Summary: Palm oil used to be thought as one of the villains of the agricultural industry. Damaging to both the environment and the communities in which it is grown. And while some of this is still true, change for the better is starting to happen. This change is not due to a single measure, its a result of a series of moves, some small, some larger. Palm oil is a real world example of how, by reflecting the complexity of the situation, we can start to find meaningful solutions.
Why this is important: There is no single silver bullet to fix most challenges, it's going to take a mixture of lots of smaller changes, hard graft, and work on the ground. Palm oil illustrates this rather nicely.
The big theme: Agriculture is massively important. Without it billions would starve. But our modern agricultural system is also destructive, to the environment and to our social systems. Finding the balance is important. We need to grow foods efficiently and at scale, but at the same time we need to materially reduce the negative impacts. There is no simple single solution, its going to be a series of steps that get us to where we need to be in the future.
Summary of a story from Vox
Palm oil once destroyed orangutan-filled rainforests in Southeast Asia. Now, the industry is cleaning up its act. In the last two decades, palm oil has become an environmental boogeyman, an ingredient that conscious consumers should try to avoid. Over the last decade, the amount of deforestation caused by the industry has actually declined nearly every year in Indonesia, the world’s largest producer. And in 2021, it hit a 22-year low.