Palm Oil: with Catherine Laurence, Eric Lambin, Orangutan rescuer Daniek Hendarto, RSPO SG Darrel Webber
Palm oil is everywhere – from cooking oil to soap to vegan margarine. Equatorial rainforest and peatland are cleared and replaced with serried ranks of oil palm trees (Elaeis guineensis). The biodiversity of Borneo and Sumatra, including the iconic Orang Utan, is threatened by habitat loss.
Some vegan activists say no product that causes so much destruction can be considered vegan. But is palm oil really worse than the alternatives? And can poor countries like Malaysia and Indonesia develop without it?
Environmentalist Catherine Laurence helps me disentangle the thicket of issues.
Hear academic experts Eric Lambin and Robert Greenland; vegan baker Ms Cupcake; primatologist Georgina Ash; vegan MP Kerry McCarthy; the boss of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil; and vegan Indonesian palm oil activist and Miskin Porno lead singer Daniek Hendarto.
Catherine Laurence has worked as a lawyer and environmental planner, most recently as a part time project adviser with a London-based charity working to reduce the ecological footprint of city-regions. She has been active with the volunteer advocacy group, London Vegan Campaigns since 2010, and co-ordinated the 2013 London Vegan Pledge, a free programme supporting participants to go vegan for a month, with a high proportion remaining vegan afterwards. (Hear the first episode of The Vegan Option, about the 2011 Vegan Pledge). She is now starting a new chapter in Brisbane, Australia, where she intends to continue working in the cause of a more just and gentle world.
The research I did for the Palm Oil show confirmed for me that if we care about the forests then (as well as being vegan, with our much-reduced forest footprint) there are some important steps we can take as individuals to make sure we’re part of the solution.