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The Palm Oil Problem

Discussion in 'Earth and Environmental Science' started by amusicsite, 14 Nov 2018.

  1. amusicsite

    amusicsite dn ʎɐʍ sᴉɥ┴ Staff Member

    All together now...

    All I want for Christmas is a palm oil free product...

    Iceland, the UK supermarket not the nation, has done a very good job of going viral this year by getting it's palm oil free campaign banned on traditional advertising markets and instead getting a massive boost on alternative social platforms.

    View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JdpspllWI2o

    It's a very clever advert with a good but subtle message...

    "We are removing palm oil from our products until the industry cleans up it's act"

    The problem is that the bad corporations are unlikely to clean up their act.


    The problem is not the choice of plant we grow to get these invaluable oily product but instead where we choose to grow them. It seems 'unused' rain forests are a popular choice. The land is often 'unclaimed' or cheap and it's highly profitable to just flatten the bio-diverse land to turn it into a single use production farm.


    So it appears that campaigns like the one Iceland highlighted can have an effect and help solve individual problems. Though often it just moves them to another areas and the problem persists.

    One of the big problems is the meat industry. It produces a lot of CO2, uses a lot of soy as feed stock, uses a lot of fresh drinking water, energy, antibiotics and most medical experts think the average person probably eats too much of it.

    One obvious solution would be for most people to either eat a lot less meat or totally remove it from their diet. Even switching from red meat to white meat helps solve a lot of the problems.

    The real problem though it ethics, sustainability and corporate responsibility. We need to reign in these corporations and stop their dirty tricks for more profit. Make them grow food responsibly make them grow it nearer where the demand is and to use systems that are better for the world.

    There are good solutions to this problem too these days. Just like Elon Musk has shown that electric cars can work on a large scale, I think it's time for someone to step up to the plate and do the same for 'vertical farming'. The biggest problem with this so far has been the huge cost of electricity you need to replicate the sun's power. Though the advances in renewables is radically reducing the cost of this. Maybe it's time to look at some of the dead space on our planets surface where we can grow food without breaking what is already there.

    For example growing food indoors in deserts using solar power. Growing indoors uses a lot less water as you can capture and reuse most of the waste water. You could also use the solar power to pump up sea water and desalinate it for use. It's also one of the electrical demands where you don't have to worry about only having solar power when it's sunny, that's exactly what plants are used to! All you will be doing is using that 'free' electrical power to supply just the right amount of light to the plants that they need. LED lights when they are young and for more complex plants sodium lights to finish them off.

    Even that is not ideal though as there is life in deserts and it's still using land for space up. Another more logical option could be the oceans. They cover 80% of the surface and apart from the areas around land masses are mostly a watery desert. If we could build huge plantations, artificial islands, out in the deep ocean we could grow all the food stuff we need easily. You start with a ring of wave generators (snakes) that can be scaled up to absorb almost any wave height. In the deep ocean this would most likely be a huge outer ring to cope with the 10s meters type waves. Then an inner ring to cope with what get's through and so on till you get to a level you can use the duck-type devices to remove the last bit of energy. The power you could capture from this is vast.

    Inside these rings you would get fairly calm water that would be perfect for floating solar panels which are a very good idea as excess heat is a real efficiency problem for solar. Floating them on water really helps. As well as this you could use all that power you are generating to desalinate the sea water to use for growing crops or even livestock. The nitrogen rich by-products could be dumped straight into the ocean as this would encourage growing of even more plants in the ocean and attract fish to new areas they would not have been able to survive in. Something like this experiment where you grow a mixture of seaweed and plankton, which can be eaten. This makes an environment you can grow scallops, oysters, clams and the like. This would then attract larger fish and mammals too.

    Obviously it's big project moving all the world's food production off land but the food industry has the resources to do it and once it's done the maintenance would probably be quite cheap. You could probably automate most of it and you have the added advantage of freeing up all that agricultural land for other uses like housing or parks.

    Eventually we could even move this off planet to bio-spheres in space and take over these artificial islands to live on.

    We may be what we eat but out planet is also affected by what we consume too and it's time to start working on good long term sustainable solutions rather than moving the problem from one place to anther.
    classic33 likes this.
  2. Yellow Fang

    Yellow Fang Veteran Geek

    I heard Chris Packham on Radio 4 yesterday. He said now that all the Phillipine and Indonesian rainforests have been chopped down for palm oil, the oil palm magnates want to get on with chopping down the African rainforests.

    Regarding soya, I've mostly given up eating meat. Partly because of sustainability reasons, through animal welfare reasons.
  3. Yellow Fang

    Yellow Fang Veteran Geek

    I noticed Chris Packhan has backed the Iceland campaign. I think I might nosy down to my local branch and see how much of my food shopping I can do there.