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In Indonesia and Malaysia, as demand for palm oil grows, so do environmental, labor concerns

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Slash-and-burn agriculture accounts for 80 percent of Indonesia’s carbon dioxide emissions, making it the world’s third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, behind the United States and China.

“It’s a perfect storm of human rights abuses and social conflict on the one hand and the destruction of some of the most biologically diverse forests in the world on the other,” said Laurel Sutherlin, communications director for the Rainforest Action Network, a San Francisco-based environmental organization. “Extraordinary ecosystems are becoming dead tree farms.”

Indonesian officials have announced plans to convert about 18 million more hectares — an area the size of Missouri — into palm oil plantations by 2020. Malaysia wants to double the area under cultivation over the same period to drive development in its rural eastern provinces, where infrastructure and living standards lag far behind its wealthier, more industrialized western peninsula.

 

The Washington Post
Jason Motlagh
Monday, November 26, 2012

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