Published in August, 2018, by Greenpeace, ‘Rang-Tan’ was a banned TV advertisement telling the story of a young girl complaining about a naughty orangutan (or ‘Rang-Tan’) in her bedroom.
The 90-second campaign, narrated by the British actress Emma Thompson, features a young, Indonesian orangutan, playing in a little girl’s bedroom. The story develops into the orangutan explaining how her habitat, her home, is being destroyed by the deforestation.
The campaign was made to tug at consumer’s heartstrings, sharing the destructive nature of the palm oil industry.
Many consumers are unaware of how prevalent palm oil actually is in everyday life; other than its use for bio-diesel, it is found in peanut butter (Skippy), chocolates (Cadbury), snacks (many packet potato chips), soap, shampoo and of course many cosmetic products too.
But, it’s not that simple…
We share this at a time where Indonesia’s huge palm-oil industry is in the hot seat. The European Union plans to prohibit crude palm oil as a raw material for biofuel which will have a huge effect on Indonesia’s economy.
No one can deny the destructive nature of the palm oil industry in Indonesia, resulting in the loss of huge areas of primary rainforest and peatland – important habitat for endangered species like the orangutan and also huge carbon sinks. However, in relation to Indonesia’s economy, Indonesia and Malaysia’s palm oil production supplies 85% of the global demand (2017).
More over, in Indonesia alone over 7 million labourers are involved in the palm-oil industry (over the supply chain), around half of that number working in plantations.
Whilst The European Union’s intentions are good, there will no doubt be consequences to human livelihoods in the archipelago.
An argument against the EU’s ban states that this won’t actually change anything; instead of supplying palm-oil to EU countries, Indonesia can simply divert their resources to other markets such as India and China – who are likely unconcerned with the environmental effects of the industry. At least with the EU as a buyer, they are able to have a say in the way in which business is conducted.
As always, the Indonesian government must now find a balance between economy and environment, human and nature.
Will we simply divert our supplies elsewhere? Will we comply and risk the livelihoods of fellow Indonesians? Or, the best option, are we able to make a well-planned transition out of an industry that is clearly having a poor effect on the environment ?