OLEw DRWG/BAD OIL
This project started out of curiosity about an industry I knew little about. After reading an article about the fires that devastated the Sumatran rainforest in 2015 I was left confused by the lack of news coverage for such a catastrophic natural disaster. The project grew into massess of notes, grant applications, letters, emails, hours of research and finally a plane ticket to Indonesia at the end of May 2017.
This journey has taken me into the heart of the rainforest, to meet incredible people and witness unforgettable sights. It has also taken me to the darkest of realities, standing on dead land that used to be a complex and flourishing ecosystem. It's taken me to meet the children that will grow up in a different world to their mothers, and to stare at a deadly industry that's scale is much bigger than the country I'm from. We have the power to change this; in our actions, our words and by sharing the most human value of all- respect, for people and for nature.
The rainforests of the world are complex, balanced and truly incredible eco systems that cover 5% of the Earths surface around the equator belt from the Amazon, to the Congo, Bangladesh and Indonesia. This 5% of land is home to 2/3 of the earths biomass and half of our species. Indonesia is considered to be one of the places with the most biodiversity on the planet. In the past 30 years, the country has lost half of its rainforest to industrial plantations for Pulp, Cacao but mostly because of Palm Oil. This destruction is having devastating effect on the wildlife and is pushing fantastical and ancient creatures such as the Orangutan, Pigmy Elephant, Rhino and Sun Bears to the brink of extinction. I took all of these photographs in Indonesia in June 2017- this magical world is disappearing.
The worlds rainforests are an essential habitat for wildlife, but this 5% of land plays an even more important role for the planet, climate and the survival of life on earth. This complex ecosystem has been a crucial aspect of regulating the climate for centuries. The forests purify and control water, they anchor billions of tons of Carbon in their leaves, roots and land, they protect the communities and people from landslides and extreme weather conditions, they keep the rivers clean and provide shelter in their mangroves for the worlds fish populations to reproduce. They are also a rich source of medicine and food. I was mesmerised and enchanted by the rainforests of North Sumatra where I spent 4 days trekking, sleeping under the canopy and documenting the last remaining intact rainforest of the island. Sumatra used to be 80% forest but now only 20% remains, and this is unlikely to survive the next thirty five years.
Palm Oil is an ingredient in 50% of everything packaged in our Supermarkets, from shampoo to wraps to chocolate. It is a $15.4 billion dollar industry, it's the cheapest oil in the world, and it's costing us the earth. This industry is slashing and burning 2.4 million hectares of rainforest a year. It is devastating local communities, destroying the habitat of wildlife and damaging the environment for the short term economic gain of the largest companies in the world.
85% of the Palm Oil used all over the world is produced in Indonesia and Malaysia. With the need for Palm Oil expected to double by 2050, companies are already starting to invest and slash the rainforests of the Congo and Amazon for Palm Oil plantations too. It is hard to ignore this as one of the biggest environmental catastrophes of the century.
Human rights are being breached, animals are becoming extinct, thousands of tons of Carbon is being released into the atmosphere- all for a cheap oil, a bad oil, that gets used in products that we're not even aware of.
Like a stone dropped from a height into a still lake, the effects of the Palm Oil industry ripples far and wide into the lives of the people of Indonesia. From the health consequences of the frequent forest fires to clear land for plantations (100,000 died after fires raged out of control in 2015), to farmers losing the rights to their lands, to children growing up with no knowledge of the sustainable and traditional way of farming- now only aware of the monocrop farming methods used for Palm Oil. The industry is raping the country of its natural resources, it keeps the poor, poor. It's changing the future for the children that will have to deal with the aftermath of our generations mistakes. (A Palm Oil tree only produces fruit, which is crushed for its oil, for 30 years..) It's destroying the land, poisoning the waters (from the fertilizers needed to grow the trees), and affecting the lives of hundreds of thousands of people who do not benefit at all from this lucrative buisness