Palm Oil, Liquid Gold and Cause of Death by Clarissa A.
My first encounter with palm oil was in 2012 when I was driving from Medan to Bukit Lawang which is the starting point to enter the adventures at the Gunung Leuser National Park. Watching the perfectly aligned palm trees standing next to each other urged me to question the taxi driver what we were driving past for many miles. “Palm oil plantations” was his answer which immediately made me curious. After conducting research I was utterly shocked why I previously didn’t know about the issues on palm oil consumption. Why has no teacher taught me? Why are there no more efficient sources of vegetable oil that we use as an alternative?
Our daily food consumption is deadly for Mother Earth as palm oil can be found in almost everything. Walking through the supermarket it is almost impossible to select a product which doesn’t include palm oil. Taking a closer look, palm oil is everywhere, in processed food, beauty products. The worse thing is that it is not always clear that palm oil is an ingredient of a product as the companies use alternate names such as Vegetable Oil, Vegetable Fat, Palm Kernel, Palm Kernel Oil, Palm Fruit Oil, Palmate, Palmitate, Palmolein, Glyceryl, Stearate, Stearic Acid, Elaeis Guineensis, Palmitic Acid, Palm Stearine, Palmitoyl Oxostearamide, Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-3, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Sodium Kernelate, Sodium Palm Kernelate, Sodium Lauryl Lactylate/Sulphate, Hyrated Palm Glycerides, Etyl Palmitate, Octyl Palmitate, Palmityl Alcohol. (WWF, 2019).
Only recently, there has been a great raise in awareness throughout the world. Especially in Bali, I have noticed a positive trend of palm oil free alternatives available in shops and restaurants. Nonetheless, it’s inevitable that the quest for palm oil is not going to be reduced any time soon as humanity seems to rely upon the liquid gold. Speaking to locals in Sumatra, I learned that men and women feel inner turmoil as their private property is worth a lot more money if sold or leased to palm oil companies. A young man was unsure whether he should sell his inherited land to a palm oil company in exchange for a large amount of money which would enable him and his young family a better life. Conflict! It is only a few years later that I find myself sitting on a Klotok, a traditional boat, in Kalimantan, Borneo. Surrounded by the calming sounds of the crickets at night, the daytime was filled with the penetrating noise of a chainsaw. It was evident that the last remaining orangutans were only as visible along the river bank because it was their only patch of habitat.
Ever since, deforestation, palm oil, the rapid loss of habitat for orangutans, the decreasing number of endangered species in Indonesia and environmental sustainability have been the issues that concerned me. Today, the necessity to spread environmental awareness and educate the future generation on sustainable living is, even more, one of my prime focuses of teaching. With this blog entry, I aim to motivate all educators and teachers to do the same. If we don’t educate our students on the issues of deforestation linked with conscious consumption, who does? How about we celebrate Earth Day, plant trees and plants in our school garden, organize excursions to local farmers, fundraise, foster an endangered species, raise voice within the community or … what’s your idea to make an impact?