A Tale of Two Forests: United States
The United States produces 0.00 ounces of palm oil while consuming 1,600 metric tons per year—meaning it is all imported. In 2000 the U.S. imported 182 metric tons while during 2022 it is, so far, at 1,725 metric tons— an almost 10x increase over the course of 22 years. Where is the palm oil coming from, and is deforestation an issue in those countries? According to the Department of Labor, two countries produce the majority, 84%, of the entire world’s palm oil—Indonesia, at 59% and Malaysia, at 25%. The surge in U.S. demand for imports can be seen when looking at palm oil exports from Indonesia. In the year 2000 Indonesia exported 4,776 metric tons of palm oil, while in 2022, so far, 29,000 metric tons have been exported— an almost 600% increase. The massive growth in palm oil production is directly tied to deforestation. The University of Sheffield reported that more than 80% of the Indonesian rainforest is at risk of being destroyed. Horrific as these figures are, the United States is only the 5th highest palm oil importer—India, China, the EU, and Pakistan all rank higher. Palm oil production, use, and its association with child labor and deforestation seems to be a global problem. Compare American and European export of ecological devastation with other nations’ ecological protection and renewal initiatives, such as China’s de-desertification program and Africa’s Great Green Wall, and a vastly different, alternative path becomes clear.