Why is deforestation a political issue (and what can we do to help the orangutans)?

The hype surrounding Christmas adverts from retailers only grows year-on- year - all vying to pull more at our heartstrings. But nothing is more emotive than the subject of this year’s campaign from frozen food retailer Iceland: the story of rainforest destruction and its effects on the gentle and intelligent orangutan.

This was immediately banned from TV but can still be viewed online. Bring tissues.
(click on image to view the video)

It could be easy to feel disheartened that presenting the reality of rainforest destruction in this manner has been branded as ‘being seen to support a political issue’. Trying to navigate our way through this post fact world is frightening, as we witness that taking a side in a truly bold and positive way is being censored. Expanding palm oil plantations really is one of the biggest drivers of deforestation. It’s fact, not opinion.

But this anxiety is being rinsed into insignificance as people take to social media to show their support by watching - at time of writing, the advert has more than 1.8m views - sharing and calling for the ban to be lifted. This is nothing less than heartening in its deepest sense.

Equally as heartening is that Iceland – a retailer that’s not historically associated with sustainability – is actually pioneering on this front.

The critically endangered orangutan is the poster child for the devastating effects of rainforest destruction. And in her echo are the Turtle Dove, Hedgehog and Hazel Dormouse here on our shores that are heavily in decline due to unsustainable agriculture practices.

Iceland’s campaign resonates with us deeply at the Food Forest Project as it reminds us that habitat loss is devastating, and that habitat creation is a healing on no small scale. We are reminded that trees are life, and that we are homeless, unhealthy and unsustainable without them. We are reminded that by using permaculture as a practical application and philosophy, with a ‘less is more’ outlook, we can reduce the unrelenting pressure on the Earth’s finite resources, and we are reminded of how we currently use our inequitable power within our planet’s ecosystem, and how it is our moral duty and more than within our means to use it differently.

By the end of the year, Iceland has pledged to cut palm oil from all its own label food. It’s an example of a retailer – ultimately just another group of individuals – who could not stand by and do nothing in the face of continued deforestation in South East Asia.

In the spirit of our previous blog about championing small actions, here’s how we call all help the orangutans:

- Buy palm-oil free products. Check out the Ethical Consumer’s

comprehensive list.

- Buy only FSC-certified products. Illegal logging is also destroying the

orangutans home.

- Symbolically adopt an orang-utan. (Great Christmas present.)

- Support charities that rescue and rehabilitate orang-utans, or hold

companies accountable for their palm oil sourcing.

- Lend your voice: sign this Greenpeace petition and tell companies to keep

their promises.