Is That a Rain Forest in Your Gas Tank?

By Rebecca Horne | December 8, 2010 12:38 pm

While palm oil biofuel production is a major source of income for Malaysia, clear-cutting the rain forest for the palm plantations also has dramatic ecological and social costs. Palm oil biofuel production growth is fuelling the rapid clearing of the most biodiverse tropical forest in the world, endangering species that need this habitat. In addition, forests contain large quantities of carbon which are released when they are burnt to make space for farming. Photographer Daniel Kukla started photographing the palm plantations in Borneo in October 2010:

“For me, the word ‘Borneo’ conjured up vivid dreams of lush impenetrable rain forests teeming with life. Upon my arrival to the island of Borneo I was confronted by the reality of this place where huge tracts of old growth rain forest have been cleared for oil palm plantations. After many long drives through the countryside seeing only palm plantations, I wanted to see the landscape might look like from a different vantage point. I took a small propeller plane around the southern part of Sabah to get this aerial shot. Despite the strange beauty to the verdant parallel lines and snaking dirt roads, I felt a sinking feeling while I was photographing. So much has already been lost and the plantations continue to eat away into the landscape.”

Established and highly productive stands of oil palm in Sabah, Malaysia, 2010.


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About Rebecca Horne

Rebecca Horne ( is an artist, multi-platform freelance writer, and award-winning photography director. She launched Visual Science for in March 2010. She also writes about science and photography for The WallStreet Journal. You can reach her at


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