What We're Reading: October 2015

These are the stories we're reading to stay informed and want to share them with our stakeholders as well!

1. "Indonesia's forest fires threaten a third of the world's orangutans" by John Vidal at The Guardian 

via The Guardian (Photo: Rosa Panggabean)

via The Guardian (Photo: Rosa Panggabean)

It's no secret that Indonesia has been on fire. Since July, satellite imagery has shown over 100,000 fires burning across the country, mostly due to the common and harmful practice of slash and burn agriculture. Indonesia's carbon-rich peat-land forests are actually fire-resistant under normal conditions, but after years of improper land-use management, the forests are left vulnerable. Not only are there millions of people breathing in the noxious smoke from these fires, but Indonesia's wildlife is at risk. Hundreds of fire "hotspots" have been reported across the island of Borneo, home to a majority of the world's remaining wild orangutan populations. Not only does the smoke pose risks to the respiratory health of orangutans, but the fires are destroying the habitat that they depend on. Here's to hoping that steps are soon taken to address these fires, which are causing serious harm to all life on Earth.

2. "The rainforests hold the key to taming El Niño's destruction" by Deborah Lawrence at The Guardian

One of the reasons why Indonesia's fires have been destructive is because of this year's El Niño - a climate cycle that causes extreme droughts in some regions, while bringing immense flooding to others. This El Niño has brought dangerously dry conditions to the tropics, hindering the rain forests from being able to pump moisture into the atmosphere, which usually protects the planet from these intense droughts. And not only are the forests now unable to do their job, but they are being destroyed (see article above). While it is easy to feel disheartened, this highlights how incredibly important it to focus efforts on protecting rain forests across the globe.

3. "Our demand for 'healthier' junk food is creating some nasty new problems for the world" by Jake Flanagin at Quartz

palm-oil-fruit

via Human Food Project

Earlier this year, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) finalized a decision to ban partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs) in human food. From an immediate public health standpoint, it was a good decision because PHOs are linked to various chronic health problems. But from an environmental standpoint, this decision raises red flags because palm oil will replace artificial trans fats. While palm oil is a low-cost alternative, its production has led to widespread deforestation across Indonesia, the world's largest exporter of palm oil. Not only is this problematic for the environment, but the palm oil industry is known for its human rights abuses. While the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) is attempting to regulate the human and environmental impacts of the industry, you can take steps to become a more conscious consumer and avoid products that contain unsustainable palm oil. With Halloween right around the corner, you can start by checking out our Palm Oil Candy Guide and opting for treats that are good for the planet too!

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About Darya Minovi | View all posts by Darya Minovi

Darya is the Communications and Outreach Manager at Health In Harmony, based in Portland, OR. After studying Public Health and Environmental Policy at the College of William and Mary, Darya knew she wanted to dedicate her career to protecting human and environmental health. When she's not at work, you can find Darya enjoying the great outdoors, exploring Portland's farmers markets, or watching live music.