Palm oil protest slated for Sunday


Southeast / Virginia 74 Views

A group will march against a common household product from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday at Depot Park.

The nonprofit organization Conservation Initiative for the Asian Elephant will host the March Against Palm Oil to highlight the crop's damage to the environment.

“Palm oil is a quickly grown crop, and it’s very cheap,” said CIFAE General Manager Julia Jeanty. “A lot of companies use it in everything such as pizza dough, chocolate, shampoo, Oreos, Nutella and Doritos.”

Jeanty, a 22-year-old University Florida sustainability studies and environmental geoscience senior, said palm oil is harmful because of the way it’s grown

Slash-and-burn agriculture and monocropping deplete soil nutrition and leave regions susceptible to disease, she said.

“Palm oil plantations thrive in tropical and subtropical climates, so they’re grown in places like India and Indonesia, and that’s where you find the largest populations of elephants,” Jeanty said.

CIFAE has a chapter in Gainesville and Meghalaya, India, and the organization's main campaign is to establish a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Meghalaya. This area would be land that can be used as an elephant conservation region to preserve the animal’s habitat, Jeanty said.

“What’s happening is elephants are being shooed off the land to make room for the palm oil industry. If elephants can’t live in their habitat, there’s not any place for them to go,” Jeanty said.

Jeanty first heard of the organization when she had CIFAE President Ron Chandler as her professor.

“I feel like the main issue isn’t that people don’t care, it’s that they don’t know," she said. "Once you know, it’s hard to ignore. Everyone loves elephants.”

About 50 are expected to attend the march, the group's first against palm oil.

Lauren Est, 20, is an organizer, and said she knew nothing about the issues concerning palm oil before joining CIFAE. She said after finding that more than half of the products in her refrigerator contained palm oil, "I went to the store and bought replacements immediately.”

CIFAE will also host a party from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday at First Magnitude Brewing Company. The event will include raffles, beer discounts and signmaking. Proceeds will benefit the organization’s UNESCO campaign.