History is happening all the time, but usually without us realizing it. Only rarely do we experience a change so dramatic that we know that what’s happening today will be remembered fifty or a hundred years in the future. The kind of thing that you’ll tell your grandchildren about. This is especially the case for so-called “tipping points,” celebrated in both scientific and popular writing. Usually, you only realize that something was a tipping point after you’re well past it. But sometimes…
March 7th, 2014
March 6th, 2014
Like most Americans, I’m really devoted to the products I buy. I’ve been using Old Spice since I was 15 and entered my “Frank Sinatra” phase, on a bad day nothing cheers me up quite like a bowl (or six) of Lucky Charms or Cinnamon Toast Crunch, and seeing a Taco Bell sign or McDonald’s golden arches on a long car trip never fails to reinvigorate me. For better or worse, we Americans have developed an attachment to these brands and the companies that make them. Read More
March 6th, 2014
I get asked a lot whether you should stop buying products with palm oil altogether. The answer is “no,” for three major reasons.
March 4th, 2014
As you may have seen, there has been a lot of news from the palm oil industry in recent months, with companies like Hershey’s, L’Oréal, Kellogg’s, and Unilever committing to source deforestation- and peat-free palm oil. But it’s the announcement by Wilmar, the largest trader (and one of the largest producers) of palm oil, that is likely to have the greatest impact on the palm oil industry. Read More
February 19th, 2014
A couple of years ago, as I waited for my morning coffee to brew and my toast to, er, toast, I was reading the label of my peanut butter jar and had my entire organic, fair trade world thrown for a loop when I saw that my peanut butter contained palm oil. Read More
May 2nd, 2013
The week before last I had the opportunity to go to London to participate in a workshop at Chatham House, on an idea that may turn out to be very important in ending tropical deforestation. Over the past several years there has been important progress in reducing forest degradation, based on a simple principle: if it’s against the law to cut down trees in one country, then it should also be illegal to import the cut timber from those trees into other countries. In other words, we should respect and help enforce the laws that protect forests in the countries that we import from.
December 3rd, 2012
I’m now in Doha, Qatar, at the international climate negotiations (“COP18″), and today was Forest Day. This annual event focuses on the role of forests and deforestation in emissions of global warming pollution, and often is the venue for presenting some of the newest science from around the world. Read More
November 30th, 2012
We all know that “sustainable” is a good thing but the word is only as strong as its definition. Right now, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) has a huge opportunity to strengthen its definition by adding critical forest and climate protections to its standards. The world is watching and waiting to see if “sustainable” palm oil will be a truly sustainable solution for the future. Read More
November 27th, 2012
Over the past several years, one of the few pieces of hopeful news about global warming has been the annual release of data from Brazil on its rate of Amazon deforestation. Since forests are immense storehouses of carbon, deforestation causes high levels of greenhouse gas emission. Brazil, which contains about 60% of the Amazon forest, is key to those emissions, and over the last six years it has made important progress in reducing its deforestation rate.
Today, the new data for 2011-2012 were released, and once again they are a ray of sunshine on an otherwise gloomy day. They show a decrease of deforestation to 4,656 square kilometers – down 27% from last year.
September 10th, 2012
Last winter, after two weeks at the climate negotiations in Durban, I took a few days of vacation and visited the unique “Afrotemperate forests” of the Southern Cape of South Africa, in the Knysna-Tsitsikamma region. Natural forests cover less that 0.5 percent of South Africa, which is much more famous for wildlife-rich savannas and for the incredibly biodiverse fynbos vegetation around the Cape of Good Hope. Read More