce stuff not essential to human survival is environmentally responsible or not, because they want to keep drinking cheap wine.

A few years back there was a glut in wine production in Australia (this was not vin ordinaire, it was the good stuff), and so instead of the producers selling the wine to consumers cheaply, so at least it would be drunk and filtered through their livers and kidneys, and they would get at least some financial return, although at a loss, they poured literally millions of gallons of perfectly good wine into the sea. Wine contains ethyl alcohol, which is a virulent toxin to all living things if taken in sufficient quantity, but that's what they did - poured millions of gallons of high priced wine straight into the sea.

The government said not a word.

The green groups said not a word.

I wavered between astonishment and outrage, but no one else seemed to care enough to even comment on it.

By John Massey (not verified) on 19 Mar 2016 #permalink

We got a bottle of red palm oil as part of a birthday present. I suppose using it is better than throwing it out, given that it already is produced and bought. But I have no idea for what.

I believe palm oil works fine as a mild-tasting cooking oil.

Yep, got that. I was pointing out that there is a different product called grapeseed oil, produced as a by-product of the wine industry that will otherwise presumably just be discarded, which is allegedly good for the health. It's another option, that's all, and one that won't do any more environmental damage than the wine industry is already doing.

One of my former school buddies farms GM Canola in West. Oz, but he's not hugely popular for doing it.

By John Massey (not verified) on 19 Mar 2016 #permalink

John@1: Considering all of the environmentally irresponsible things that white people have done in Australia, viniculture is a relatively minor sin. Some parts of Australia do have a suitable climate for it--in particular, southwestern Australia is one of five regions in the world with a Mediterranean climate. The other four (California, Chile, South Africa, and of course the Mediterranean) are also known for their wine production. And at least wine has enough value added to justify the cost of shipping it from Australia to other places--one of the biggest disadvantages of locating in Australia is that it is a long way from anywhere else.

If grapeseed oil is a byproduct of this process, and it is as useful as you say, than selling it is a win-win: more money and less waste for the vineyard owners, and consumers can substitute it for oils imported at great expense from elsewhere.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 19 Mar 2016 #permalink

Eric, I was born in southwestern Australia. It has(d) native flora and fauna that are unique in the world. When I was born, I was surrounded by thick temperate forest, hardwood forest that took hundreds of years to grow, with the occasional small dairy farm that was hurting or endangering nothing. And a healthy local population of Aboriginal people still living their traditional lives while their children went to school, at peace with the very small white community.

Now, huge swathes of the forest have been bulldozed to grow grapes for wine. The vignerons keep cats and dogs, which go feral and rip into what is left of the native fauna that can still find a pocket of habitat somewhere. The Aboriginal people have gone. Irreplaceable.

Effectively, in terms of ecological value, the area has been, if not destroyed, very badly damaged. Most of the damage is irreversible.

These vignerons were some of the people who were pouring huge quantities of surplus wine into the ocean because there was a glut and they had produced far more wine than they could sell for the price they wanted.

So they have destroyed a unique ecology in order to produce something that they then threw into the sea, no doubt causing more damage.

I won't rant, because if I start, I will never end, and I am a guest on this blog. But that country was my country, and it has been raped. I will never go back there again. The last time I went there, my heart nearly broke.

By John Massey (not verified) on 19 Mar 2016 #permalink

Your choices, even if they represent only a small part of the consumption of palm oil, can result in a multiplied effect. Demanding deforestation-free palm oil from a manufacturer or retailer who then demands it of their suppliers changes the way palm oil is produced on the ground. A producer of Certified Sustainable Palm Oil makes a commitment to certify ALL of their production, even if not all of their buyers are demanding sustainable palm oil. Equally, a manufacturer or retailer that is a member of RSPO commits to ultimately ensuring 100% of their products are CSPO, again, regardless if demand is 100%. We at Orangutan Land Trust, members of both Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil and the Palm Oil Innovation Group campaign for the transformation of this industry to one that upholds responsible and sustainable standards, namely: deforestation-free, peat-free and conflict-free.
Michelle Desilets
Executive Director
Orangutan Land Trust

By Michelle Desilets (not verified) on 19 Mar 2016 #permalink

Yeah, but I'm not in a part of the world where the oil palm can grow. Why should I prefer this foreign import over locally grown canola?

With CRISPR/Cas9 you should be able to engineer just about any locally thriving plant to generate whatever substance you are currently importing from the antipodes or wherever. If we can make dandelions create butanol, we have solved the energy problem!

By Birgerjohansson (not verified) on 19 Mar 2016 #permalink

I just read that Perth -apart from having a unique flora and fauna situated in a mediterranean climate- is the world's "loneliest" megacity, Sydney is the closest neighbor in the east and the Indian Ocan extends forever in the west.

By Birgerjohansson (not verified) on 19 Mar 2016 #permalink

#8 - The flaw in the logic is that most customers globally do not demand deforestation free cooking oil, they demand cheap cooking oil. So the suppliers couldn't care less about losing a small minority of potential customers. Most of the oil is being grown in Asia and sold in Asia. What is happening with a small population in some remote part of Europe, they really couldn't care very much, compared to a very much larger customer base in Asia, with commensurate profits.

Added to which, those potential customers who opt out are better advised to buy a locally grown product that does not incur the carbon and cost generated by long transport distances.

This is a result of globalisation, which has proved to be an environmental disaster, and an economic disaster to most people in the world, to the benefit of the super wealthy.

By John Massey (not verified) on 20 Mar 2016 #permalink

Birger, I had gained the impression that the large majority of people in Europe outright reject genetically modified foods, as opposed to America, where they couldn't care less. Australians seem to teeter between caring and not caring, depending on the latest bit of journalistic trash that they read in the Sunday newspaper.

By John Massey (not verified) on 20 Mar 2016 #permalink

The closest large city to Perth is Denpasar, the capital city of the island of Bali in Indonesia. It is cheaper to fly there than to any of the other Australian state capitals.

I stayed in Bali once, with my wife. We met Ringo Starr there with his wife. They were both very much the worse for drink at 10.00 am - not nasty or anything, in fact very affable and friendly, but neither of them could stand up straight or speak without slurring. I gather that he has since become rehabilitated. He would not have survived this long if he had carried on drinking the way he was.

We walked from where we were staying in to Denpasar. From the accompanying stench, I immediately realised that we were walking alongside an open surface sewer that was flowing full of human excreta. It was not an enjoyable walk. Once we got to Denpasar, we puzzled over why we had bothered to make the trip - it was just a sprawling, filthy, disease-ridden slum.

Western Australians and Queenslanders are virtually completely to blame for the cultural degradation that has occurred in Bali. They fly there for short holidays in huge numbers, in order to behave badly and drink cheap beer from morning until night. And indulge in recreational drug taking. Those who get caught get a big shock - the penalty for drug peddling in Indonesia is death. Those who are caught with drugs just for their own consumption get long prison sentences.

The whole time I was there, I suffered from dysentery, while my wife was fine, thanks to her Chinese resistance to the pathogens. We went up into the mountains to get away from the main tourist areas, but it didn't help much - I was physically attacked by a group of local women because I was not interested in buying the tourist junk they were selling. I couldn't hit back because they were all women, and I don't hit women - my wife had to rescue me by physically fighting them off, which she did very effectively. Another victory for Chinese kung fu - and the fierceness of Chinese womanhood.

In the 1920s, from what I have read and seen in photographs, Bali was something of a paradise. No longer.

By John Massey (not verified) on 20 Mar 2016 #permalink

I shouldn't be so dismissive. The Hindu temples in Bali are absolutely beautiful and enchanting. It's just that you have to wade through a morass of filth, degradation and loudly offensive drunken Australians to get to them.

By John Massey (not verified) on 20 Mar 2016 #permalink

I have noticed a habit of many Westerners (especially Anglophones, but those with other native languages are not exempt) to turn beautiful beaches into tacky tourist crud. That's basically the history of Florida since the 1890s. There are still beautiful places in Florida, if you try hard enough to find them and don't mind wandering off the beaten path. But most of it has been overrun with tourist and/or suburban development. And most of Florida (the exceptions being Miami, Key West, and maybe parts of Tampa) doesn't even have a cultural allure of any kind to it, let alone the historic Hindu temples of Bali.

I haven't been to any of the Caribbean islands, but I hear the same thing has happened there.

I also see this trend along the New England coast. At least around here it's a seasonal thing: I can enjoy the beauty of the coast from mid-September to mid-May, when the tourists aren't around. But I avoid the beach between Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day weekend.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 20 Mar 2016 #permalink

Eric, you hit the nail on the head with 'Anglophones'. It's people with Anglosaxon drinking habits, mostly. Excessive levels of alcohol turn people loud and ugly.

By John Massey (not verified) on 20 Mar 2016 #permalink

In Sweden the GMO skeptics are fortunately working on a case-by-case basis. But in Britain and elsewhere in Europe the GMO crowd is no more interested in nuance than George Bush!

For geographical reasons I would have expected the Australians to have explored the advantages of cava over alchohol. As long as you don't mix the two, cava drinking is not associated with aggression.
Some UN soldiers from Fiji *did* mix the two. Since they were big f*cking bastards, the MPs had quite a job dealing with them...

By Birgerjohansson (not verified) on 21 Mar 2016 #permalink

Maybe we should replace alcohol with a mixture of the least "dumbifying" substances found in marijuana. Fewer fistfights that way.
Some researchers in Umeå think they are on track to finding why some drnkers get more aggressive than others, if they succeed, medicine will relieve the cops from a maor burden.

By Birgerjohansson (not verified) on 21 Mar 2016 #permalink

If there is a way to make an oil-like substance cheaply from lignin, Sweden will be rich.

OT: Sweden's former prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt has suggested cushy Swedes should stop complaining about immigration.…
Hear! Hear! Notice for anglo readers, this guy is actually a conservative. If a Republican or maybe tory said that, there would only be a skeleton left of him!

By Birgerjohansson (not verified) on 21 Mar 2016 #permalink