We may be enjoying more haze-free days here in Singapore, but this isn’t over. Of course children (and the grown ups!) were tested by being cooped up and having to make do with indoor activities around Singapore for months, and everyone wants to get outside and run around in fresh air. But this isn’t about boredom. Our kids are also aware that this is part of an environmental crisis effecting us all. So what can we do other than living our lives in a haze mask (which are not always safe for children) until the fires in Indonesia have died out? We have discovered a group of children here in Singapore and South East Asia who want to be part of the solution and are looking at ways at how we can cut palm oil from our lives in the hope that this will help eliminate The Haze at its source…
Kids versus the haze
Singapore may be small in size, but it has a nation of children who take charitable causes to their hearts and try their hardest to make a difference in the world. And there is a particular group of children who would not only love to switch off their air purifiers, throw open their windows, and get Singapore back to a Haze-free zone, but are trying to do something about it themselves. Indigo, Inca, Ben and Imari have created the Facebook page Kidscutpalmoil and social media initiative #kidscutpalmoil in order to raise awareness of the impact that unsustainable palm oil farming is having on not only SE Asia, but on the planet as a whole. They have been looking at ways we can ALL help banish this large-scale environmental disaster to the history books, and bring back clean air.
What is behind the haze?
Clearing land for oil palm plantations has led to widespread de-forestation, mostly in neighbouring Indonesia. Tragically, this has pushed many animal species to the brink of extinction, with beautiful creatures such as rhinos, elephants, orangutans and tigers bearing the brunt of the forest clearing with the destruction of their homes. Not only does this effect SE Asia but globally the destruction of tropical forests is a major contributor to climate change. The burning of the trees and fields releases methane and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and the resulting air pollution, as we have seen first-hand here in Singapore, blocks out the sun and can threaten human and animal health across the whole region.
What is the difference between conflict palm oil and sustainable palm oil?
Sadly the palm oil industry is linked to major issues such as deforestation, habitat degradation, climate change, animal cruelty and indigenous rights abuses in the countries where it is produced, as the land and forests must be cleared for the development of the oil palm plantations. According to the World Wildlife Fund, an area the equivalent size of 300 football fields of rainforest is cleared each hour to make way for palm oil production! Sustainable palm oil, on the other hand, is an approach to oil palm agriculture that aims to produce palm oil without causing deforestation or harming people. To be declared as a sustainable palm oil, the producers must adhere to the principles and criteria of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).
Did you know?
The trouble is that most of us don’t know when conflict palm oil has been added as a sneaky ingredient to our every day products… This fact alone is one of the reasons that we should all be reading labels on our supermarket dashes around NTUC et al. World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has outed one of SE Asia’s beloved easy dinners as playing a lead role in helping drown us in haze… ‘Around 3.5 per cent of all palm oil is used in the making of instant noodles, and this industry could play a significant role in shifting the market… almost 20 per cent of the weight of a pack of instant noodles is actually palm oil.’
Letter from the heart
To explain in their own words why these amazing kids have set about tackling this hugely current global issue, and to help educate us all on how we can help, they wrote a letter for us to share in the hope that as many people as possible not only read their words, but act upon them too…
Dear Kids, Parents, Teachers and Principals,
We have set up this initiative because we need your help to say no to conflict palm oil and the devastation it is causing right now in South East Asia. This dry season more than 94,000 fires have been recorded and today, there are more than 2,470 fires raging across Indonesia. The majority of these fires are avoidable and caused by slash and burn farming of oil palms to produce palm oil for large multinational corporations to use in hundreds of everyday food and healthcare products.
Our names are Inca (11), Ben (7), Indigo (13) and Imari (6) and we want to stop everybody from buying conflict palm oil products to put an end to the de-forestation forever; then orangutans and other endangered animals can live in their natural habitat too.
Most people don’t even know about this environmental and humanitarian crisis, so we are using social media, with the help of our parents, to get the message out!
We have founded a social initiative, The International #KidsCutPalmOil Day, on November 30th, 2015. This immediate action will start a process to put an end to conflict palm oil consumption! If all kids can #StartWithOneThing then we can make a difference.
On November 30th, we are encouraging schools to instigate and support kids to pledge to never consume conflict palm oil products again. These are the 4 Simple Steps:
1. Find any products containing conflict palm oil (foods, shampoos etc) and bring them to school.
2. Share the products so that everyone knows what they are and can avoid them in the future.
3. Photograph as many of these products as possible and then share them to our Facebook Page. If this is not possible in a school environment, then a list will suffice.
4. Donate the banned products to local charity of your choice.
Please do not buy these products to take to school; if you don’t have any, then that’s great!
There’s lots of information and tips coming on our Facebook Page!
Inca, Ben, Indigo and Imari.
International #KidsCutPalmOil Day: 30th November 2015
Mark this in your diaries guys and get your own children and their schools involved in this as much as you can! Inca, Ben, Indigo and Imari are also suggesting that everyone wear orange on this day to represent our support for those victims of this disaster who cannot voice their own distress: the orangutans. The kids already have a number of schools on board with this initiative across SE Asia who will be lending their support on this campaign. Let’s all get looking at the labels of everything we have stock-piled in the cupboards (it is quite hair-raising at just how many products we use daily that have non-sustainable palm oil listed as an ingredient!), get your kids’ schools on board, and let’s all make #KidsCutPalmOilDay not only a huge success, but a day that teaches us all how we can really tackle the haze problem at the heart of the matter.