Anthropologist and author of ‘In the Shadow of the Palms’ Dr Sophie Chao: In Her Own Words

Dr Sophie Chao is an environmental anthropologist and environmental humanities scholar interested in the intersections of capitalism, ecology, Indigeneity, health, and justice in the Pacific.

Palm Oil Detectives is honoured to interview to Dr Sophie Chao about her research into the impacts of palm oil on the daily lives of Marind people and other sentient beings in West Papua.

​I wrote In the Shadow of the Palms because I wanted the world to understand how deforestation and industrial oil palm expansion are undermining Indigenous ways of being in West Papua.

Palm oil industry lobbying and greenwashing is like Big Tobacco – World Health Organisation (WHO) Bulletin

What does the $60 billion USD palm oil industry have in common with Big Tobacco? A lot according to this report by the World Health Organisation. Palm oil industry lobbying tactics are used to influence research into the health impacts of palm oil and also to influence consumer buying habits. The dire health and environmental impacts of palm oil are hidden from consumers by clever marketing. These lobbying, marketing and greenwashing tactics are reminiscent of tobacco and alcohol health lobbying.

Climate change is forcing human and non-human beings to become climate refugees

The definition of refugee or displaced person is someone fleeing a life-threatening crisis. The emerging refugees of this century are fleeing unliveable environmental conditions brought about by climate change and other complex interrelated factors including conflict, disease and famine. Humans and non-human beings alike are becoming climate change refugees. The choices are stark and clear – move and live or stay where you are and perish.

Indigenous and local communities key to successful nature conservation

Indigenous and local communities are key to successful nature conservation and for protecting animals from extinction. Story via Eureka Alert and the University of East Anglia. Indigenous Peoples and local communities provide the best long-term outcomes for conservation, according to new research from the University of East Anglia (UEA) and partners in France. Lead author,Continue reading “Indigenous and local communities key to successful nature conservation”

What elephants’ unique brain structures suggest about their mental abilities

Bob Jacobs, Colorado College Conservationists have designated August 12 as World Elephant Day to raise awareness about conserving these majestic animals. Elephants have many engaging features, from their incredibly dexterous trunks to their memory abilities and complex social lives. But there is much less discussion of their brains, even though it stands to reason thatContinue reading “What elephants’ unique brain structures suggest about their mental abilities”

Back from extinction: a world first effort to return threatened pangolins to the wild

The reintroduction of pangolins has not been easy. But it’s vital to prevent this shy, mysterious creature from being lost forever. Pangolins are one of the most illegally trafficked animals on the planet and are suspected to be linked to the current coronavirus pandemic. Pangolins are also one of the world’s most threatened species butContinue reading “Back from extinction: a world first effort to return threatened pangolins to the wild”

Why Peanut Butter Might Trigger the Next Pandemic

Palm oil is found in roughly 50 percent of packaged household products ranging from peanut butter to lipstick. Now, researchers link its harvesting to disease outbreaks that could spread to humans. This is the first study to examine the cause-and-effect relationship between changes in forest cover and subsequent disease outbreaks on a global scale.

Chimpanzees once helped African rainforests recover from a major collapse

Most people probably think that the rainforest of central and west Africa, the second largest in the world, has been around for millions of years. However recent research suggests that it is mostly just 2,000 or so years old. The forest reached roughly its modern state following five centuries of regeneration after it was massivelyContinue reading “Chimpanzees once helped African rainforests recover from a major collapse”

Hippopotamus Hippopotamus amphibius

Hippopotamus Hippopotamus amphibius Extant (resident) Angola; Benin; Botswana; Burkina Faso; Burundi; Cameroon; Central African Republic; Chad; Congo; Congo, The Democratic Republic of the; Côte d’Ivoire; Equatorial Guinea; Eswatini; Ethiopia; Gabon; Gambia; Ghana; Guinea; Guinea-Bissau; Kenya; Malawi; Mali; Mozambique; Namibia; Niger; Nigeria; Rwanda; Senegal; Sierra Leone; Somalia; South Africa; South Sudan; Sudan; Tanzania, United Republic of;Continue reading “Hippopotamus Hippopotamus amphibius”

Treespiracy: Forests are being destroyed against a background of corruption, illegality and apathy

The world’s forests are being destroyed against a background of corruption, illegality and apathy. This article was originally published in The Ecologist magazine, 28th March, 2022 A complex web of financial instruments allowing crime, corruption and wrong-doing, hidden behind shell corporations and offshore companies was exposed with the release of the Panama Papers.  This shadow networkContinue reading “Treespiracy: Forests are being destroyed against a background of corruption, illegality and apathy”

Insect decline in the Anthropocene: Death by a thousand cuts

This report was originally published in PNAS Insect decline in the Anthropocene: Death by a thousand cuts David L. Wagner, Eliza M. Grames, Matthew L. Forister, May R. Berenbaum, and David Stopak. January 11, 2021118 (2) e2023989118 https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2023989118 Nature is under siege In the last 10,000 years the human population has grown from 1 million to 7.8 billion. Much of Earth’sContinue reading “Insect decline in the Anthropocene: Death by a thousand cuts”

10 reasons why ecolabels & commodity certification are not a solution to stop the EU importing tropical deforestation

71 environmental and human rights groups from around the world – wrote to the EU Commission warning that certification schemes and ecolabels were not sufficient to prevent human rights abuses and deforestation from entering the European Union. Meanwhile industry lobbyists are attempting to weaken the proposed EU laws with these ineffective and corrupt certification schemesContinue reading “10 reasons why ecolabels & commodity certification are not a solution to stop the EU importing tropical deforestation”

The people versus Feronia: Fighting palm oil agrocolonialism in the Congo

This incredible comic was created by Didier Kassai with research by Judith Verweijen and Dieudonne Botoko Kendewa of the University of Sussex and the University of Sheffield. The comic was originally posted by Cartoon Movement. The comic is based on field research conducted around the Feronia palm oil plantation in Tshopo province in north-east DR Congo.Continue reading “The people versus Feronia: Fighting palm oil agrocolonialism in the Congo”

Nigeria’s nature reserves need more help to protect biodiversity

Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Environment recently nominated Finima Nature Park in River State as a Ramsar site: a wetland of international importance. Tajudeen Amusa, University of Ilorin These sites are designated under the Ramsar Convention, an intergovernmental environmental treaty established in 1971 by UNESCO. It aims to protect representative, rare or unique wetlands, or thoseContinue reading “Nigeria’s nature reserves need more help to protect biodiversity”

PepsiCo

Despite decades of promises to end deforestation for palm oil PepsiCo (owner of crisp brands Frito-Lay and Doritos amongst hundreds of other snack food brands) have continued sourcing palm oil that causes ecocide, indigenous landgrabbing, and the habitat destruction of the rarest animals on earth. All of these animals are on a knife-edge of survival.Continue reading “PepsiCo”

Want to avoid palm oil? You need a ‘palm oil free’ label

The most important factor determining whether consumers avoid purchasing a product containing palm oil is not how they feel about orangutans, the environment, or anything else for that matter. It’s whether they know what’s in the product. Melbourne Business School Research reveals that consumers’ ability to diagnose whether a product is made with palm oilContinue reading “Want to avoid palm oil? You need a ‘palm oil free’ label”

Primates are facing an impending extinction crisis – but we know very little about what will actually protect them

From lemurs to orangutans, tarsiers to gorillas, primates are captivating and sometimes unnervingly similar to us. So it’s not surprising that this group of more than 500 species receives a great deal of research and conservation attention. But despite this effort, more than 60% of primate species are threatened with extinction mainly due to humanContinue reading “Primates are facing an impending extinction crisis – but we know very little about what will actually protect them”

Procter & Gamble

Despite decades of promises to end deforestation for palm oil Procter & Gamble or (P&G as they are also known) have continued sourcing palm oil that causes ecocide, indigenous landgrabbing, and the habitat destruction of the rarest animals on earth. All of these animals are on a knife-edge of survival. It is for this reason,Continue reading “Procter & Gamble”

How do we protect the rapidly disappearing Javan Rhino?

With only 74 individuals left, the remarkable and beautiful Javan Rhino is on the brink of extinction and can be found on one of the most densely populated islands in the world – Java. Boycotting palm oil is how you can help them. Sunarto, Universitas Indonesia The Javan rhino was once found throughout many partsContinue reading “How do we protect the rapidly disappearing Javan Rhino?”

Ecocide: why establishing a new international crime would be a step towards interspecies justice

A movement of activists and legal scholars is seeking to make “ecocide” an international crime within the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC). The Stop Ecocide Foundation has put together a prestigious international panel of experts that has just proposed a new definition of the term. Heather Alberro, Nottingham Trent University and Luigi Daniele,Continue reading “Ecocide: why establishing a new international crime would be a step towards interspecies justice”