Thanks. I think this is the IUCN report it references, which articulates some of the points made by @kmagnacca earlier. I think it actually understates the complexity and general intractability of some of the issues. I’ll just reiterate that the point of the original post was not about palm oil per se but the problem of knowing what you’re consuming when even whole cow’s milk isn’t what it used to be.
I have arguments with engineer types from time to time who tell me that tech will save us. This is an article of faith premised on a serious misunderstanding of the problem and the processes that created it. The math is pretty clear that if humanity doesn’t find a way to consume less of the resource base on which we depend we are headed for a bleak future where bad things will happen. That means we need a path to less consumption or fewer people. The Green Revolution was based on technology and fertilizer production, especially fertilizer made from natural gas. It vastly increased agricultural production by increasing unit productivity. There is nothing on the horizon that offers a similar development. Any increase in food production is going to be a gross production solution. Unless we start building urban high-rise or ocean agriculture systems we’re going to run out of arable land, full stop, whether it’s for edible oil or anything else unless population and economic expansion cease. As land becomes limiting and food prices rise these other options may become economically viable but they will still require massive amounts of fresh water, fertilizer and light. In most of the solutions that have been proposed much of the light is electrically generated, which raises a bunch of other questions.
I would add that the IUCN has a history of seeking solutions to complex environmental problems in sustainable use or wise use models. Many of the problems with documents like the IUCN report are shared by a lot of the climate change economic and social scenarios you see floated. The arguments that best lay bare the extremity of the challenges we confront are summarized in a couple of pithy articles about climate change politics by William E. Rees: Part 1 and Part 2. I don’t agree with every specific point but the overarching theme is bang on and it can be applied to a bunch of environmental issues, including tropical forest destruction.
Anyway, I was just crabby about the butter.
EDITED TO ADD:
Maybe some of that will cheer me up.