Woodlark Island is a small island, some 80,000 hectares, in the Pacific with a population of 6,000 residents. Vitroplant plans to convert 60,000 acres to palm oil plantations for biofuels. A solid majority of villagers reportedly oppose the project, and were not even aware of it until after its approval.
An oil palm plantation on Woodlark Island will endanger the island’s flora and fauna, cause environmental upheaval, and result in drastic cultural change. Woodlark Island is home to at least nineteen endemic species, including a speckled nocturnal marsupial called the Woodlark Cuscus, and an endemic ebony tree. The initial logging would cause many of these rare species to go extinct, and toxic waste and runoff will threaten freshwater and marine ecosytems.
Woodlark Island continues to maintain a social and ecological system that has supported human and other life for millennia; with healthy forests, wildlife and humans. Those opposing the project locally are concerned with disintegration of the native culture from socially unacceptable behavior and starvation as gardening and hunting activities are displaced.
Throughout Southeast Asia, particularly in Malaysia and Indonesia, large swaths of rainforest have been and continue to be destroyed to produce biofuel crops. Oil palm has many uses, but increasingly it is used in biodiesel in Europe and elsewhere, raising ethical issues of burning a food product for fuel. Oil palm agrofuel is heralded as a climate change mitigation measure, yet the initial rainforest clearance leads to much more carbon release than its production and use avoids.
The islanders of Woodlark have worked hard to draw international attention to this issue, and have issued an appeal for the support of international NGOs and citizens to pressure the government to withdraw the project. Register your support here.