"Say no to palm oil". I've seen this message a lot and never really understood its significance until recently coming face to face with the mass destruction being caused to our environment because of palm oil consumption.
Today, around 50% of the goods we use every day contain palm oil, with over 90% of the palm oil produced being used in food products, cosmetics, detergents and candles.
About 90% of the world’s palm oil is currently being produced in Malaysia and Indonesia, at the expense of each country's rainforests (because oil palms need a rainforest climate and a lot of land). Rainforest area the equivalent of Protected content fields is being destroyed every hour.
Driving through the highlands of Malaysia earlier this month, I could see this mass destruction. Acres upon acres of rainforest felled and replaced with palm plantations, large clearings waiting to be freshly planted, and the roads congested with logging trucks laden to the brim with large trunks from the rainforest trees that have been removed from these clearings, and trucks carrying palm nuts for processing for our future consumption.
Why aren't these actions considered by the world to be an environmental disaster? The Exxon Valdez Oil Spill was big news throughout the world (as it should be). Why not this?
In Protected content , in response to concerns about the social and environmental impact of palm oil, the Malaysian Government pledged to limit palm oil plantation expansion by retaining at least 50% of Malaysia's rainforests. Ironically, and quite hypocritically, in Protected content Government also launched "The Economic Transformation Programme" (ETP), a programme to assist Malaysia to achieve high-income status by Protected content , including the palm oil industry as one of the key sectors through which Malaysia would achieve its prosperity and economic growth.
Seeing all the logging trucks and new clearings and noting the ETP objective, I think it highly unlikely that the Government's pledge will be honoured. As Malaysia's media is largely controlled by the Government - a Government that has been in power since Malaysia's independence in Protected content to gerrymandering giving country voters (ie, the loggers and the palm plantation owners and operators) double their vote - we are unlikely to know.
Only a few manufacturers – mostly in the organic sector – label their products as containing palm oil and palm fat. Most companies disguise it, referring to it as “vegetable oils and fats”, but you can try not to buy products containing palm oil by reading the labels. If the product contains palm oil and it is not specifically named, it will be listed as one of these ingredients: stearate, stearyl, cetyl, cetearyl, sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS), sodium laureth sulphate, sodium dodecyl sulphate, (SDS or NaDS) sodium, calcium stearoyl lactylate steareth -2, steareth Protected content 422, Protected content , Protected content , Protected content , Protected content , and all vegetable oil (if the product contains saturated fats, it's most likely palm oil).
I will also be boycotting Malaysia as a tourist destination going forward. Having now done a few trips there and found all of the marketing on its top attractions to be completely false (of course, given that its media is controlled by the Government!), I think my hard earned tourist dollars can be better spent in more interesting and deserving countries.
Say no to palm oil. You CAN make a difference.