It’s in the palm of your hand

When it comes to conservation subjects especially projects abroad it’s hard to get much engagement with members of the public due to the lack of resource or help anyone can give from this country. Not that people are inherently immoral, but if you can’t see a problem then to most, it isn’t an issue. Some individuals find paying charities for conservation abroad such as the Galapagos Islands, a turn off and prefer either to do the work themselves by volunteering or focusing on projects closer to home. A valid point of view, doing things yourself and getting involved is much more rewarding. This is valid however, this isn’t possible for everyone, and is also impractical. To save species on the Galapagos Islands you can’t be there every day (unless you’re really lucky). A long trip on an exotic island, spending time helping the charity is vitally important but, to continue their vital work raising money here in the UK is essential. This is what funds these crucial projects, saving Bengal tigers, elephants and many other animals which, as residents of the UK never really touch our hearts. They may do visually but never through close encounters of seeing them in the wild. However, the subject of this article is a subject that anyone can relate to and help with and impacts us here.

Rare Javan Rhinos caught up in the wild fire

Rare Javan Rhinos potentially caught up in the wild fire, but more likely affected by Palm Oil

The dreaded palm oil; a common ingredient in a multitude of foods. It doesn’t sound too tragic or dangerous, like that of a poacher with a gun; however it is now more destructive and damaging to our world’s jungles and ecosystems than poaching. This cheaper alternative to more conventional oils such as rapeseed, sunflower etc. which, is grown in the UK is the preference for many producers of products from bread, to chocolate and biscuits. You may ask ‘Well isn’t it just oil, does it matter?’ the simple answer at first would be no it’s totally fine. Corporations would only use responsibly sourced materials for their foods right? It is clear, looking back through human existence that this is merely an ideology bound to fail. Farmers have to expand because corporations pay such small amounts for this destructive oil. Where are these plantations found? An empty land like a desert devoid of life? No, the fertile forests and jungles of Asia. Pristine forests from Thailand to Indonesia are replaced by money producing palm trees. The quickest way to do this invasive process. Fire. Usually on a moderately small-scale, however now there is a wildfire the entire length of Indonesia ripping through pristine tropical forest, destroying the habitat of Javan Rhinoceros, leopards, elephants, tigers and the most iconic the orangutans. The photos gracing our screens show a glimpse into the end of the world, judgement day. Our most closely related relative the orangutan burned and shielding itself from the ravages of the wildfire ripping through its home. Such a simple process out of control, related to wind, the El Nino and human incompetence. And does this matter that the most endangered and rare species on our entire planet are cooking alive? From the coverage on the news it seems not.

Severely burned Orangutan from the guardian.

Severely burned orangutan from the guardian.

Normally direct conservation and the aid of the natural world seem difficult or challenging. To save a single species maybe too much effort. Yet, how does one change this cataclysmic event? Simple, don’t buy or contribute to cheap labour and the pillage of the natural world. Is it that hard to buy products that either don’t use this devil oil, or at least grow it sustainably, paying a decent wage to the farmers, therefore not encouraging them to expand their farms. This is not to point the finger, or blame the farmers; they simply are trying to feed themselves and their families. This is a joint lesson to educate the companies that buy, the farmers that grow and to the people who buy the products it’s in. Do you really want the image of orangutans, rhinos and elephants running for their lives from the hot molten fire ripping through their homes while you are munching on your digestives?


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I am a trained geologist who has a passion for conservation and working with wildlife. I write articles that interest me and that I am passionate about using skills and knowledge to highlight issues related to climate change. I don’t write articles for views, I write them to change views.

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1 Response

  1. 6th January 2016

    […] oil, which is having a catastrophic effect on ecosystems across the globe. In a previous article (It’s in the palm of your hand) at the time of the anthropogenic fires in Indonesia I wanted to highlight the main cause of the […]

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