(See Greenpeace blog for original photos)
Fires have been raging across Indonesia in recent weeks. We don't know exactly who started them, but we know that palm oil and paper companies have created the perfect conditions for them to flourish. Peatland is normally waterlogged and therefore very hard to ignite. But these companies have been draining Sumatra's peatlands to make way for plantations. When dry, peat is a perfect fuel and very hard to extinguish. But the destruction of habitat for endangered species, human harm and massive release of carbon dioxide caused by these fires is only the latest stage in the ongoing forest devastation by palm oil companies.
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More about palm oil and deforestation
Palm oil plantations are the main driver for deforestation in Indonesia and Malaysia, which account for 86 percent of global production of palm oil. Palm oil is found in many food products, toiletries and cosmetics. It is also burned as a fuel - for transport and for electricity generation.
The rainforests and peatlands of Indonesia and other tropical countries hold tremendous terrestrial carbon stocks, which are lost to the atmosphere when land is cleared to make way for oil palm plantations. This deforestation has made Indonesia the world’s third largest emitter of greenhouse gases after the US and China. Burning palm oil causes more greenhouse gas emissions than fossil fuels once the direct and indirect impacts on forests and peatlands are taken into account. The plantations also threaten species such as the orang utan with extinction and have been linked to forced displacement and human rights violations.