How the world got hooked on palm oil.

Image Credit: Orangutans rescued near a palm oil plantation in Kalimantan, Indonesia. Photograph by Vier Pfoten/Four Paws/Rex
It’s the miracle ingredient in everything from biscuits to shampoo. But our dependence on palm oil has devastating environmental consequences.
Once upon a time in a land far, far away, there grew a magical fruit. This fruit could be squeezed to produce a very special kind of oil that made cookies more healthy, soap more bubbly and crisps more crispy.
The oil could even make lipstick smoother and keep ice-cream from melting. Because of these wondrous qualities, people came from around the world to buy the fruit and its oil.
In the places where the fruit came from, people burned down the forest so they could plant more trees that grew the fruit – making lots of nasty smoke and sending all of the creatures of the forest scurrying away.
When the trees were burned, they emitted a gas that heated up the air. Then everybody was upset, because they loved the forest’s creatures and thought the temperature was warm enough already. A few people decided they shouldn’t use the oil any more, but mostly things went on as before, and the forest kept burning.
This is a true story. Except that it is not magic. The fruit of the oil palm tree (Elaeis guineensis), which grows in tropical climates, contains the world’s most versatile vegetable oil. It can handle frying without spoiling, and blends well with other oils.
It’s a combination of different types of fats and its consistency after refining make it a popular ingredient in packaged baked goods.
Its low production costs make it cheaper than frying oils such as cottonseed or sunflower. It provides the foaming agent in virtually every shampoo, liquid soap or detergent.
Cosmetics manufacturers prefer it to animal tallow for its ease of application and low price. It is increasingly used as a cheap raw material for biofuels, especially in the European Union.
It functions as a natural preservative in processed foods, and actually does raise the melting point of ice-cream.
Palm oil can be used as an adhesive that binds together the particles in fibreboard.
Oil palm trunks and fronds can be made into everything from plywood to the composite body of Malaysia’s national automobile.
Now read on via Source: How the world got hooked on palm oil | News | The Guardian

Bali’s Sacred Mountain.

Image Credit: Photograph by Michele Falzone/Getty Images.
Rice terraces, volcano views and jungle-tangled gorges make sleepy Sidemen feel like the Bali that time forgot.
There’s not a great deal to do in this rambling district in the foothills of Mount Agung, and it’s a fair old schlep from the tourist meccas of Ubud, Seminyak, Nusa Dua and Canggu, but that’s rather the point.
Wander through the rice paddies to a temple or two, get lost on the web of shady paths that weave their way through the woodlands, or simply soak in the staggering views of Bali’s sacred mountain, Gunung Agung.
Source: Undiscovered south-east Asia: remote towns and secret beaches | Travel | The Guardian

The Banded broadbill looks like a paint brushed kookaburra.

Image Credit: kajornyot wildlife photography/Getty Images
The banded broadbill looks like a kookaburra got attacked with a paintbrush
By Bec Crew,
That’s what the banded broadbill (Eurylaimus javanicus) looks like.
An ill-informed rendition of a kookaburra made by someone who will not be told that a bird can’t be purple and black with random yellow splotches and an outrageously turquoise beak.
And why not bright blue eyes while we’re at it?
Endemic to the island of Java in Indonesia, the banded broadbill is a rare tropical bird that lives in moist lowland rainforests, using its broad, sturdy beak to snatch up insects mid-flight.
Moving in flocks of 20 or so, these birds construct large, complex nests that hang from suspended vines, draped in lichen and spider webs to obscure them from view.
Both the males and females take nest-building and egg incubation very seriously.
Members of the broadbill family (Eurylaimidae), which boasts some of the most incredible colour combinations in the world, the banded broadbill is related to pitta birds (family: Pittidae), found in Asia, Australasia and Africa.
Source: The banded broadbill looks like a kookaburra got attacked with a paintbrush

The Tengger Volcanic Complex.

Tengger volcanic complex, Indonesia
This is part of a national park on the Indonesian island of Java that lies within a large caldera – the remains of an volcano that erupted more than 45,000 years ago.
In this view, the volcanic cones comprising the Tengger complex are at the centre, with smoke coming from Mount Bromo.
In the distance is Mount Semeru.
Image Credit: Photograph by EC Tong/Imagelibrary India Pvt
Source: The world’s natural wonders – in pictures | Travel | The Guardian

The terraced valleys of Ubud, Bali.

Rice terraces in Bali with palm trees and rays of sunlight.
Image Credit: Photograph by: Monika Vlageryte/Shutterstock
Just outside Ubud, in the uplands of Bali, a new tented camp has opened.
You dip down into a valley to find a world of restaurants, cistern-shaped pools, spas with trees growing through them and tents that unzip to reveal copper baths and batik-covered walls.
For no discernible reason, one of the restaurants is designed to look like a laundry.
Continue via Source: Bali highs in the terraced valleys of Ubud | Travel | The Guardian