Well, not exactly. But bear with me: There could well be a link between eating cookies and destroying valuable ecosystems, as I learned last week after meeting with Mike Brune, who runs an activist group called the Rainforest Action Network, and reading the cover story about the Amazon in the latest issue of National Geographic.
Under the headline of â€œAmazon: Forest to Farms,â€ National Geo reports that vast tracts of the Amazon in Brazil are being turned into farms to grow soybeans. â€œDuring the past 40 years,â€ writes Scott Wallace, â€œclose to 20 percent of the Amazon rain forest has been cut downâ€”more than in all the previous 450 years since European colonization.â€ There are more than 105,000 miles of illegal roads through the area, he writes. Get the issueâ€”itâ€™s an amazing story.
In the meantime, forests in Indonesia, Malaysia and Papua New Guinea are being destroyed to make way for giant palm oil farms. In response, many green NGOsâ€”Conservation International, the Nature Conservancy, World Wildlife Federation, Greenpeaceâ€”are working hard to preserve the tropical rainforests in Latin America and Asia. You can read about Greenpeace’s campaign against agribusiness giant Cargill here. Cargill responds here.
Brune told me that RAN would like to tackle the issue. RANâ€™s specialty is making connections between global environmental problems and big U.S. brands. It helped pressure Home Depot, for example, to revamp its wood-buying practices to avoid selling wood from tropical rainforests. It also helped persuade Citigroup to revamp its global lending practices.
â€œSoy plantations are one of the biggest causes of deforestation in Brazil, Argentina and Bolivia,â€ Brune says. â€œThe agriculture industry is expanding pretty quickly, and the forest is their frontier.â€
But how to bring the issue home? Big ag companies like ADM, Bunge and Cargill have operations in Brazil, but they arenâ€™t brand-name firms and, in any case, they ship soybeans to Europe, not the U.S. Palm oil is another storyâ€”it does get exported to the U.S. and it can wind up in cookies, cakes, just about anything with â€œpartially hydrogenated oilâ€ as an ingredient. Could Nabisco or Keebler be persuaded to stop buying palm oil from tropical forests, if, indeed, they do?
â€œThere are so many issues at play here,â€ Brune says. â€œDeforestation, human rights, climate change, food security, health, obesity. Iâ€™m excited by the coalitions we could build around this.”