A word about some of my paintings… It is sometimes difficult to make a pretty picture of a failing ecosystem.
Palm Oil Sunday
Palm oil is grown only in the tropics. The oil palm tree produces high-quality oil used primarily for cooking in developing countries. It is also used in food products, detergents, cosmetics and, to a small extent, bio-fuel. Palm oil is a small ingredient in the U.S. diet, but more than half of all packaged products Americans consume contain palm oil—it’s found in lipstick, soaps, detergents and even ice cream. Why? It is cheap!
Palm oil is a very productive crop. It offers a far greater yield at a lower cost of production than other vegetable oils. Global production of and demand for palm oil is increasing rapidly. Plantations are spreading across Asia, Africa and Latin America. But such expansion comes at the expense of tropical forests—which form critical habitats for many endangered species and a lifeline for traditional human communities.
“Palm Oil Sunday” is based on the plantations on the island of Borneo. Borneo is also home to several endangered species including the gentle orangutans.
Orangutans who live in the wild only on Borneo and Sumatra are now critically endangered; a 2015 UN report estimated that, at that time, just 55,000 lived in the wild. Loss of habitat is a major cause of their decline. Orangutans are among the most intelligent and peaceful of primates. They live almost exclusively in the trees and leap from branch to branch until one day the jungle is gone.
While steps are being taken to label and certify palm oil, the demand is such in the poorer countries of the world, that the claim of sustainable palm oil production is still pretty much a corporate fiction. Basically at this time, there is no way of telling if the term “sustainable” means anything in the labeling of commercially produced palm oil.
As long as clear-cut and burning continue, the endangered species and tropical jungle environments will vanish accordingly.
Like so many environmental issues this one has no simple answers and a lot of false promises.
Uighur in China
Muslim citizens in China, have had their passports confiscated, DNA sampled, and spyware downloaded onto their phones.
For at least the last three years, Chinese authorities in the far western region of Xinjiang have been rounding up men and women — largely Muslims of the Uighur, Kazakh and Kyrgyz ethnic minorities — and detaining them in camps designed to rid them of terrorist or extremist leanings. After repeated denials, Chinese authorities began acknowledging the existence of the camps in the latter half of 2018 but framed them as vocational training centers for the unemployed and in some cases as boarding schools.
The leaked records include a memo laying out protocols for facilities that more closely resemble prisons focused on indoctrinating detainees. Preventing escapes is paramount, the documents say, and a chief goal of the camps is “ideological transformation.”
Chinese government has consistently claimed the camps in the far western Xinjiang region offer voluntary education and training.
In 2019, China's UK ambassador dismissed the documents as fake news. He said the measures had safeguarded local people and there had not been a single terrorist attack in Xinjiang in the past three years.
"In total disregard of the facts, some people in the West have been fiercely slandering and smearing China over Xinjiang in an attempt to create an excuse to interfere in China's internal affairs, disrupt China's counter-terrorism efforts in Xinjiang and thwart China's steady development," he said.
The leak was made to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.
In contrast to the Chinese government’s public statements, the leaked memo shows that vocational training was always meant to be a facet of the re-education camps, but not their focus. “Ideological transformation” is listed as the first basis of assessment in a ranking system that determines “rewards, punishments and family visits.”
The memo goes on to outline a timeline for re-education — “students” have to be re-educated for at least one year and have met the standard for “ideological transformation” before they can graduate to “vocational skills improvement class” for an additional three to six months.
Western experts say the vocational skills component amounts to coerced factory labor where the detainees are paid a pittance.
This is, in any case, not all that different than our own nations disgraceful use of corporate prisons for coerced labor under dreadful conditions.