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Palm Oil Plantations, Charcoal, and a Flea Circus

A podcast from the Planet Earth Online collection and the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC). Does your shopping basket contain chocolate, biscuits and shampoo? If it does, you may be unwittingly contributing to the destruction of the some of the world's pristine rainforests.

Manufacturers now use palm oil in a huge range of products, because it's so cheap. But virgin rainforest in some of the planet's last wildernesses is being destroyed at a dizzying pace to make way for palm oil plantations to keep up with our voracious appetites for the products the stuff is in.

Richard Hollingham meets Tim Cockerill, who recently came back from Borneo, to find out how the plantations affect the animals and plants that live in the rainforests there.

We also hear why charcoal is such an incredible material. Not only can it tell us there was a fire, but it can also provide a previously unseen glimpse into our past. Sue Nelson goes to Frensham Common in Surrey to find out more.

Also, the latest news – how worker ants in Spanish colonies are the ones that hold the power, and why scientists know that sand in the Namib Desert is at least a million years old.

Finally, Tim Cockerill shows Richard Hollingham his very own working flea circus.

This podcast is dated 23 November 2010.

NERC is a part of the Research Councils UK (RCUK) partnership of research councils.

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