Tropical deforestation generates about one tenth of global warming emissions, putting three billion tons of carbon dioxide per year into the atmosphere. It also destroys ecosystems and forces animals from their homes. And the fires that frequently accompany deforestation create suffocating smog.
Much deforestation is caused by companies clearing land for planting, which couldn’t happen without the support of banks. The New York Times studied lending data to quantify the problem. It found that the Rajawali Group, an Indonesian conglomerate, secured $235 million in loans in 2014 from banks including Credit Suisse and Bank of America. Seeking to expand its palm oil plantations, it used the money to buy out a partner and bolster its landholdings. The next year, Rajawali land in Borneo became “a charred wasteland: smoldering fires, orangutans driven from their nests, and signs of an extensive release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere,” writes reporter Hiroko Tabuchi.
The banks issued the loans even “as Rajawali was being accused of extensive forest and peatland destruction, illegal burning, use of child labor and the use of force against workers at plantations under its control.”
If you’re still not tempted to click through, note that the accompanying slideshow includes a wheelbarrow full of baby orangutans.