Got snacks? C’mon you can tell me. Try as we might to avoid processed foods, sometimes it creeps into our kitchens. Even food that doesn’t look like junk contains ingredients obtained through incredibly destructive means.
Take vegetable oil, peanut butter and store-brand cakes or muffins. Nearly all of these foods contain palm oil, an ingredient derived from the palm fruit, grown on the African oil palm tree.
“Vast areas of pristine rainforest is slashed and burned each year in order to make way for oil palm plantations,” reports the Palm Oil Project. This clear-cutting completely eliminates vital habitat for orangutans and other wildlife, causing them to be homeless if not killed outright.
As Nancy Roberts reported previously on Care2, everyone is guilty of buying the products that fuel this destruction:
Palm oil is in half of all products commonly found in supermarkets and comprises 35 percent of the global vegetable oil market. It is commonly used in shampoo, soap, processed foods, candy, even biofuel. Palm oil imports to the U.S. have tripled between 2005 and 2009, with increasing demand also in China, India and elsewhere. That skyrocketing demand has created three big palm oil victims: people, wildlife and the planet.
Bulldozing through vast tracts of rainforest isn’t only only terrible for wildlife and watersheds, however. It’s also contributing to global warming and climate change that affects all of us. “As vast swaths of forest and swamp are obliterated to make way for plantations, thousands of tons of carbon dioxide is released. More carbon dioxide is released when peat swamps are drained and dried out to make way for palm cultivation,” continues Roberts.
We can listen to (and ignore) environmental activists preach about the destructive nature of the palm oil industry and why we should avoid the brands that feed it all day, but what if a being who was directly impacted by our use of palm oil were to ask for help?
In the heart-breaking video below, we meet an orangutan named Strawberry. Displaced by the slash-and-burn practices of the palm oil industry, she now depends on humans for food and shelter. And she’s got an important request for those of us with palm oil products in our cupboards.
Watch the short video from the Rainforest Action Network below. Your opinion of palm oil will never be the same. After watching, please read “How To Stop Buying Palm Oil and Help Save The Orangutans.”
Photo Credit: Thinkstock