Palm Oil and Our Future
LeAnn Fox and Jean-Pierre Ruiz, Guest Writers
Palm oil is used on a wide variety of products, including foods. One of these companies is Kellogg’s, maker of a wide variety of food products and best known for its cereals. While Kellogg’s touts its environmentally-friendly practices, its actual practices are far from being so. Recently, Kellogg’s issued a press release announcing that it would use sustainable palm oil in its products through the use of Greenpalm certificates until a time when truly sustainable palm oil becomes available. Great you say? Well, unfortunately Greenpalm certificates fail to stop environmental destruction. While it creates a feel good story, Kellogg’s, and others, should and must create the demand for sustainable palm oil by buying from suppliers who themselves buy from sustainable sources.
Until then, the use of non-sustainable palm oil will continue to devastate the eco-system and lead to the plight, and likely extinction, of many animal species. Two of those that have been pushed to the brink of extinction by the use of palm oil are the iconic orangutan and the Sumatran elephant. Why? Well, for starters, three football fields a minute of prime rain forest are being lost every day in Indonesia. Until recently, there used to be 350,000 wild orangutans but, due exclusively to deforestation, the numbers today have plummeted to around 5,000 – 6,000 in Sumatra, and somewhere in the range of about 45,000 to 47,000. Adding to their plight, orangutans are also poached for their meat, and are taken and sold as pets. These industrial plantations are also accused of land grabs and indigenous rights abuses. At this time, it would be safe to put a number of 3,000 cases in the courts of Indonesia and the Sarawak State of Malaysia, where native land owners are fighting to keep their ancestral lands so that they can continue their forest livelihoods.
With millions of hectares of palm oil licenses still to be planted, theirs and our future looks bleak, unless we take action. Indonesia aside, palm oil companies in Malaysia, Singapore, and even the US fund Herakles Farms, are now being accused of ripping the heart out of African forests to create palm oil plantations. This has added African species to the slippery slope of extinction.
Yet, it need not be so. Certified sustainable palm oil is widely available, though more expensive that non-sustainable sources. Certified sustainable palm oil plantations adhere to these basic rules:
* FPIC: free, prior consent from native land owners to let their lands become plantations.
* EIA: Environmental Impact Assessments are carried out properly to make sure the area if planted, will not impact wildlife too greatly.
* HCV: studies are done to make sure the proposed area is not of High Conservation Value.
All nice and tidy, but what happens on the ground can be completely different. The Indonesian government has shown a blatant disregard for conservation and routinely opens up “protected forests” for development. African nations are also doing the same and irresponsible palm oil companies are taking full advantage of this “government endorsement.”
So, if we cannot influence what these governments will do, then we must shut our borders down to any product that will cause deforestation, human rights abuses and wildlife extinction. As always, your power is not at the voting booth, but at the checkout counter. Read the labels and purchase products that are made with certified sustainably farmed palm oil.
At the same time you can encourage governments to protect the environment, and the future well-being of our children and ourselves, by signing a petition at: http://www.palmoilconsumers.com/campaigns.html.
About the Authors
LeAnn Fox has been a docent at the Woodland Park Zoo for nearly ten years and has contributed 4,200 hours of time. For nearly four years she worked as a keeper aide in the award-winning orangutan exhibit. During that time she developed a strong attachment to forest conservation particularly as it impacts wild orangutans. Currently retired from corporate life, she uses her time volunteering for projects including a literacy program helping adults to read and educating people on deforestation issues.
Jean-Pierre Ruiz has a diverse background. Born in Paris, and educated in Paris and Spain, while coming to the United States to continue his education and live, has given him a global outlook. He uses his education as a lawyer and engineer to work as a consultant, assisting companies to optimize their profits by maximizing market share; penetrating new markets; designing efficient work processes; and developing growth strategies, while providing for their employees, their families and the environment. Jean-Pierre works is based in his belief that empowered employees working in a healthy environment increases profitability. Jean-Pierre has worked as a lobbyist for smaller companies, helping them to succeed against much bigger companies. He has also taught in several institutions. He was a visiting professor at DePaul University’s School for New Learning; a guest lecturer at Seattle University and the University of Washington; as well as an adjunct faculty at Bellevue Community College. Mr. Ruiz has served on several non-profits such as the Children’s Trust Foundation, and the Children’s Response Center. For more information about Jean-Pierre, please visit his website, www.ecostarhealth.com.
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