Although I’m a few days late with this, I’d still like to share with you that last week was Orangutan Caring Week.
Orangutans (as well as a plethora of other species like tigers, rhinos, and elephants) and their rainforest homes are being devastated by the expansion of palm oil plantations. Not only is this tragic for wildlife, but palm oil plantations are threatening the way of life of traditional peoples who don’t exactly do well when huge, profit-driven companies come in to clear the land for a monocultural crop that threatens traditional livelihoods.
One of the proposed solutions for alleviating this problem has been the formation of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), which I think should be more aptly named, The Roundtable on Reducing Westerners Guilt Over Consuming Palm Oil (RRWGOCPO).
Although I see some advocates’ point that this organization may at least lessen the destruction of virgin rainforest land when producing palm oil (after 2015, of course, when certified producers will finally be required to use non-virgin rainforest land), I find the label “sustainable” to be a very poignant example of greenwashing.
Sustainability may be a concept that is difficult to define, but I am pretty sure it is not: a) monocultural crops that destroy biodiversity and require massive inputs to maintain; b) flying a product all over the world to reach consumer demand; c) destroying traditional ways of living; or d) feeding into the Western delusion that more is always better and that we have to find ways to keep increasing/meeting consumption, rather than changing our own behavior (i.e. learn to live with less).
It’s unfortunate that some well-meaning people are being misled into thinking that they are being “green” by using palm oil as biodiesel in their vehicles, or that this is a healthier choice for a consumable oil. It’s not. Palm oil is destroying species, forests, and is contributing to our climate crisis.
Before you go run to check out the RSPO’s new food labels or become obsessed with researching and boycotting the long list of ingredients that are often used instead of writing “palm oil” on a label, I urge you to think about something new…
Buying local and becoming a producer of your own goods ensures that you avoid contributing to the palm oil crisis and many other forms of environmental and human destruction. It also means you increase your self-reliance, become more resilient to changes in the flow of goods or in climate, and are spending less money! All good things!
Um, Christine…how is this related to wheat thins?
I’m so glad you asked! You’ll find that palm oil is like corn syrup – it is in a huge amount of processed foods. It is very difficult to avoid in prepackaged goods. BUT! If you begin to produce many of your own home food staples (and especially if you aim to use local or homegrown products), you can avoid some of the obsessive label reading. You will know exactly what ingredients are going into your foods, and you can have a better idea of the conditions in which they were grown and whether or not they supported human and other animal life. And so with that, I’d like to share a recipe for a homemade product with you:
Homemade Wheat Thins
- 1 1/4 c. whole wheat flour
- 1 1/2 Tbs. sweetener (honey, sugar)
- 1/2 tsp. salt (+ extra if you want to sprinkle a little as topping)
- 1/4 tsp. paprika
- 4 Tbs. butter
- 1/4 c. water
- 1/4 tsp. vanilla
- (You can also sprinkle in other spices to the dry ingredients to play with flavor.)
Preheat oven to 400* and grease a cookie sheet. Whisk the dry ingredients together.
Cut the butter into small pieces and add these to the dry mix. Work with a pastry blender (or a fork, two knives, or your hands) until the mixture is crumbly.
Combine water and vanilla in a small measuring cup and add to the dry mix. Stir together until a smooth dough forms (add extra water if needed. I usually add an additional 3-4 Tbs.). Divide dough into 4 pieces and transfer one piece at a time to a floured surface.
Roll the dough out very thin and cut into squares.
Place the divided squares onto a baking sheet and bake for 6-9 minutes.
You’ll get quite an impressive stack of yummy crackers for a lot less than it would cost to buy a box of these!
Try not to eat them all at once! They store well in an airtight container.
And if you’re not totally sick of my palm oil soapbox, consider checking out this other piece I wrote about orangutans and palm oil: How Does Eating Local Help Orangutans?
(This post may be shared on any of these blog hops.)
Great post! You really connected the dots on what “real” sustainability means. Can’t wait to try the recipe!
I just saw a piece on the news about palm oil a few weeks ago, and I was totally shocked. I really didn’t know anything about it before that, but now I am reading labels and avoiding it at all costs. It’s hard to do, though, because it really is in a lot of food.
Thank you for that wheat thins recipe. I will definitely try it! I love making things at home because I know exactly what goes into them and I can enjoy them with a clear conscience!
I am quite sure we can all make a difference as we learn the consequences of the food choices we make. As always I am very thankful for your contributions to Seasonal Celebration and feel honoured you choose to stop by each week!
Has anyone made these with refined wheat flour? I try to avoid whole wheat flour for health reasons.
I’m also telling people about the harm of palm oil now that I’ve learned about it from this recipe/article.