An island of palms
I had read a little bit about the palm oil situation in Sumatra, but I wasn’t quite prepared for 90% of the landscape we drove through to be plantations in various stages of growth and harvest. To have seen the glorious beauty of Bukit Lawang national park, one of the last bits of protected forest in Sumatra, and realise that not so long ago the whole island would have been a thriving rainforest full of beautiful, wild (now endangered) animals (and gargantuan mosquitoes), was a tragedy. Deforestation has cleared staggering amounts of Indonesia’s forests, displacing wildlife to the brink of extinction.
Why it’s bad
There’s probably not too much of a need for me to go into detail about why this is bad. Global warming. Species extinction. Child labour. Not to mention it’s actually pretty bad for you. It’s outrageous. Because it produces a high yield and is very cheap (due to the countries it comes from and how economically screwed they already are), palm oil is in everything. It’s in food, drinks, cosmetics, body care items.
Vote with your wallet
What we have seen is that we, as consumers, have power. The banning of micro beads in some major countries as a recent example, Seaworld profits have plummeted so low that they are forced to phase out the use of Orcas in shows and plastic bags are on their way out too. But in most countries, it’s not even required that palm oil be clearly listed on the ingredients list, often it is simply called ‘vegetable oil’. So how are we supposed to use our collective buying power to alert the fat corporations to the fact that we don’t want to consume it?
- We need to find out what products it’s in.
- We need to stop buying these products. These guys have developed an app that lets you scan barcodes (Australia), to see if the product you want to buy has palm oil in it and if so, is it sustainably farmed.
- We need to know what else we can do. This website lists some legit and practical ways you can take action, get into it.
Have you got any other ways to avoid palm oil? Leave a comment below or email me, it would be great to hear from you. I would love to do a follow-up post on more ways to battle the beast!
In this world of hyper connectivity, our greatest power is in our collective numbers. One person can change very little, but as a team we can exponentially kick some ass.
Image credits, left to right: Vincentgodeau.tumblr.com, AioroStudio, Sanur.org, Ep.yimg.com