Biofuels & Biodiversity Don’t Mix

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


349px-Palm_oil_Ghana.jpg Very little can be done to make palm oil plantations more hospitable for birds and butterflies. Consequently rising demand for the biofuel will decimate biodiversity unless natural forests are preserved.

Lian Pin Koh of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich counted birds and butterflies in 15 palm oil plantations in Borneo and found that palm oil plantations supported between 1 and 13 butterfly species, and between 7 and 14 bird species. Previous research found at least 85 butterfly and 103 bird species in neighboring undisturbed rain forest.

The paper, Can palm oil plantations be made more hospitable for forest butterflies and birds?, to be published in the Journal of Applied Ecology, comes at time when rising demand for food and biofuels is squeezing biodiversity. Unless oil palm agriculture is regulated, rising global demand is likely to convert more forests into fuel for your car and mine. Frankly, my dear, neither is worth it.

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones’ environmental correspondent, lecturer, and 2008 winner of the Kiriyama Prize and the John Burroughs Medal Award.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest