has become routine for rich nations to exploit poor nations that
possess natural resources that the rich nations want and, to get
those resources, the rich will do just about anything, no matter how
destructive to the people, the land, or the political and social
negative influence of transnational corporations and the richer
nations are felt around the globe, even when they are not directly
involved in exploitation of a given resource at any given time.
Never doubt that they are planning on it and their plans are very
long range. To get the picture, one only has to consider the oil
companies and their long lead-time in bringing the oil out of the
ground and onto the world market. It takes years.
goes for the land grabs that are occurring in so many countries in
South America, Africa, Asia, and other places. Corporations and
nations are leasing or buying outright huge parcels of land to
produce food for their own nation, leaving the people from whom the
land was taken without the means to even subsist.
important reason for taking large sections of land (measured usually
in square miles) by foreign corporations and nations is for
introduction of vast plantations of palm oil trees, the oil of which
finds its way into manufactured foods around the world. To plant
those millions of trees, the rainforests are clear-cut and, for many
indigenous people, their livelihoods, way of life, and culture
disappear along with the forests.
there are many causes for deforestation of any country, one of the
other primary reasons is the use of firewood for cooking and heat and
the effort to keep up with the growing populations of the countries.
And that’s not to mention the corruption of government
officials that is accomplished by corporations or rich nations
through offers of money and promises of wealth. The people usually
are left out of any planning or benefit, even though it is their land
that is taken and abused or destroyed.
it is in Madagascar, the fourth largest island in the world, located
off Africa’s east coast. It is also one of the most biodiverse
places on earth. Madagascar is being deforested, inexorably, and at
this time at an increasing pace, according to a recent report earlier
this month by the New York Times Service, which highlighted the
ever-increasing cutting of forests for the production of charcoal.
City dwellers (and there are more and more of them every year, as
climate change forces them to move out of the countryside) are using
more charcoal rather than firewood, so it is one of the remaining
ways to make a living in the rural areas, as climate change and
drought diminish farming.
are other ways to cook that could eliminate permanently the need to
deforest entire regions for both firewood and charcoal. Willie
Smits, who went to Indonesia three decades ago and eventually became
an Indonesian citizen, has developed programs that: save the
rainforests, reforests places that have been destroyed by fire and
reckless logging, saves habitat for orangutans (and the forest apes,
as well), and maybe most important, has developed the planting of
sugar palms that provide the indigenous people with (ethanol) fuel
and a sustainable product that brings income to the forest
miracle plant is the sugar palm, which grows under the canopy of the
rainforest, thus it is not necessary to clear-cut the “lungs of
the world” to plant unsustainable crops like palm oil. Once
the sugar palm is in production, it produces volumes of sweet sap
every day and will keep producing for years. From the sap, villagers
make ethanol, which can replace the need for firewood or charcoal.
Smits and his fellow villagers have developed a small “factory”
for ethanol production that can be lowered into some of the more
remote areas by helicopter and those who live there can process their
sugar palm sap for their own use and take the surplus out on foot or
other small conveyance. There is no need for destructive roads for
trucks or other motorized vehicles and the people become more
self-sufficient in the process. The rainforest is saved. An added
benefit for the people and for the nation at large is that the sap is
very sweet and can be processed for use as a sweetener, a much more
sustainable way to produce the product than clear cutting for the
growing of very wasteful sugar cane.
and the organization of villagers and indigenous people (Masarang)
also have developed a way to reforest apparently destroyed land and
they are doing that on much larger areas than the relatively small
9,000 acres on which their experiment in sugar palm started. In the
original part, there is an orangutan sanctuary that has been in
operation for many years and all of the enterprises are accomplished
by the people, including the experimental efforts to save rainforests
and the great variety of wildlife that lives there.
to the study by Masarang of the possibility of replicating their
successful experiment with sugar palms, there is a wide band that
circles the globe in which similar conditions of climate and weather
exist to support the planting of sugar palms on several continents.
Indigenous peoples in those areas could save their ancestral lands
and, at the same time, produce a product sustainably that would
provide them with a means to make a living from the outside, as well
as provide their communities with a way to keep their culture intact,
far into the future.
message of Masarang has been brought to many countries through
lectures by Smits, including TED talks. Smits also attended the
Paris conference on global climate change in 2015 and was said to
have been well received, but out of all that there has been little
discussion of the methods and programs of Masarang among politicians
or even among environmental organizations in the developed countries.
It is likely that these interests believe that the power of
transnational corporations is too much to counter.
the money they spread liberally among the small elite in the poor
countries, and the clear cutting of indigenous lands continues apace,
for the planting of oil palms and other crops for export to the rich
countries. Again, the people who are displaced are left bereft of
their land and any benefit of the destructive operations. The answer
that corporations give to justify the land grabs for oil palm
plantations is that the oil in most manufactured foodstuffs is palm
oil and the cheapest and easiest way to produce such oil is to
commandeer the land and use the cheap labor of those who are
displaced to bring the oil to the tables of the richer countries.
There are many sources of food oil in the world that are produced
without destroying the greatest carbon sinks on earth, the
many, especially those of corporate mind, might not agree that the
rainforests should be saved, there are oil alternatives that would
actually help to save the rainforests, one of them being soybeans.
Yes, there are negatives in growing soy for oil (since most of the
beans planted are genetically manipulated, at least in the U.S.), but
whatever one’s view of GMOs, raising soy for oil, especially
non-GMO seed, is the sensible alternative to destruction of the
change is already at a dangerous stage and everything that can be
done to protect the carbon sinks of the world needs to be done, right
away. Peoples around the globe should be asking their governments
why there is so little discussion of the amazing aspects of sugar
palms and why their countries are not moving swiftly to replicate
what Masarang is doing in Indonesia. What can be done in the rich
countries is to enact laws that take into consideration the
destructive nature of palm oil production. Rich governments could
ban such products, just as they ban products that are made using
slave labor or indentured labor. Environmental organizations in the
rich countries need to take the lead, even though they may be
burdened with mitigating the problems caused by rampant
industrialization over many generations, they need to address
rainforest destruction, as well.
would appear to be within the band in which sugar palms would be very
productive, saving people, communities, rainforests, wildlife, and
all the while providing cleaner air everywhere, no matter where you
breathe it. All those concerned about saving living cultures,
wildlife, rainforests, and the planet itself should be demanding of
their governments and their national environmental organizations to
take immediate steps to bring the issue of sugar palms to the
forefront of any discussion of climate change and rainforest