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Gabby Makatura

Harsha, thank you for writing about this topic this week, I learned quite a bit from your post. When it comes to fixing this problem the responsibility is probably not going to lie where we would expect it to: on those creating the problem. Instead, as the reading pointed out, for every innovative producer the world will also need an innovative problem solver to clean up the mess even if they didn't create it.

In regard to your question I think we are being selfish, but not malicious or with intent. For example the other day my mom sent me home with some delicious blueberries. When I got up to Boulder the woman I live with said she was interested I was eating blueberries at this time of year given my field of studies. There is no way blueberries in February in Boulder is sustainable. I wish there was something on the packaging that would tell of more information about the harm that was done in order to get those blueberries there. Maybe then some things would start to change.


I think your blog post touches on an important point about how the global economy can undermine the resilience of local communities to adopt to weather event, such as El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO), or longer term trends, such as climate change.

In my climate change law class, we dedicated a couple of classes to talking about how the global distribution in wealth resulting from colonialism, combined with severe droughts coinciding with ENSO, lead to a series of famines in the global South towards the end of the 19th century. The article we read (Davis, 2001) argued that the famines were driven as much by the undermining of local resiliency, through conversion of local agriculture to cash crops, incorporation into the global market, and undermining of social reciprocity norms, as they were by ENSO drought conditions.

To me, palm oil seems to be an apt modern-day parallel to these dynamics. As you noted, foreign demand largely drives palm oil production, which has undermined the resilience of ecosystems in Borneo to ENSO events. Similarly, palm oil is undermining the resilience of local communities, and making them increasingly dependent on global markets, which they have no control over, for their incomes. In some cases, indigenous people are violently removed from their lands by palm oil companies (Friends of Earth, 2008).

As both consumers and environmental professionals, I think it is essential that we consider how these often opaque dynamics of our modern economy can have severe impacts on our environment and human rights on the other side of the globe.


Davis, M. (2001). Late Victorian Holocausts: El Niño Famines and the Making of the Third World. New York, NY: Verso.

Friends of Earth, LifeMosaic and Sawit Watch (2008). Losing Ground: Human rights impacts of oil palm plantation expansion in Indonesia. Accessed at: http://www.forestpeoples.org/sites/fpp/files/publication/2012/02/losingground.pdf

Sam Krasnobrod

At some point the palm plantations will reach saturation. Same with the corn fields, the sugar cane, and the almond. Much of the land in the developed world was once cropland, then it became urban sprawl, and now some of that sprawl is becoming reclaimed wet or grasslands. Given that there is an inevitable 'bust' that will come post 'boom,' I think that it is safe to say that as these developing countries become less dependent on crops and more dependent on built-commodities, they too will slowly begin to reclaim their lands for nature. Will this happen soon enough to mitigate the changes we are seeing in the ENSO and other climate patterns? No. But who are we to say that these developing countries can't have their own industrial revolution? We already had ours a few hundred years ago.

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