Tomorrow January 25th on the Heritage Radio Network, Greenhorns radio talks to Jeff Conan, Senior Forest Campains Manager at Friends of the Earth, a global activist network that campaigns for international environmental and climate justice. Much of Conan’s work focusses on the toxic legacy of palm oil production in Gautemala. Maybe you already knew that the production of this oil was rapidly spurring deforestation of some of the world’s most important rain forests, but were you also aware that the byproducts of its processing have a long legacy of polluting water sources as well?
As Conan writes in a September article on Medium.com, “One year ago, a series of spills dumped toxic palm oil effluent into the Pasión River where it runs through the municipality of Sayaxché in Guatemala’s Peten region. The spills were the latest in a long history of abuses associated with Guatemala’s palm oil industry — in this case likely tied to a Guatemalan company called Reforestadora de Palmas del Petén, S.A. (REPSA).
In a landmark decision, a judge in Guatemala ruled that the spill constituted “ecocide” and ordered REPSA to temporarily cease operations in order to undertake an investigation. Then things got ugly: the day after the decision, Rigoberto Lima Choc, a community leader who denounced the spill, was killed in broad daylight, the judge was forced to step down, and the ruling was overturned.”
This is a not-to-be-missed interview for anyone out there who cares about the environmental repercussions of global trade in the absence of global accountability– or just for anyone who has ever eaten earth balance, uses organic soap, or buys any kind of processed chip. According to the World Wildlife Fund, palm oil is “the most widely consumed vegetable oil on the planet, and it is in about half of all packaged products sold in the supermarket.”