Why I hate palm oil

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

I've been a huge fan of Leonardo DiCaprio pretty much since the day I could talk. I'm pretty sure one of the first phrases I ever muttered out as a kid was 'I want to marry Leo' after having seen parts of Titanic when I was five years old (don't worry, my parents fast forwarded certain scenes). This post isn't about his acting though. It isn't a tribute to how happy I was when he won an Oscar this year or how attractive he might have looked snorting cocaine in 'Wolf on Wall street'. No. The reasons why I like Leonardo DiCaprio is because of his environmental activism.
Leo in a shoot for Inhabit.com
If you've followed my academic career, blogs, or personally know me- then you might have heard me rant about the dangers of palm oil. I didn't know about the dangers of this tiny red fruit until my sophomore year of college. It was 2014 and I had decided the year before to become a pescetarian for environmental reasons. After having watched documentaries form Al Gore's production to one's with religious arguments I couldn't help but change my lifestyle. With our earths temperature rising every year and the ozone level depleting faster and faster, I need to learn how I could make a change. So I said goodbye to meat and rode my bike to school. I thought that I had done enough of my part when it came to lifestyle changes. I wasn't eating meat, I ate local produce, and began walking to work.

A photo of palm oil deforestation 

Then I heard about palm oil. The documentary 'Years of Living Dangerously' came out in HBO that year and of course I HAD to watch it because Ian Somerhaulder had a feature in it (priorities right?). You might be asking what palm oil is, and if you're a US citizen there's probably a reason why you might not know about. Compared to our European friends, Palm Oil in the US is known more commonly as 'vegetable oil'. It is used in a large majority of your food and beauty/ health products such as frying oil, soap, lipstick, cookies as well as biofuel.

So what makes these tiny red fruit so bad? According to NASA, deforestation is the third largest cause for the increase of greenhouse gases. Indonesia, where palm oil is produced, has the highest amount of greenhouse gases in the world because of the production of palm oil. There production of palm oil is so large- that you can see  black carbon being produced on this island from outer pace. What makes matters worse, is that the production of the fruit doesn't seem to be stopping. The production of the fruit is estimated to double; ultimately causing the forests in Indonesia to continue to be cut down carbon-rich peat lands that are releasing extra stores of C02 due to deforestation.

A Leonardo DiCaprio post on Instagram

You're probably wondering were Leonardo DiCaprio comes into this. Last month, he decided to visit the island and shed light on the problem. Though some European countries are starting to find alternative measures, the production of palm oil hasn't stopped. It's environmental and ecological impact still plays a crucial role on our environment today. Since learning about palm oil, I have practically cut out eating and buying products that contain palm oil (you can see a list here of products that contain it here). Yes, this means that I don't eat chunks of Neutella anymore or certain chips. I'm the person on the grocery store that checks the ingredients and gets mad at Trader Joes because even some of there products contain palm oil. Until the process of production changes I cannot stand by knowing that I'm a part of the palm oil system. So if that means I can't have a PB&J sandwich anymore so be it. We each play a vital role in this world and our decisions can make a difference.

Until next time,


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