It was a cool Tuesday morning outside of the Quincy Adams T Station. Cars zipped by along the Thomas E. Burgins Pkwy. All would appear to be right with the typical morning commute, until, underneath the glare of the sun a Tiger appeared!
The tiger (me) was calling on Dunkin to, “Be a Forest hero!” What does that mean? Currently, Dunkin uses palm oil in the process of making their donuts, something under increasing public scrutiny. Why?
Palm oil primarily comes from two countries in the world, Malaysia and Indonesia, with Indonesia producing the lion share. The government of Indonesia has historically turned a blind eye towards palm oil production due to the significant amount of wealth received from the sale of oil as a commodity. Next to coconut oil, it has some of the highest fat contents, the trees are also high yielding, and the oil is solid at room temperature, all ideal for a component in mass-produced food. Thanks to these qualities it quickly emerged as a go-to commodity on the world market for numerous products including chips, ice cream, soaps. In fact, the majority of products in supermarkets now contain palm oil.
Due to the proliferation of palm oil as a commodity, the production process behind palm oil is increasingly coming under scrutiny as it contributes to climate change, results in the massive loss of biodiversity, contributes to species extinction, and is creating slave-like conditions for many local communities involved in farming.
In order to plant palm trees farmers will use slash and burn methods to clear cut hundreds of acres of forest and replace them with monoculture palm plantations. By using slash-and-burn methods, the farmers not only burn the trees, but also a layer of peat that exists underneath the trees. This peat is extremely carbon-rich and is a testament to the importance of the forests in sequestering carbon from our atmosphere.
For biodiversity, entire regions of forests are being lost, often the habitats for endangered species such as the Sumatran Tiger, Orangutang and highly endangered Asian Elephant. As we compete with these species for more and more of their resources it is becoming increasingly difficult for them to survive. Now, only humans hold the power to dictate whether they will continue as existing species.
The effects on communities involved have been a significant loss of land due to land grabs by plantation owners, loss of many livelihoods due to the transition to monocrop agriculture, increased social conflict between communities and private industry and, last but not least, forced migration.
At this point in time the Palm industry has become so entrenched as a part of these countries economies that it is difficult to reverse the damage already done. Instead, we should look to put an immediate halt to future exploitation of currently pristine forests and communities. In order to do so we need forest heros to recognize the dire consequences of continued proliferation of the palm industry and transition to alternatives.One such way Dunkin’ Donuts can do this is by switching the oil used in their donut production processes!
For more information about the action, campaign and fun photos of me in a tiger costume, please feel free to visit forest heroes blog and website.