What would your reaction be if I were to tell you that many species such as orangutans, sumatran tigers, and elephants are going extinct? I’m sure (or at least hopeful) that this would come as bad news to you. Now, let’s rewind and slightly change that information: Many species such as orangutans, sumatran tigers, and elephants are going extinct because of you. The common reaction would be to ask why. Let’s rewind one last time to finally make the following statement: Many species are going extinct because of you, because of the products you’re using daily, such as toothpaste, chocolate, cereal, and white toast. Your reaction here would either be denial, or fake sympathy. That’s human nature: as long as we’re not to blame, we’ll go on and on about how the world is horrible and how change is needed. But, as soon as that very change is required from us, we either deny the problem or ignore it.
How are you contributing to those extinctions? The products I mentioned – and many more – contain palm oil: It’s an oil extracted from palm trees, which need abundant heat and rain to grow. Unfortunately, this weather also suits rainforests. That is why industries decide to take those rainforests down and replace them with palm tree plantations. The tragic part is that those rainforests are home to many animals. They are left to die after their habitat is destroyed. This is happening all over the world, wherever the weather is suitable for those plantations, destroying thousands of forests and killing countless animals. The fact that you’re not directly killing those animals doesn’t mean you’re not accountable.
The solution is simple. Boycotting those products is the only way to show the concerned industries that such actions aren’t tolerated. It might seem hard since palm oil is used for many products, but that doesn’t mean all brands use it. For example, some chocolate brands such as Mars or Snickers use palm oil, while Côte d’Or doesn’t. Same goes for bread, toothpaste, etc. : you can always find environmentally responsible alternatives for the product that you’re used to. Therefore, saving those animals from going extinct isn’t so hard after all!
For the pessimists out there claiming that this won’t make a difference: you couldn’t be more wrong. In fact, big companies such as Nestle have agreed to give preference to certain palm oil suppliers: they now use Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO), reassuring their buyers that the palm oil they use respects certain principles and criteria in favor of protecting the environment and the species mentioned. A long list of those companies have given into the pressure from activists, the same pressure that you think is not sufficient to drive meaningful change. “My actions won’t matter” is no excuse because it simply isn’t accurate: Just look at the number of companies that have made compromises because of consumer pressure.
Finally, I would like to emphasize the fact that this is a simple task, no one expects or even wants you to stop using toothpaste: It’s just a matter of which toothpaste brand you choose. Such initiatives should be our natural inclination and not something that we have to force upon ourselves. The same goes for not wearing fur, or boycotting circuses that use and abuse animals for our selfish entertainment. As Milan Kundera said: “Humanity’s true moral test, its fundamental test, consists of its attitude towards those who are at its mercy”.
Third year of Law
 Milan Kundera is a French poet and novelist, born in Czechoslovakia in 1929.