We don’t get to do this as often as we would like. Today, we get to share some good news with you. Thanks to your hard work and support over the past four years, the world’s top publishers are moving in the right direction when it comes to eliminating rainforest destruction, human rights violations, and species extinction from their supply chains.
We’re publishing A New Chapter for the Publishing Industry: Putting Promises into Practice today, which outlines the shift in the entire sector as the implementation of publishers’ Indonesian forest commitments proceeds. Given the progress that publishers have undertaken in the last four years (since our 2010 report), we can confidently say that you have successfully prodded the 10 biggest publishers—and hence the whole industry—in the right direction. Click here to read the new report.
To really illustrate the point, we are pleased to tell you about two recently announced paper policies from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Macmillan. These policies go farther, in many ways, than past commitments from other companies. They demonstrate a new level of thoughtfulness and attention to detail—and a fierce commitment to eliminating controversial fiber and suppliers in order to protect the forests facing the greatest threats. Over the last four years, RAN has worked closely with publishers to develop and innovate the best practices for eliminating controversial fiber and suppliers from supply chains, and verifying and implementing forest commitments. What has emerged is a set of best practices (spelled out in the report) that could guide companies--not just in paper but in many forest commodities--in tracing their supply chains and protecting forests in the process. Of course, there’s still work to be done.
In order to translate this work to change on the ground, publishers should urge all of their supply chain partners to develop and implement strong, comprehensive paper policies. And, in particular, all companies should either stop buying (or maintain their no-buy stance) on controversial Indonesian pulp and paper giant APRIL and all affiliated companies.
Of course, this transformative work would never have been possible without you. While much of this work has happened behind the scenes, you were with us every step of the way through your commitment to RAN and its work.
This week, the national fossil fuel divestment movement escalated, as student blockades popped up at Harvard and Washington University in St. Louis. By the end of the week, 8 students had been arrested across the two campuses, the first arrests since the fossil fuel divestment campaign launched nearly two years ago.
The skirmish at Harvard touched off Wednesday, where students organized as Divest Harvard have been pushing the university to get rid of the oil, gas, and coal holdings in its $33 billion endowment. Harvard’s president, Drew Faust, has dug in against Divest Harvard’s demands, even denying that the fossil fuel industry is blocking meaningful action to address climate change. Facing an administration that refuses to distance itself from the fossil fuel corporations driving climate crisis, Divest Harvard launched a blockade of President Faust’s office that lasted more than 24 hours. On Thursday morning, Harvard University police arrested undergraduate Brett Roche -- the first arrest in the national divestment movement. Roche’s arrest marks an increasingly hardline response from Harvard’s administrators, as the university demonstrates a willingness to use police force to defend investment in fossil fuel corporations.
Brett Roche may have been the first divestment activist arrested on campus this week, but he certainly wasn’t the last. This morning, Washington University in St. Louis joined Harvard in infamy: seven students were arrested as they attempted to deliver a letter to the university’s board of trustees. Just days before, WashU Students Against Peabody ended a historic 17-day sit-in which demanded that Greg Boyce, notorious CEO of Peabody Energy, the world’s largest private coal company, be removed from the university’s board. During negotiations, Washington University chancellor Mark Wrighton flatly refused to respond to students demands. When asked to exercise leadership, he replied “I can, but I won’t.” Faced with an administration content to cozy up to fossil fuel interests, more than 100 students staged a peaceful sat-in outside Washington University’s board meeting under the watchful eyes of police, some of whom carried shields and riot gear. When a delegation of students attempted to enter the building to deliver a letter to Washington University’s board, they were arrested. All seven were charged with trespassing on their own campus.
The implications of this week of action are both scary and heartening. Novelist Margaret Atwood spoke to the scary, criticizing the administration's response as she received an award at Harvard yesterday: “Any society where arrest is preferable to open dialogue is a scary place.” Indeed, university administrators at both Harvard and Washington University appear to be so committed to the fossil fuel industry that they'll arrest their own students for speaking out.
On the hopeful side, the student divestment movement is finding its power. After two years of power-building and by-the-book advocacy, campus climate activists are proving that they have the courage to stand up to their administrators and the fossil fuel industry. Earlier in the school year, students at Harvard, Washington University, and dozens of other campuses worked with Rainforest Action Network to disrupt campus recruitment sessions organized by Bank of America and Citi, two of the largest financiers of the U.S. coal industry. Those actions, and the arrests this week, point to a rising tide of resistance that won’t be cowed by police response. A longer, deeper struggle is opening on campuses across the country, and administrators at the more than 300 universities with active divestment campaigns need to know that their chickens are coming home to roost. It's time to divest or expect resistance.
To support the Washington University in St. Louis students arrested this morning, call Chancellor Mark Wrighton at (314) 935-5100.
Tell him universities are for students, not for coal CEOs. Washington University needs to drop Peabody Energy so the school can get back to educating students, not arresting them.
2013 went down as the driest year in California’s recorded history. A major reservoir outside of Sacramento has been reduced from 83% to 36% capacity in just over 2 years. In the Central Valley, 1,200 square miles of land is sinking at a rate of 11 inches a year from the drilling of groundwater. And the annual measure of the Sierra Nevada snowmelt done every April 1st indicates that the end isn’t in sight.
In this time of drought, we are often encouraged to reduce our water intake by taking fewer and shorter showers, and to not water our lawns and wash our cars. But is that where we Californians use a majority of our water? Surprisingly, an upwards of 80% of our developed water supply (water designated for human use) goes towards agriculture. Some of it to grow tomatoes, broccoli, potatoes… but most of it goes to alfalfa.
Why alfalfa? Because alfalfa is what we feed dairy cows and beef cattle. This crop drinks up more of our water than any other, and is used to sustain the 5.25 million cows that call California home. Alfalfa isn’t just used on factory farms and dairies, it’s also used as a filler on grass-fed, pastured cows.
So how much water do we use to produce a plant we don’t eat, to fatten cows for an environmentally destructive diet we don’t really need?
According to a study by Mekonnen and Hoekstra, it takes 1700 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of beef, 660 gallons of water for one pound of pork, and 264 gallons of water for one pound of chicken. The University of California Alfalfa Workgroup states it takes 683 gallons of water to produce one gallon of milk.
This isn’t an isolated incident here in California. As climate change increases and our water sources dry up, we are seeing this play out all over the world. However, we have an easy fix at our fingertips. By reducing our meat intake by half, we reduce our water footprint by 30%. But why stop there? Switch to a plant-based diet and you’ll be reducing it by over 60%.
In the spirit of Earth Day, let’s look for new innovative ways to sustain the planet and those we share it with - let’s cut the bull and eat a plant-based diet.
Have you seen the press around Years of Living Dangerously yet? We're amazed by what's happening over at Showtime right now and we think you will be too. Not since Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth has this much time, talent and money been put into bringing the dramatic reality of climate change into the mainstream. We're at a tipping point in our historic effort to end the devastating effects of Conflict Palm Oil on people and the planet, and this kind of primetime, star-studded exposure on the issue has the potential to become a catalyst for major change. But that can only happen if enough people share this gripping program with everyone they know.
To achieve the huge changes we seek, we need to spread the word beyond the choir who already know climate change is the defining crisis of our time, and this new series provides us with a great tool to do just that. During filming, I walked with Harrison Ford down the snack food aisle of a local grocery store explaining how Conflict Palm Oil is destroying Indonesia’s forests. It was a truly memorable moment in my work as a forest advocate.
Now, I’m thrilled to share this link with you where you can watch the premiere episode of ShowTime’s groundbreaking new series on climate change, Years of Living Dangerously, which features our conversation—for free—a week before it will air on cable TV next Sunday, April 13th. (You can also watch the full episode above.)
The forest team at Rainforest Action Network has been working closely with the show’s producers for many months and we are confident that it has the potential to be the most important, highest profile story on climate change in a generation. This hard-hitting 9-part series – vetted by a team of respected climate scientists—brings together some of the biggest names in Hollywood and investigative journalism to dramatically tell the biggest story of our time to a larger audience than ever before. Check it out yourself, then make sure every person you know who is on the fence gets a chance to see this.
The first two episodes, called "The Last Stand, Part 1 and 2," include the story of how Conflict Palm Oil is wreaking havoc on Indonesia’s lush rainforests while spewing immense amounts of carbon pollution into the atmosphere. And crucially, the story brings the issue home by showing how each of us are connected to this growing crisis and how the actions we take to change corporate behavior can make a real difference.
There could not be a more urgent time for as many people as possible to see this unflinching program and hear the compelling message it contains—help us get this message out to everyone by sharing this video with your friends and family.
Last week the former governor of Riau province in Sumatra, the epicenter of deforestation in Indonesia, was sentenced to 14 years in prison by Indonesia’s anti corruption court for taking bribes for illegally issuing logging permits to nine suppliers of APRIL’s Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper and APP’s Indah Kiat mills. This conviction follows similar convictions of Riau’s Palalawan and Siak district regents (Bupatis).
This week a diverse and influential civil society network called the “anti forest-mafia coalition” released an in depth and ground breaking analysis of the Indonesian “Forest Legality Verification System” (SVLK) finding flaws in the SVLK standard and its application and detailing sweeping changes required for the system to be credible and contribute to improved forest governance in Indonesia.
The SVLK timber legality assurance system comes out of an agreement between the EU and Indonesian governments aimed at improving forest governance and ensuring that Indonesian forest products are produced, harvested and shipped in compliance with the laws and regulations of Indonesia. SLVK certification is intended to assure forest products (wood, paper, etc.) customers and trading partner governments that products are legal and to secure access to foreign markets. In Europe, the intention is that SVLK certified products gain automatic access to the market. In the US, SVLK certification will not provide a guarantee that forest products imported into the US will meet the requirements of the Lacey Act.
Nevertheless, Indonesian forest product companies like APRIL and their customers are already promoting their SVLK certification and hoping that SVLK will fulfill the due diligence requirements of the Lacey Act. However, given systemic governance problems and recent revelations from Indonesia, such assertions are premature. In fact, the anti forest-mafia coalition’s report, and the long list of forest crime cases being considered by Indonesia’s Anti Corruption Commission (KPK) suggests that the Riau former governor’s crimes are just the tip of the iceberg. The Riau convictions and the anti forest-mafia coalition’s report are a wake up call for governments, customers and investors alike. Forest governance in Indonesia and the SVLK certification system still have a long way to go before they can provide confidence in the rule of law or any assurance that it is being implemented and enforced.
The message to customers, investors and importing governments in the EU, Japan, China, the US and around the world is that Indonesian forest products are rife with legal risks and links to corruption and that the current SVLK system does not provide adequate assurance that products are legal or produced in an environmentally or socially responsible manner.
The message to the Indonesian government and producers is that they must tackle corruption, improve forest governance, laws and enforcement and revamp the SVLK standard and its implementation if they are to be trusted and preferred in the international marketplace.
Encouragingly, there is good news that Indonesians and the international community alike can take heart in and support amidst these sobering reports.
First, the Riau prosecutions themselves demonstrate the importance and success of Indonesia’s Anti Corruption Commission (KPK), an institution that is repeatedly demonstrating its integrity, veracity and worth in the face of significant opposition from many powerful interests that it threatens. And second, last week, perhaps the nation’s most well known and important political reformer for clean and improved government and the rule of law, Joko Widodo (or Jokowi as most know him), officially announced his candidacy as presidential candidate in the upcoming elections in July.
[caption id="attachment_23422" align="alignleft" width="227"] Conflict Palm Oil giant Cargill at the Natural Food Expo[/caption] Health food companies selling products with Conflict Palm Oil are called to address the Orangutan in the room. Last weekend, RAN took the truth on Conflict Palm Oil to the Expo West Natural Foods Conference in Anaheim, CA. A sea of 67,000 natural food industry exhibitors showcased everything from snackfood to health and beauty products. The majority of the companies attending market themselves as organic, vegan, healthy brands - but the truth is, many of them are still using Conflict Palm Oil in their products. If there was any doubt that Conflict Palm Oil and health food don’t mix, keynote speaker Dr. Andrew Weil, who has been writing about the dangers of trans fats for over 20 years, cleared that up during his packed presentation. “It’s important not to confuse healthy, raw palm oil with the highly processed versions that are commonly used in the industrially-produced packaged foods found in most American’s diets. These types of palm oil are unhealthy for the human body. And their irresponsible cultivation in tropical areas is unhealthy for the planet.” Dr. Weil’s statement serves as a warning to health food entrepreneurs who are considering increasing their use of Conflict Palm Oil – do not replace trans fats with Conflict Palm Oil. [caption id="attachment_23424" align="alignleft" width="550"] Hundreds take a stand for orangutans, thanks to Raj Patel.[/caption] For me, the most inspiring moment was when keynote speaker and food movement author Raj Patel called on concerned citizens to stand up to injustice through organized political action, protests, and environmental campaigns - not just through conscious lifestyle choices and consumer purchases. Leading by example, Raj gave Strawberry the Orangutan the floor and collected an #inyourpalm photo petition from the audience. It was a call to join a movement whose influence is greater than what we can achieve through our personal choices. I couldn’t agree more with Raj’s powerful message. It’s your direct communication with corporate giants through Facebook, Twitter, emails, phone calls, stickering, and photo petitions that demonstrates to these companies that they can no longer get away with greenwashing tactics and using Conflict Palm Oil in their products. [caption id="attachment_23425" align="alignleft" width="300"] Michael Franti gets it.[/caption] Like many Americans, the majority of the food that I was raised on was highly processed, coming directly from a box or a bag directly to the dinner table. As an adult, I strive to eat nutritious and minimally processed foods from my garden or the farmer’s market. I was a lifestyle activist who chose to fight big agribusiness by reading every label, when I began my 6 month internship with RAN. But since joining the Palm Oil Action Team, I have witnessed the true power of collective action and community organizing. It's amazing that thousands of people like me have joined us to fight for an end to Conflict Palm Oil in our food supply. Our collective actions have real power and the more we organize, the stronger we grow, and the more change we drive in the palm oil industry. [caption id="attachment_23426" align="alignright" width="300"] Saxophone in one hand, activism in the other, Karl Denson takes action before taking the stage.[/caption] At Expo West, our movement to eliminate the rainforest destruction by Conflict Palm Oil grew stronger and gathered new voices. Musicians Michael Franti of “Michael Franti and Spearhead”, and Karl Denson of “Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe” pitched in. Both Franti and Denson have traveled extensively and seen first hand the devastation that Conflict Palm Oil has caused, and both were excited to take action with us before taking the stage. Check out their #inyourpalm photos! They weren’t alone in taking action - renowned mycologist Paul Stamets and wife Dusty Yao, who believe old growth forests are our greatest resource for medicine, also took a stand for the world’s last wild orangutans. Your voice gives this campaign the power to tell companies that health food and Conflict Palm Oil don’t mix. Whether you are passionate about fixing our broken food system, protecting biodiversity, or preventing forced labor, join Raj Patel, Michael Franti, and thousands of others by uploading your own #inyourpalm photo petition here. [caption id="attachment_23427" align="alignleft" width="225"] Paul Stamets and wife Dusty Yao take a stand against Conflict Palm Oil. "Knowledge is Power!" Dusty's hand reads.[/caption] And to get even further involved, with local actions and more, join me and the rest of the Palm Oil Action Team here. Together, we can cut Conflict Palm Oil from our food supply.
Sometimes the problem of climate change and environmental destruction seems so large that it feels insurmountable. We've changed our light bulbs to those weird looking things, and we signed up for the Pledge of Resistance. What more can we do? The answer is as close as your kitchen. A United Nations Environment Program report in 2006 stated that "rearing cattle produces more greenhouse gases than driving cars." So what's the magic light bulb fix for that? Switching to a plant-based diet would be a good start in helping to alleviate such a burden. Where do you start? How about joining Rainforest Action Network on March 20 by taking the Farm Animal Rights Movement’s pledge to eat only plant-based foods. And in the meantime, arm yourself with these facts that show how even a small change can make a big difference.
1. About 70 billion farm animals are killed every year for food—that’s over 100,000 animals every second.
Besides the ethical implications, those animals all need places to live, food to eat, and water to drink, and that’s no easy, or clean, feat.
2. It takes 1500 gallons of water to produce one pound of meat.
As droughts become more prevalent, keep in mind that not eating one pound of meat saves as much water as eliminating four months of 5-minute showers.
3. Animals raised for food in the US produce 31,000 pounds of manure a second.
When you gotta go, you gotta go. But when you’re going that much, where does all of it end up?
4. That manure has to go somewhere.
The number 1 dairy producer in the US, California, identified agriculture, including cows, as the major source of nitrate pollution in more than 100,000 square miles of polluted groundwater (61% of the entire state).
5. Pig, chicken and cow waste has polluted 35,000 miles of rivers in 22 states and contaminated groundwater in 17 states.
That’s over 8 times the length of the Nile, the longest river in the world.
6. All is not lost. The United Nations Environment Program has the solution:
“A substantial reduction of impacts would only be possible with a substantial worldwide diet change, away from animal products.”
7. By switching to a plant-based diet, you’re helping yourself, the Earth, and you’re creating 70 billion smiles.
That’s something we can all feel good about. Take the pledge today.
This article originally appeared on onegreenplanet.org.
Now that we’ve added trans fats to the list of ingredients to look for—and avoid—on supermarket labels, and the FDA is poised to ban them from the food supply altogether, we’re good, right? Not so fast, warns Dr. Andrew Weil, America’s leading expert in integrative medicine. Conflict Palm Oil is often used to replace those artery-clogging trans fats. Because palm oil is solid at room temperature, it makes a good substitute. But is it actually healthy?
According to Dr. Weil, “Fresh palm fruit oil, sometimes called ‘red palm oil,’ is a nutritious and beneficial oil. However, it’s important not to confuse this raw oil with palm kernel oil, or the highly processed versions of crude palm oil that are commonly used as ingredients in the industrially produced packaged foods found in most Americans’ diets. These types of palm oil are unhealthy for the human body. And their irresponsible cultivation in tropical areas is unhealthy for the planet.”
Dr. Weil joins a chorus of voices expressing concern that, when it comes to replacing trans fats, we may be jumping out of the frying pan and into the deep fryer. The World Health Organization; the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute; the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases; and the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service all recommend against consuming palm oil and other tropical oils because of their high content of artery-clogging saturated fats.
Beyond the health issue, environmentalists and human rights activists are concerned that the FDA ban on trans fats will lead to a repeat of the mistakes companies made ten years ago when the FDA mandated the labeling of trans fats. That mandate led to a 500 percent increase in demand for Conflict Palm Oil, which is produced in ways that cause large-scale rainforest destruction and human rights abuses. In fact, palm oil can now be found in roughly half the packaged food products sold in grocery stores. It is added to teething biscuits, baby formula, granola bars, peanut butter, crackers, you name it. When we feed our kids food that comes out of a bag, a box, or a package of any kind, chances are they’re eating palm oil.
As a mom, I’m pleased to see the FDA taking steps to eliminate an ingredient from our food supply that is unhealthy for my family. But as a palm oil campaigner for Rainforest Action Network (RAN), I know that replacing trans fats with Conflict Palm Oil won’t do much for people’s health and will cause dire consequences for the planet. In fact, not one of the nation’s top 20 snack food manufacturers can ensure that their products do not contain Conflict Palm Oil.
I know that my baby boy would never forgive me if I told him that the hidden ingredient in his teething biscuits were the reason he’d never be able to see an orangutan in the wild. That’s why I’m so passionate about RAN’s Conflict Palm Oil campaign to pressure the Snack Food 20* group of companies to eliminate Conflict Palm Oil from their products. And I’m pleased to report that it is working. A few months ago, palm oil mega-giant Wilmar International—which controls 45 percent of the global trade in palm oil—adopted a conflict-free palm oil policy. On Valentine’s day, Kellogg released a strengthened palm oil purchasing commitment, joining industry peers Nestle, Unilever, and Ferrero. But we’re still waiting for several other kids’ snack makers to step up to the plate, including Kraft, PepsiCo, Heinz, Campbell Soup, ConAgra Food, and Cargill.
So, what can you do to make a difference?
1) Keep reading labels. Palm Oil goes by many names, including Palm Kernel Oil, Palmitate, and Glyceryl Stearate. You’ll be amazed how ubiquitous it is, once you learn to recognize its many names.
2) Read RAN’s Conflict Palm Oil report. It outlines the health, human, and environmental impacts of this destructive product and lays out exactly what we are asking shoppers and companies to do to eliminate it.
3) Take action online. Tell the Snack Food 20: Don’t replace trans fats with Conflict Palm Oil. Thanks to the support of RAN activists and allies, we are making progress and gaining traction. But we’ll need to keep pushing to reach the tipping point. I am convinced that you all can provide the additional momentum we’ll need to remove Conflict Palm Oil from our food supply.
*The “Snack Food 20″ group of companies are Campbell Soup Company; ConAgra Foods, Inc.; Dunkin’ Brands Group, Inc.; General Mills, Inc.; Grupo Bimbo; Hillshire Brands Company; H.J. Heinz Company; Hormel Foods Corporation; Kellogg Company; Kraft Food Group, Inc.; Krispy Kreme Doughnuts Corp.; Mars Inc.; Mondelez International, Inc.; Nestle. S.A.; Nissin Foods Holdings Co., Ltd.; PepsiCo, Inc.; The Hershey Company; The J.M. Smucker Company; Toyo Suisan Kaisha, Ltd.; and Unilever.