14,937 km so far.
Sometimes you have to let go of your habits, your preconceptions, and your base desires, and take a look at the bigger picture.
Palm oil has replaced trans fat and other fats in almost every kind of packaged food you can imagine. It might be healthier than hydrogenated vegetable oil (though it is still not good for you) but the damage this industry is doing to the earth, the virgin jungle, wildlife, and the environment cannot outweigh the individual costs.
We must find a better alternative.
Jane’s note: There is a better alternative. It’s called eating real fresh food instead of packaged, processed crap.
It’s Getting Hot In Here
Yesterday we met a Malaysian man while we were stopped for a drink. He told us it was much hotter here now than in the recent past. He said the weather has changed completely from when he was a young man.
Looking at the scarred landscape, and the endless acres of palm oil plantations, we can imagine why. The ecosystem here has been irrevocably destroyed by industry. The lungs of Malaysia have been stripped away and replaced with countless palm oil trees.
The jungle has been burned to the ground to make room for these trees which feed America’s (and the world’s) addiction to junk food. The damage to the environment isn’t the only problem. The habitat of countless animals has been destroyed causing huge declines in populations – from elephants and leopards to butterflies and centipedes.
Leopard Flavoured Doritos
As we left Mentakab this morning we saw a wild leopard. Really? Yup. As I rode past it I thought, “That cat has an interesting pattern on its fur.” Then, I realised why. I stopped, Jane pulled up, and I told her what I had seen.
There was a dead baby leopard at the side of the road.
She was incredulous, and thought it must have been a domestic cat. It was just a few metres back so we went to check it out. I mean, even dead, it is still a wild leopard, and we wanted to see it.
Sadly, I wasn’t mistaken. It had been trying to cross the highway, which cuts the jungle in two, and was hit by a vehicle. We have really enjoyed riding along the highways through the jungle, but I worry about the animals who live there. They take their lives into their own paws as they race across the highway, hoping to make it before a car or truck comes along to snuff them out.
Near Kuala Lumpur, the habitat of the Indochinese leopard has been reduced to such a small area that they are now highly concentrated in the mountains around the city. This busy, congested area is some of the the only habitat they have left.
Eating The Jungle, One Cracker At A Time
As we rode today, we passed clear-cut, scarred hillsides just waiting to be planted with palm oil trees. A few months ago this was virgin jungle, teeming with thousands of species of animals and plants. We passed acre upon acre of palm oil plantations.
The pace of the destruction of the jungle doesn’t seem to be slowing down. With every day, more and more jungle is slashed and burned, and more palm oil trees are planted.
Malaysia’s richest man is wealthy from palm oil, and most of the men on the Malay rich list have their hands in this dirty business. While they rake in the money, they destroy their own country. It is no wonder Robert Kuok lives in Hong Kong now.
Everything from food to cosmetics to cleaning products uses palm oil.
Don’t be fooled by claims of sustainable palm oil. This label (RSPO) was created by corporations like Unilever to reduce the negative publicity they were receiving. Can you imagine Unilever producing anything that is sustainable?
Also, don’t be fooled by intentionally vague labelling.
All of these ingredients come from palm oil, except vegetable oil/fat which CAN be palm oil: Vegetable Oil, Vegetable Fat, Sodium Laureth Sulfate (in almost everything that foams), Palm Kernel (or any other ingredient that has Palm in its name), Stearic Acid, Cetyl Alcohol… the list is long.
To find out which palm oil products are likely lining the shelves of your cupboards, check out this list, which also shows products that do not contain any palm oil (notice the only item on the good list that resembles food is Halls lozenges).
Jane’s note: So along with ditching processed, packaged food, how about reducing your addiction to beauty products? It’s easy, and once you get started you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it years ago. Here’s how to start.
So what food is palm oil free? Check out this link. It is a good starting point. And read the ingredients on everything you buy.
Jane’s note: Or just buy fresh food.
The High Road
We have heard stories of the nightmare that is riding your bike into KL. Not only are the drivers crazy and the traffic a dangerous snarl, but it sits on the coast surrounded by mountains, which we would have to ride over. Add in a heavy rain and the decision to take the bus into KL from Bentong was an easy one. Plus, at $2 (USD) each for the 70-minute bus ride, it was a total steal.
The amazing bus driver knew exactly how to twist and turn our bikes so that they fit under the bus. He made the whole getting on the bus ordeal much easier than it usually is for cyclists. Thanks driver!
As we settled into the bus ride, I started to sketch out this blog post. When I looked up a little while later, we were nearing the top of the mountain that surrounds KL, and the rain was coming down. I hadn’t felt the bus struggle to climb the steep highway, and I hadn’t broken a sweat. This whole bus things seems much easier than riding my bike.
So here we are in Kuala Lumpur, a day earlier than we expected, with very little planned for our stay.
Soundtrack: Pixies, Indie Cindy | The Dandy Warhols, Thirteen Tales From Urban Bohemia Live At The Wonder | Krishna Das, Spoken Word Recordings, 2012 Workshop Sampler | All Songs Considered podcast ♥
Want to see the route map? View it on Ride With GPS.
Hi, I’m Stephen, full-time travelling yoga teacher & founder of Adventure Yoga. I’ve taught yoga in 25 countries and have had adventures in 50! At My Five Acres, we inspire you to live your most adventurous life and help you to travel more and more mindfully.