The award-winning, Brooklyn-based writer Jocelyn C. Zuckerman, joined me on Inside Ideas this week to talk about her first book, Planet Palm: How Palm Ended Up in Everything – and Endangered the World.
Talking about one of the many issues relating to the world’s insatiable thirst for palm oil, she said: “The problem is monoculture plantations but that’s what the corporations want because that is where they can make all the money, by having one massive thing that they can farm without having to use that much labour. The problem is the industrialised stuff, if you are producing it in an artisanal way, I think it can be done right but we don’t need as much palm oil in our diet, in our world – we need to rethink what those tropical lands can be better used for. All of our concepts of capitalism, borders, countries – we need to throw everything up in the air and figure out how we move ahead.”
On the impact of the plantations, she added: “The oil palm is indigenous to west and central Africa so it grows best at 10 degrees to the north and south of the equator, which is the same latitude Indonesia and Malaysia are on. The problem is that it’s that exact swathe of the planet that is home to our tropical rainforests. Which, as we know, are massively important for sequestering carbon, and are home to our most important biodiversity. Much of it also sits on top of peatlands, organic matter that has accumulated over millennia, and the companies burn that, chop down the forests and then burn it, so it’s carbon flowing into the atmosphere for years and years. Back at the turn of the century no-one was thinking about carbon emissions or biodiversity loss – it wasn’t on our radars so we’re learning as we go and hopefully it’s not too late.”
Catch up with show now to hear more about a book that explains how it all went wrong and what the next chapter might hold.
In June, the award-winning journalist, John Pickrell, came onto the show to discuss his latest book Flames of Extinction, which looks at last year’s tragic wildfires in Australia and the inspirational stories of those on the frontline who risked everything to save others. It is the first book on Australia’s record-setting fires, and tells the story of the scientists, wildlife rehabilitators, and community members who came together to save wildlife and protect them in the future.
John makes a powerful case for strong conservation measures to be introduced now to avert a biodiversity crisis that will be impossible for humanity to overcome. And in light of the recent IPCC report revealing climate change will lead to ever worsening weather incidents, increasing the incidence of events like wildfires, John’s book has lessons that can be applied in the ongoing fight to protect the planet.