Sapiens | The Truth About “Sustainable” Palm Oil

A Marind elder named Pius points out that in so-called sustainable palm oil projects, conservation scientists from outside the area who “have never lived with the forest” are hired by palm oil companies to evaluate the plantations. These conservationists compartmentalize the landscape into zones of high and low conservation value based on guidelines set by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil. Areas of high conservation value include forests that house threatened species or protect watersheds, as well as sites that satisfy the needs of local communities — though this latter aspect tends to get neglected. Companies are then required to demarcate, monitor, and enhance areas deemed to be of high value.

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