Welcome to Palm Oil Research.org. My name is Martin Stevenson. I'm a journalist and author and I'm writing a book about the palm oil debate.
Why palm oil?
“For more ethically oriented consumption to really take hold, the consumer needs to become a knowledgeable participant..."
- The Myth of the Ethical Consumer
The palm oil debate is a difficult one to navigate. There are few crops which can beat palm oil in terms of the benefit it brings to those countries and communities fortunate enough to be able to grow it. The problem of course, is that the tropical climate which is ideal for palm oil cultivation is also ideal for rainforest and the biodiversity that comes with it.
It’s the competition for that space that the debate is all about.
Like any 'ethical' consumer I would like to be part of the solution, but we're not being given the information we need to contribute to the debate.
The palm oil industry is very keen on peer-reviewed scientific papers about the oil’s biochemical virtues, which for those of us without science degrees aren't exactly page-turners.
NGOs such as Greenpeace and the Rainforest Action Network are very keen on photos of orangutans which, while undeniably fluffy, are appeals to the emotions and don’t leave us any better informed about the debate.
There is some good coverage of the debate in the media, but it is too often framed as a call for a boycott. (Though some newspapers just take the 'fluffy' approach, and we deserve better than that.)
When the information is presented like this, the consumer's choice becomes a game of Find the Lady.
So this project is an attempt to untangle the debate. I’m not suggesting that this book is going to be the magic wand (though you always start a project with high hopes), but I do hope that my research will reveal the information we need to better inform ourselves about palm oil. And I hope that you will get involved and get in touch.
Martin Stevenson, Kuala Lumpur
For larger writing projects I set up a small site like this to post my research and invite feedback from interested readers. The site is split into three main areas.
The Blog follows my research so you can keep up with where I am, who I'm interviewing and what I find out.
In the Topics section I take a more detailed look at specific areas of the subject and post any articles I publish along the way.
The Resources section is where I store the information, statistics, links and so on that I find useful for the research (and that you might find useful for yours). If you have any suggestions for this section please let me know (but be aware that I tend to avoid posting links to those sites which are sensationalist or seem to have an agenda because they tend not to help the debate).
About the Author
I am a journalist, author, and Editor-in-Chief of the sustainable travel site morethanfootprints.com. I'm based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Last year I touched briefly on the palm oil debate for a book on sustainable tourism in Southeast Asia. I found during that research that the palm oil debate deserved a lot more than a couple of pages, so that research led to this project.
If you have any suggestions for the research, want to have a chat, or have some information you think I might find useful, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org or use the form below.
If you are a journalist or blogger and you'd like to find out more about the project, please use the email address above or the form below.