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The popcorn we eat while watching the absurd antics of the GOP on so many issues is tasty, but it is one of many products that we consume causing grave danger to the tropics, the life that it supports and to our climate in general. Most of us are familiar with palm oil production in Indonesia and Malaysia where most of the deforestation and habitat destruction has been the greatest. The result has been significant acreage losses of the natural habitat of the orangutan, of which both species are endangered; one species in particular, the Sumatran orangutan (as well as the Sumatran white tiger), has been listed as "critically endangered.

Rolf Skar, a senior forest campaigner with Greenpeace, is quoted as saying ""People don't realize that when you look at the global greenhouse gas emitters, there's China and the U.S. at the top ... but the third is Indonesia," He says the clearing and burning of forests for more and more palm oil facilities releases massive amounts of greenhouse gases.

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According to  Current Biology summary

Current great ape distribution in Africa substantially overlaps with current oil palm concessions (by 58.7%) and areas suitable for oil palm production (by 42.3%). More importantly, 39.9% of the distribution of great ape species on unprotected lands overlaps with suitable oil palm areas. There is an urgent need to develop guidelines for the expansion of oil palm in Africa to minimize the negative effects on apes and other wildlife. There is also a need for research to support land use decisions to reconcile economic development, great ape conservation, and avoiding carbon emissions.
Science Daily expands on the Current Biology study.
Palm oil is found in a large number of products, from popcorn to candy to soap to cosmetics, making growth of the tropical trees a very lucrative industry. But, at least for Wich, the downsides associated with oil palm demand have been particularly apparent.

"Working in Indonesia during the past two decades has given me first-hand experience of the extremely rapid oil palm development, for which large areas of forest have been cleared," he says. "Now that companies are looking to Africa, we wanted to determine how large the potential threat to African ape species is."

The new analysis shows that the oil palm industry presents a significant threat to apes all across Africa. The problem could be particularly acute in some countries, including Gabon, Congo, and The Democratic Republic of Congo, which is the only home to the peaceful chimpanzee relatives known as bonobos. In each of those nations, approximately 80% of the area suitable for oil palm growth overlaps with ape habitat.

"There is an urgent need to develop guidelines for the expansion of oil palm in Africa to minimize the negative effects on apes and other wildlife," Wich and colleagues write. "There is also a need for research to support land use decisions to reconcile economic development, great ape conservation, and the avoidance of carbon emissions."

For people looking to do something about the palm oil problem themselves, now is the time to start, the researchers say.

"The general public should try to push the companies they buy goods from to use sustainable oil palm," Wich says, noting that some products now carry a GreenPalm logo. "If consumers do buy a product with palm oil in it and no label, they should email, call, or otherwise contact the company to ask them to start using sustainable palm oil and tell them they will not continue to buy their product until it is labeled to indicate this."

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Palm oil presents a moral and ethical conundrum for me. Hopefully. the mitigation strategies (discussed in the closing of this diary) for farming palm oil will be implemented and expanded upon.

Ramen Noodles are often fried in palm oil during manufacturing and for those of us who have eaten a lot of those noodles, we can see the palm oil on the surface of the water as  they cook. In this fascinating read from NPR summarizing The Noodle Narrativesand titled, Ramen To The Rescue: How Instant Noodles Fight Global Hunger.

Instant noodles do good by alleviating the hunger of millions of people around the world. These supercheap, superpalatable noodles, they write, help the low-wage workers in rich and poor countries alike hang on when the going gets tough.

"They're cheap and tasty and tweakable," Gewertz tells The Salt. "They're capable of being transformed to everyone's cultural taste."

In Thailand, instant ramen is seasoned with lemongrass and cilantro. Mexicans can buy Maruchan noodle soup cups flecked with shrimp, lime and habanero, among other flavors. Papua New Guineans have incorporated the noodles into rituals as cardinal as weaning babies and honoring the dead, she says.

In Japan, the birthplace of instant ramen, the consumer appetite for novel ramen products is so ravenous that manufacturers introduce 600 new flavors a year, the authors report. But it all started in the postwar period.

Back in 1957, businessman Momofuku Ando (yes, the namesake of Chef David Chang's beloved restaurants) decided he wanted to invent an industrial take on freshly made ramen — the stuff Chang has helped make trendy again — for his hungry, budget-minded compatriots using surplus wheat donated by the U.S.

It took Ando years to perfect the process of making a dry block of noodles. But ultimately he succeeded by applying the "principle of tempura": steaming and dousing the noodles in chicken broth and then bathing them in hot oil. This dried them out and made them shelf-stable but also easy to rehydrate. He added the winning combination of MSG, salt and sugar (which now comes in a flavor packet) to round out the flavor. And to this day, manufacturers haven't strayed far from Ando's original recipe, the authors report..

While not exactly nutritious, instant noodles are a "proletariat hunger killer," as the anthropologist Sidney Mintz would say. They're made with wheat flour, which has a high glycemic index (a metric for how soon a food is likely to make you hungry again). But they're also fried in palm oil, which is 49 percent saturated fat — higher than pork lard (40 percent) and soybean oil (14 percent).

All that fat keeps you feeling full longer and helps bring the noodles' overall glycemic index down. The fact that instant noodles become soup once you add water helps, too — as the authors note, soup provides longer satiety than, say, noodles alone. And that helps explain why ramen have become a staple of the world's undernourished and part of some humanitarian food aid packages.

Palm is the industry's oil of choice because it's cheap, it can withstand high heat, and it has a longer shelf life than other oils. But in the U.S., we're told to eat palm oil sparingly because it raises LDL cholesterol levels. So is it really wise for so many people around the world to be so reliant on instant ramen for sustenance? Why can't the urban poor eat something more nutritious than this highly processed, high-fat food?

Sure, that would be ideal, the authors say, but the reality is that in many cities, the poor lack affordable alternatives that are more healthful than ramen. "How are you going to feed these people?" says Gewertz. "I would love to feed them with fruits and vegetables at the local markets, but they are expensive."

Five Mitigation Strategies from HCV Network.

HCV or High Conservation Approach:

Fundamental to HCV is the notion that, while all natural areas have value,
some areas support exceptionally important biodiversity,
environmental or socio-cultural attributes that merit
special management attention. These attributes are defined
as six High Conservation Values, three of which apply
specifically to biodiversity: HCV 1, concentrations of
biodiversity; HCV 2, large landscape-level forests; and
HCV 3, rare or endangered ecosystems. If a production
area is found to support one or more HCVs, operations
may still take place, but a management system adequate to
maintain or enhance the HCV must be implemented. This
may include protection of ‘no development’ zones within
the production matrix, or simple modification to existing
operational procedures.
Carbon Offsets:
Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest
Degradation (REDD) is a financial mechanism that aims to
compensate land users, land owners, corporations and
governments for the value of carbon stored in forests that
would otherwise be released into the atmosphere
through deforestation.
Biodiversity Banking:
Biodiversity banking, ‘habitat banking’, or ‘bio-credits’
are another emerging trading mechanism that seeks to
mitigate net biodiversity impacts of resource-extractive
industries. These schemes often involve an offsetting
component to allow resource-extracting companies to
compensate for biodiversity losses at one site by
improving conservation outcomes of an equal or greater
magnitude elsewhere.
Land-use Advocacy:
Efforts to influence land-use planning for oil palm development
are most active in Indonesia. Here, advocating for
rational land-use planning is especially important at the
district level, where oil palm licenses are issued (a macrolevel
decision). Simulations of land-use change
involving oil palm have been developed to inform district
government of the consequences of various land-use
options available to them. This is a major step forward
in protecting biodiversity from threats arising from
non-RSPO members or other industrial actors, but it is
not without its limitations: ultimately, effectiveness of this
type of approach depends on the willingness of government
to revise, implement and enforce land-use plans
given the strong influence of counter-lobbyists.
Enhanced Regulation and Enforcement:
Sound regulations and their enforcement are central
to successful biodiversity conservation in development
scenarios [65]. For oil palm, weak regulation and enforcement
in three areas severely encumber ongoing biodiversity
conservation efforts: the RSPO, government and
producers.

Originally posted to Pakalolo on Thu Jul 17, 2014 at 03:55 AM PDT.

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