NOTES FROM A PARK SLOPE DOG WALKER: HOW PALM OIL IS DESTROYING OUR PLANET

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In the last hundred years the global orangutan population has gone from 230,000 down to 50,000. In addition, endangered species such as tigers, rhino, and elephants are being decimated in tropical areas, most notably, in Indonesia. Not to mention, local communities are being destroyed and children forced into labor. And what is causing all of these crimes against humanity (and animals)?

Palm oil.

As Robert Schumacher of the Conservation and Life Sciences Division of the Indianapolis Zoo said: “It's the greatest threat” to the entire extinction of the orangutan.

Since the 1990’s the palm oil industry has taken over rainforest areas in Borneo and Sumatra, two places that are natural habitats for orangutan. And it’s not only that palm oil farmers simply clear cut the land, decimating their habitat, which is already bad enough—palm oil farmers also routinely murder and maim the orangutan to simply rid themselves of the potential problems their presence in the area could create.

You might be thinking right now: why is palm oil so prevalent? Why kill so many animals and commit so many atrocities for this stuff?

Palm oil is in more than half of everything you consume. It’s in various foods: ice cream, cookies, icing, instant noodles, non-dairy creamer, and even Nutella. It’s in so many things that companies try to trick us by listing it with alternative, and confusing names, such as: laeis guineensis, vegetable fat, vegetable oil, glyceryl, hydrogenated palm glycerides, palm kernel oil, palmitic acid, palmitoyl, palmolein, sodium palm kernelate, and stearic acid. In addition to food, palm oil can be found in detergents, shampoos, lipstick, and candles, among many other things. The demand for palm oil comes mostly from the US and Europe, but it’s expected to triple by 2050. And that’s after it already increased 400% since 1990.

Today, more than 300 football fields of rainforest are destroyed every hour to construct palm oil plantations. And not only does it endanger the lives of the orangutan, it also could lead to the extinction of the Sumatra tiger, the elephants of the region, rhinos, and many other animals of the rainforest. Not to mention, the local communities who once thrived with small farms are now pushed off their land, and forced to work for low wages in large companies’ palm oil plantations. Finally, the lack of a lush and thriving rainforest accelerates the impact of global warming.

Local tribes remain seemingly powerless though, as these palm oil production companies buy out government officials. For many, it seems hopeless.

What are some alternatives so we don’t have to support this soulless and destructive industry?

In 2003 the World Wildlife Fund collaborated with many companies and government officials to establish the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). Since then, they’ve been fighting to get more large multinational corporations to purchase palm oil strictly from ethical producers. To date, they have almost 6 millions acres of land established for sustainable palm oil production. And thousands of companies, including Nestle, Hershey’s, Loreal, Proctor and Gamble, Mars Inc., and Starbucks have joined the cause.

The list of all the companies who are devoted to ethical palm oil development can be found here. As a consumer you can make the choice to only buy products whose supply chain is constructed ethically.

Jason the Dog Walker Co. is a small Park Slope dog walking company, but we can still all do our part to ensure that vulnerable animal and human communities can live in peace, and free from the exploitation of industry. Please join us in supporting only companies who ethically source their materials, and say no to destructive palm oil. Let’s prioritize the future of the Earth, one where subsequent generations can experience the natural beauties of this world, instead of increased profit margins, which only benefit the wealthiest citizens.