Greed, Corruption and Humanitarian Nightmares are not Confined to the Usual Suspects

Review by Clare O'Beara, Goodreads, 20 August 2015

This investigative look at the Malaysian logging firms and palm oil plantations on Borneo, shows that greed, corruption and humanitarian nightmares are not confined to the usual suspects in Africa.

A ruling family, by selling timber licences and permits to exploit, became billionaires. They were backed by global banking organisations on the basis that the island's economy should benefit. However the hardwood timbers have been sold to the timber trade, oil palm plantations are filling the land, sterile monocrops by comparison, and the native people have been shunted aside. The soil is eroding away and with no volcanoes, the island loses more earth in every monsoon season. Landslides are common with no major tree roots.

Oil palm trees are hugely productive of berries full of edible oil, but again the local people are not profiting from the sales. Rainforests in general are not places that are pleasant to live. They are hugely biodiverse, but in Borneo the lack of replacement minerals means that plants have evolved to be poisonous or thorny, creatures are venomous, and the large pitcher plants show that plants find fertiliser in interesting ways. The largest earthworm in the world lives here preyed upon by the largest leech in the world. We would not call this Eden, especially during monsoon. However the plants have evolved to survive here and many species of plant and animal are found nowhere else. When this island's rainforest is gone, it's gone.

For years I've been reading food labels and refusing to buy anything containing palm oil or palm fat. It's a small start. Books like Money Logging expose the true heart of the matter. This can be a challenging read, but we need to know.

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