borneo destruction of rainforest for palm oil

Borneo’s Heaven and Hell in your Palm

Welcome to the Jungle. The jungle is pure magic, heaven, paradise, I’ve found the Garden of Eden. It’s here everybody, it was here the whole time! My heart beats for the first time. My eyes dilate. I walk around in awe – my eyes, hands, ears, tongue tingling. There’s rustling in the trees. My eyes dart to the source. There is a group of silver leaf monkeys in the tree above us munching on some leaves. I stop in my tracks and hold my breath. We are smiling ear to ear, resting by the mangroves near the beach before we step deeper into the jungle. A branch breaks. Right there, a meter away, one of those funny big nosed monkeys, the proboscis monkey, climbing through the mangroves. He’s different from the other monkeys, walking like us on two legs and using his arms to hold onto branches like handrails for balance.

We’re alone with the jungle, deep inside. It’s wet, green, refreshingly cool and loud. Really loud. I can’t hear my thoughts the jungle has taken over, it sings, yells, plays and mesmerises us as we wander. Creatures big and small cross our path. We thank them for welcoming us in their home.

As far as the eye can see, virgin, 100,000 million year old ancient rainforest, animals (many yet to be discovered), and medicinal cures are set afire. The ash and smoke drifts in the sky, gasping for air and covers the whole land, crying for help. You can be miles and miles away from the fire and the haze won’t let you ignore what is happening. The haze is so thick at times, the people can’t drive, planes can’t fly and the people wear face masks. The fire spreads and spreads.

Migrants from nearby islands like Java, come to Borneo for the promise of a better life. They are welcomed into Kalimantan by their government. The land is wild jungle. What do we do with it? The jungle won’t give us money like this. So we burn it. Slash and burn. When the fire has died, we have this barren land. We can keep a small piece for ourselves and put a house for our family and we will sell the rest to the Palm Oil Company. They have money. They have big money. They will put their palms here and give me some money to make my house and enough to provide food to my family. Maybe I can buy a new watch.

The Big Picture
The forest is cleared in Borneo, Sumatra, Malaysia, the Amazon, and now in Papua New Guinea, often times against the will of the local people who are pushed off their land, to plant a mono-crop called Palm Oil. The crops spread farther than the eye can see and farther than the mind can imagine, deforesting the ancient jungle, destroying the carbon sink and putting animals like the orangutan and the Sumatran rhinoceros on the brink of extinction. Soon the crop will take over the whole jungle.

So what is palm oil good for?

We sit in our comfortable home in California and flush the forest down the toilet, throw the forest in the trash, spit the forest in the sink, wash the forest down the drain, pour the forest on the floors, spray the forest on the windows, it’s the guilty pleasure we munch on in between meals. Palm Oil is in your makeup, toothpastes, cleaning products, shampoo, conditioner, junk food, chocolate, fast food, instant noodles. The trees of Borneo make your toilet paper and paper towels. Amongst the countless, mysterious ingredients on the back of the box is Palm Oil. Palm oil goes by many different names, It has hundreds of alter egos like Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, ceytl alcohol, glyceryl stearate, and sometimes it can just be vegetable oil. Palm oil is disguised in 50% of the products at the grocery store.

In your Palm
The toothpaste costs $2 and will give me the whitest teeth, the conditioner is $7 and will give me the silkiest hair, the $10 cleaning product really works to remove grease stains! Where is the real price tag? Like many natural resources that are being destroyed or taken advantage of, the true cost of Palm Oil is far far greater than the price tag on the products. In fact, it is an unnecessary ingredient. Many products can be made without the ingredient or with a far more sustainable ingredient.

We need to become good guys in the story. It starts in the super market. Right now I can say we are mostly passive sheep, with a portion of us starting to wake up. We are accustomed to letting products be our educators. If the product says it is the best cleaning agent, we believe it. Even though it contains harmful, carcinogenic chemicals and devastating palm oil, we believe it, buy it and put it in our homes and expose our children to it. All the while, plain old white vinegar does the same job naturally and economically. Before buying any product, I flip it over and read the label. I look for harmful chemicals and palm oil. If it contains palm oil, I don’t buy it. Simple as that. There are alternatives. You can find better products, and you can learn about natural, economic options. I’ve found this helpful list online at the bottom of this post. It tells you all the products, many you probably love, that contain palm oil, and it gives you a list of some good brands which do not contain palm oil.

The fate of Borneo is in your palm. #inyourpalm

Sustainable palm oil is still a controversial monocrop that takes rainforest land.

Palm Oil Good/Bad Product List and Wallet Sized Name Guide Print Out

Good/bad product list

Name Guide print out for your wallet

Important Extras

In recent news, a new tragedy – Indonesia is on Fire – slash and burn has gone out of control, forest clearing for Palm Oil has put all of Indonesia on fire. It’s bad.

Borneo: Paradise Under Siege is a great National Geographic documentary you can watch on Youtube for more on the subject.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments below!