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GCSE Geographers explore the threats posed by deforestation

As an element of the GCSE Geography course, members of the fourth form have been actively investigating ecosystems and in particular the tropical rainforest (TRF).

The students have taken an interest in the threat to biodiversity and the sustainability of human life on Earth posed by deforestation. Exploration of this critical, contemporary issue is being fuelled by contributions from the students themselves and recent media coverage.

Thomas C took a particular interest in the impact of commercial palm oil plantations in the tropical rainforest biome. He told his peers:

Palm oil is very bad for the TRF as it is destroying life and landscapes. Palm oil is everywhere – in our foods, cosmetics, cleaning products and fuels. It is a source of huge profits for multinational corporations, while at the same time replacing the TRF with “green deserts” containing virtually no biodiversity. It can destroy the livelihoods of smallholders and displace indigenous peoples such as the Orang Rimba of southeast Sumatra.

They linked their studies with the 2019 BBC 2 series Africa with Ade Adepitan, investigating plans to develop a sustainable version of palm oil farming in Gabon and were pleased that Ade retweeted their social media post.

Thomas C said:

Nutella, for example, is around 20% palm oil, with 100% traceability via Roundtable on sustainable palm oil (RSPO). At home we have switched to using GÜ which has no added palm oil as an experiment. The thing is, we have to evaluate the benefit to the local economy and therefore to development, health and education with the potential destruction of biodiversity. The people in Gabon (for example) want progress and if we can harvest palm oil sustainably, this might be achievable alongside protection of the environment. Who are we to say that people in Gabon should not have jobs in agriculture and be able to improve their quality of life?

Lambert O highlighted the potential value of using an alternative internet search engine. He told his classmates:

Ecosia is a new concept to find what you want on the internet. In common with other search engines, when you are researching, there are adverts around the screen. Uniquely, Ecosia, which is a social business, donates 80% of its profits from the adverts to plant trees where they are needed most and to other conservation projects. Your search is just as good as using the other major search engines. The difference is that you are helping the environment by searching for information. I would encourage you to use it, to help make things more sustainable for the next generation.

The debate continues…

Written by Lambert O and Thomas C.