Committed to the environmental challenges our planet is facing, we embark on a new adventure alongside Rubén Díez, known as Lethal Crysis. After visiting the Amazon with him two years ago, this time we journey to the region of Sumatra, Indonesia, to address the issues generated by the palm oil industry and its devastating impact on the country's pristine rainforests.
Under the title, The Lucrative Business of Palm Oil, the renowned activist delves into local communities to narrate from within the magnitude of the problem and all its consequences on people's quality of life.
What's happening with palm oil in Indonesia?
The documentary exposes the alarming situation of the palm oil industry in Indonesia. This highly lucrative economic activity has triggered massive deforestation in the country's pristine rainforests, aiming to exponentially expand palm plantations. Despite local authorities attempting to enforce some order, the reality is that 80% of logging is conducted illegally.
Indonesia already holds the title of the world's largest palm oil exporter, accounting for 60% of global production. Unfortunately, the country has lost approximately a quarter of its forests in the past 25 years, placing it among the most deforested nations on the planet, along with Brazil, Bolivia, Congo, and Peru.
The consequences of this activity are devastating. Vast forested areas have been cleared to make way for palm oil plantations. As a result, there has been a massive loss of biodiversity, with the disappearance of numerous endangered species such as orangutans, Sumatran tigers, and Borneo elephants. Furthermore, the presence of workers in areas that were once natural habitats for these animals has increased conflicts between humans and wildlife, and reports of wildlife attacks on humans are becoming more frequent.
Palm oil, poison for our bodies
The documentary features the special collaboration of Antonio Hernández, a physician specialized in orthomolecular nutrition, and Endika Montiel, an expert in cellular nutrition, who explain the health risks of high consumption of palm oil.
As Antonio Hernández explains, palm oil in its natural form, directly extracted from the plant, is not inherently harmful due to its high content of vitamins and antioxidants. However, the problem arises when it undergoes processes of refining and hydrogenation, which turn it into a highly unhealthy product with extremely high levels of saturated fat. Pure poison for our bloodstream.
This ingredient, present in one out of every ten supermarket products, is found in large quantities in industrial pastries, cookies, processed foods, and savory snacks, as well as in cosmetics and cleaning products. It is directly linked to the development of cancer cells and the generation of metastasis in cancer patients. So why is it used so extensively if it is so harmful to our health? Endika Montiel is clear about it: for economic reasons. Currently, it is the cheapest oil to produce in the market.
Endangered Orangutans: Loss of Biodiversity
“What I saw when I was 15 no longer exists”, explains Jasson Kacariibuu, a native of the Batu Rongring area who manages a sustainable and environmentally friendly tourist refuge. The palm oil plantations are destroying the region's biodiversity.
According to reports from Greenpeace and other environmental organizations, these plantations contribute to deforestation and degradation of tropical forests, thereby devastating the native wildlife, including the famous Sumatran orangutans. This critically endangered species is struggling to adapt to the new environment and the increasing human presence.
Greenhouse Gas Emissions
This industry has a direct relationship with climate change and the emission of greenhouse gases. Throughout its production chain, various activities contribute to pollution. The most evident is the elimination of tropical forests, which releases large amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) stored in trees and forest soil. These CO2 emissions intensify global warming and have a significant impact on regional and global climate change.
The factories where palm oil is processed, located in the same forested areas, release toxic gases and discharge contaminated wastewater directly into nearby rivers and streams. This affects the availability of clean water for local communities, leading to consequences for their health and well-being.
The impact on local communities
As is customary in Lethal Crysis documentaries, the report shows the consequences of this industry on local populations. Specifically, Rubén explains the precarious conditions faced by the majority of workers, who lack even the most basic labor rights. They receive a wage equivalent to about 7 euros per day, work longer hours than allowed, and lack the necessary equipment to ensure their own safety.
However, the documentary also presents the viewpoint of a native of the area who believes that palm oil is contributing to the economy of their country and that the ideal situation would be to implement a more sustainable and respectful model that benefits all parties involved. This would require greater regulation of palm oil plantations, adherence to labor and environmental standards, and the participation of indigenous communities in government plans. In other words, a business that does not prioritize economic interests over human rights.
In conclusion, deforestation in Sumatra and its close connection to the palm oil industry highlights a very concerning reality that forces us to question the sustainability of our current consumption model. The destruction of tropical rainforests and the resulting loss of biodiversity, along with the severe impacts on human health and climate change, remind us of the urgent need to take action. It is in our hands.