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Planet Palm: How Palm Oil Ended Up in Everything—and Endangered the World Kindle Edition
Finalist, Helen Bernstein Book Award for Excellence in Journalism
In the tradition of Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation, a groundbreaking global investigation into the industry ravaging the environment and global health—from the James Beard Award–winning journalist
Over the past few decades, palm oil has seeped into every corner of our lives. Worldwide, palm oil production has nearly doubled in just the last decade: oil-palm plantations now cover an area nearly the size of New Zealand, and some form of the commodity lurks in half the products on U.S. grocery shelves. But the palm oil revolution has been built on stolen land and slave labor; it’s swept away cultures and so devastated the landscapes of Southeast Asia that iconic animals now teeter on the brink of extinction. Fires lit to clear the way for plantations spew carbon emissions to rival those of industrialized nations.
James Beard Award–winning journalist Jocelyn C. Zuckerman spent years traveling the globe, from Liberia to Indonesia, India to Brazil, reporting on the human and environmental impacts of this poorly understood plant. The result is Planet Palm, a riveting account blending history, science, politics, and food as seen through the people whose lives have been upended by this hidden ingredient.
This groundbreaking work of first-rate journalism compels us to examine the connections between the choices we make at the grocery store and a planet under siege.
About the Author
Jocelyn C. Zuckerman is the former deputy editor of Gourmet, former articles editor of OnEarth, and the former executive editor of Whole Living. Her stories have appeared in Audubon, Fast Company, the American Prospect, Vogue, and other publications. She is the recipient of a James Beard Journalism Award for Feature Writing. She lives in Brooklyn.
Praise for Planet Palm:
“Crisscrossing four continents, Zuckerman presents a spirited and disarming exposé of the insidious way this one tree species has endangered cultures, economies, and ecosystems.”
—Booklist (starred review)
“[A] definitive, damning account of the history of palm oil production and the ecological destruction it causes.”
“Vividly describing people and places damaged by the palm oil industry, Zuckerman establishes a through line connecting 19th-century imperialism to the exploitative practices of today’s multinational corporations. This deeply reported account sounds the alarm loud and clear.”
“An extraordinary work of investigative journalism that will make the discerning reader rush to look differently at the items stacked in her kitchen and bathroom.”
“For readers looking for a good primer on palm oil’s field of battle and how it was set, Planet Palm is an illuminating read, as engrossing as it is informative.”
—Ashoka Mukpo, Mongabay
“[Planet Palm] takes readers into the heart of Palm Oil Nation for a fast-paced and detailed look at the destruction the commodity has sown.”
“Zuckerman’s book is a timely call to heed [the] reminder . . . to finally set right screw-ups such as the palm oil industry.”
—South China Morning Post
“Jocelyn Zuckerman has crossed the globe and looked back in time to show us how much the appetite for palm oil proﬁt has cost us in human suffering, environmental degradation, and loss of biodiversity. This extraordinary work of investigative journalism will make you cry and gnash your teeth. It will ﬁll you with rage. Essential reading for everyone who wonders if their food choices matter.”
—Ruth Reichl, bestselling author of Tender at the Bone and My Kitchen Year
“Most of us are familiar by now with how commodities like cotton, sugar, and gold have defined the course of empire and exploitation. In this lively and intriguing book, Jocelyn Zuckerman adds to the list something that, remarkably, 99 percent of the time we don’t even know we’re consuming. Planet Palm will make you look very differently at the items in your kitchen and bathroom—and at the persistence of poverty and hunger in parts of the world that should be enjoying plenty.”
—Adam Hochschild, author of King Leopold’s Ghost and Bury the Chains
“Jocelyn Zuckerman takes us on a troubling, time-traveling adventure that follows the journey of what will become the indispensable ingredient. Today, palm oil, with its intrinsic links to colonization and slavery, has become ubiquitous in our consumerist culture. Sadly, its exploitation, a mere reﬂection of our global food system, has had terrible consequences.”
—Pierre Thiam, Senegalese chef and co-founder of Yolélé Foods
“Man-eating pythons, rogue elephants, armed gangsters, corrupt politicians, murderous executives, modern-day slave owners. Zuckerman encounters them all in this, the first exhaustive investigation of the world’s most environmentally damaging product—something most of us use every day without even knowing it.”
—Barry Estabrook, author of Just Eat and Tomatoland
“I’ve always thought of palm oil as just another best-to-avoid food ingredient for its high level of saturated fat, but I can never look at it the same way again after reading Planet Palm. I now understand that oil palms represent the darkest underside of late-stage capitalism. This is an ugly story, compellingly told. It needs to be read.”
—Marion Nestle, professor of nutrition, food studies, and public health, emerita, New York University, and author most recently of Let’s Ask Marion
- ASIN : B0844FCL4P
- Publisher : The New Press (May 25, 2021)
- Publication date : May 25, 2021
- Language : English
- File size : 10270 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Sticky notes : On Kindle Scribe
- Print length : 328 pages
- Best Sellers Rank: #1,206,371 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
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It is a pretty well written and interesting, but above all - important book. It investigates all of this and more, providing detailed and colorful picture of the oil palm business from colonial history to the present day, and revealing many ugly truths that we, global consumers, don't like to think about.
Regarding the critics, I agree that the problem with “eco-colonialism” is real - I think that the expectations of the West, where all old forests were cleared long ago and many native species were led to extinction, towards the developing countries are often hypocritical and unfair, as the author acknowledged in the epilogue. Nonetheless, it is true that something has to be done for the sake of both local communities and the global environment. I am not sure activism is a proper solution but it surely helps to build awareness.
Thanks to the publisher, The New Press, and NetGalley for the advance copy of this book.
While it is well written, it does not address the demand side: Why is it that we are using Palm Oil above anything else? The book describes some of the initiatives that have been taken to label palm oil and mark sustainability as we know if from other labels such as fair trade. But since it is mostly an ingredient, the packaging would not suffice to provide equal space for all questionable ingredients in products like Nutella.
It is well written, and if you are professionally active in the food supply chain, you may want to consider picking this one up. For the rest of us, it is just one of those books that makes you feel more miserable when you look at your nutrition and makes you question what is left to eat.
I am not going to say that this book is a lie, I am just saying it does not tell the whole story. Not all palm plantations are the same, just as not all banana or sugar or coffee or any plantations is the same. It actually varies from country to country and from farmer to farmer. To try to make the case that all palm oil is the same "evil" is misguiding, to say the least.
If we judged all ingredients with the same lens as some are judging palm oil, we would be in serious trouble. It is just not realistic to make such terrible accusations against one single ingredient.