From holding the colour of lipstick to providing the smooth sheen on chocolate, 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 labour that has swept away cultures and so devastated the landscapes of Southeast Asia that species such as orangutans, elephants and rhinoceroses now teeter on the brink of extinction. Fires lit to clear the way for plantations to spew carbon emissions to rival those of industrialised nations.
Award–winning journalist Jocelyn C. Zuckerman has spent years travelling the globe, from Liberia to Indonesia, India to Brazil, reporting on the human and environmental impacts of this poorly understood plant. In June 2021 she came to Intelligence Squared to discuss Planet Palm, her new book blending history, science, politics and food, as seen through the people whose lives have been upended by this hidden ingredient.
Speakers subject to change.