Today’s episode was inspired by some people that started trolling me on Twitter and provides valuable lessons for conservation (and dealing with trolls).
Palm oil, an ingredient in tons of food, cosmetic, and personal care products, is bad for biodiversity. There’s no doubt about that. I wrote a post explaining how it is bad and created a YouTube video on it. But the shocking thing about that post and video is that I state that I am no longer boycotting palm oil.
So what gives? Why in the world would I favor a product that depletes biodiversity and is responsible for some species being pushed to the brink of extinction?
In the article I explain that boycotting palm oil or putting a ban on it would not solve this biodiversity crisis – and will very likely make it worse too. Instead, I argue for sustainable palm oil.
The people favoring palm oil boycotts argue that there is no such thing as sustainable palm oil. I 100% agree that there are major problems with it. But getting rid of palm oil, again will not solve the biodiversity problem, and again, likely make it worse. We shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater, but instead push for truly sustainable palm oil.
In this episode, I talk more thoroughly about why palm oil boycotts won’t work and that we can’t live in a conservation la-la land. I would love to stop deforestation in Southeast Asia, where a lot of the palm oil comes from, but that is not a realistic solution at all.
Working with and supporting local communities is ESSENTIAL for effective conservation work. In many cases, conservationists have to push for less than ideal scenarios because if they suggest what they really want, the results will backfire. I talk about why local community is so important and give examples of where conservation has failed only because of the local community not supporting such projects.
Specifically I go over:
- What is palm oil and how it affects wildlife and the environment
- What happens if we boycott palm oil
- Why boycotting palm oil will backfire
- Why it’s critical we include the local community including economic support for conservation to be successful
- Specific examples of conservation projects failed because of lack of support from the local community
- How I handle trolls
- And MORE!
Resources and Sources Mentioned in Palm Oil and a Conservation Reality Check
Stephanie Schuttler is a wildlife biologist with 17 years of experience in mammal ecology and conservation, education, and outreach. Read her inspirational story, “My Unexpected Journey Into Science” to find out how she went from the daughter of a jeweler to a Ph.D. in wildlife biology. Feel free to contact Stephanie here.