I am sure that many of you’ll disagree that we caused the haze and start pointing fingers to the Indonesian. But hey we did play a part too in causing the haze. And they were just doing their job in a faster way so that they can meet the demand.
What caused haze?
Forest fire in agriculture areas in Sumatra, Indonesia are the main cause of Haze. Many farmers are clearing forest for cultivation by using the slash-and-burn method. They clear vegetation for palm oil, pulp, and paper plantation. Because of the increasing demand for palm oil, there are more farmers using the slash-and-burn method to meet the supply. There is also poor forest management and fire control thus the forest fires have increased in Indonesia.
Palm oil is the most used vegetable oil in the world and it is used for things like margarine, chocolate, and even lipsticks.
How are we contributing to the haze?
By buying products that contain palm oil does make the demand for palm oil higher. With a higher demand for palm oil, farmers have to make sure that the supplies meet worldwide demand. Thus, they have to use the slash-and-burn method as it clear lands much faster. Everyone uses papers, toilet papers, tissues, cardboard. the demand for papers has been increasing as people tend to use paper product excessively.
In 2014, Singapore generated 1.27 million tonnes of paper and cardboard waste, equivalent to about 50,000 sheets of paper per person.
What we should do.
- We can buy lesser products that contain palm oil so that the demand for it will decrease.
- We can also buy Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO) products
- Dine at eateries that use Sustainable Palm Oil. Such as IKEA, Vegan Burg, and nomvnom.
- Buy wood-based products that state Forest Stewardship Council Certified (FSC) or 100% recycled pulp and papers options. Products such as tissue papers, post its, printing papers and etc.
- Recycle papers and use both sides of the paper.
- Help raise awareness of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) and Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO).
What is the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO)?
The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) is an organization that was established to promote the growth and use of certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO). The market for sustainable palm oil is growing but it still represents only a relatively small fraction of overall palm oil sales. Hence we hope to increase the demand for CSPO by creating public awareness and working with all the parties involved.
Meanwhile, none of Singapore’s retailers and consumer goods manufacturers – except for one (AalstChocolate) – are RSPO members.
(World Wild Fund for nature Singapore)
What can the farmers do?
As there are many people that are indirectly employed by the palm oil industry, it is impossible to avoid palm oil. Thus, they can clear the land in a haze-free manner. Farmers still can make a living by planting a palm tree plantation. They just have to stop using the slash-and-burn method to clear the land. Deforestation and drain peat should be avoided so that the land wouldn’t be more vulnerable to forest fires.
Effects of haze
Habitat loss for animals
Critically endangered animals such as the Sumatran Tigers, Sumatran elephants, Sumatran orangutan and Javan rhinoceros will lose their habitats. It will then cause the animals to be more exposed to poachers and then get hunted easily. Animal and human conflicts will rise as the animals will have to leave their habitat and often come into contact with humans when they find new habitats.
Fires give out carbon dioxide and it needs oxygen to burn. Peatlands are lands containing partially decayed, dead plants that have been collected for many years. Peatlands store massive amounts of carbon. Once burned, peatland fires are extremely difficult to put out, often emitting smoke and carbon into the atmosphere for a long time. With more carbon in the air, it will then trap more heat.
Research has shown that individuals that have a constant exposure to high pollution from small particles [i.e. particulate matter 2.5 (PM2.5); particles smaller than 2.5 micrometres]. These people might suffer from cardiovascular effects ( i.e. such as heart attacks), respiratory symptoms and aggravate existing heart or lung disease, irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat in certain individual and in the worst case it may even cause premature death.
When the haze is at its peak the economy scene will hit a rock bottom as they would lose money. As there was an incident in 1997, the Singaporean government published a statement saying that they lost $9 billion through increased healthcare costs and disruptions to air travel and business. Whereas the financial damage to Indonesia, the government made an estimation implying that it could be as high as $47 billion, it’s a huge impact to the country’s economy.
What have I learned?
I have learned that there aren’t many companies making an effort to use sustainable palm oil in Singapore. Therefore, if the companies make an effort to change to sustainable palm oil, then the consumers will be able to play a part in buying these products. Thus, we shouldn’t just complain and push the blame to the Indonesian as we are at fault too. Haze does not only affect our health but also the environment and economy.
So, I actually headed down to the Cold Storage to find some products that use certified sustainable palm oil.
I didn’t go through every product to find out if it is using Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO) but I was hoping to come across products that use CSPO.To my disappointment, I only managed to find one product that contains CSPO.
There are so many products that contain palm oils but only a few percentages contain CSPO. This shows that many companies aren’t from the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). Knowing that Orea is a very popular brand worldwide and the fact that it isn’t from RSPO says that they are actually using a lot uncertified palm oil.
For paper products, my family does play a part to help save the environment. In my house, we have a drawer where we store papers that have been used on one side. So whenever we need some papers to do some workings like for example, math workings, we will just use those papers from that drawer. We also have a bag placed beside the dustbin and that bag is to place our trash that can be recycled. Every week, we will throw that trash into the recycle bin that is directly below my house.
Most paper products in Singapore are already certified by Forest Steward Council.
All in all, stopping the haze isn’t a something that can be done single-handedly. Thus, everyone has a part to play to stop the haze.
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