It's wonderful what people will do to avoid the truth. The Malaysian Palm Oil Council has produced a promo video which is simply untruthful and rather ridiculous.
You can see it here.
It starts with someone jogging through a rather lovely patch of rainforest, while the voice over waffles about the wonders of nature. Then it comes up with catch phrases like: "Palm oil: a gift from nature; a gift for life" and "it's trees give life and help the planet breathe".
While this is going on, it shows oil palm and a lot of wildlife and plants - most of which are not found in Malaysia (an iguana, hummingbirds, salvinia water plant - I'm not even sure that the particular leaf-cutting ant pictured is one found in Malaysia, although I could be wrong about that.)
As quoted in today's The Star newspaper, the MPOC chief executive officer, Tan Sri Dr Yusof Basiron, said that the advertisements were not misleading in any way. He even has the gall to say that the plantations shown in the adverts are real...
Perhaps he meant real(ly) spruced up with hummingbirds. And that shot of crown-shyness comes from the Forestry Research Institute here in Kuala Lumpur, not the forest edge next to any oil palm plantation.
Right. Please, please show me Central or South American hummingbirds flying around oil palm plantations, Tan Sri! I'd love to write that up in a scientific paper.
And the video concludes with the words: "Malaysia Palm Oil, sustainably produced since 1917. "
Ok, so once you've cut down the rainforest and killed its biodiversity pretty much down to the last ant, and planted your palms, from THEN on it is sustainable, well, mostly, I'll agree.
But why not have a little honesty and just admit that - once we've killed our sustainable goose (our rainforest) that could have laid golden timber and forest products ad infinitum - we need palm oil for our own prosperity? Why not admit that we are too selfish to limit out family size or use less "stuff" in order to look after our planet? Why must we pretend that oil palm is good for anything except to put money in our pockets, soap in our bathrooms and food on our tables? It's not even natural to this country!
The American prairie was once full of wildlife; now it grows corn. The forests of Europe once had wolves and bears; now there are only a couple of pocket-sized natural forests left on the whole of the continent.
Palm oil plantations are no different. No worse, no better. But please don't try and kid us. We aren't that stupid...are we? And we all should take our share of the blame anyway. Just as our critics overseas should admit they haven't a leg to stand on - they've "been there, done that."
Photos: oil palm plantation in Johor. The smoke is from a oil palm processing plant. Waste is poured out into the air and the rivers.