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Kapiti Teens take action to unmask palm oil
September 2013
Even serious stuff can be fun - Kapiti College students Eesha Fugaz (left) and Nikita Goile-McEvoy (right) were joined by Greer Patterson (centre) from Paraparaumu College in collecting signatures at the Zoo.

Three local Year 10 girls are part of a nationwide movement to highlight the grim realities of tropical deforestation due to the growing global market for palm oil.

Kapiti College students Nikita Goile-McEvoy and Eesha Fugaz were joined by Greer Patterson from Paraparaumu College in a petition drive last month, collecting signatures outside the South East Asia enclosure at Wellington Zoo. The petition, organised by the NGO 'Unmask Palm Oil', requests that products containing palm oil have to be labeled as such, rather than using the more than 200 obscure names masking the widespread ingredient. Palm oil is commonly found in popular processed foods, toiletries, cosmetics and cleaning products.

"People who are genuinely concerned about the plight of tropical rainforests in South East Asia usually have no idea that products they are consuming are contributing to the destruction of indigenous cultures and wildlife habitats", says Nikita. "About 10 percent of all products in our supermarkets contain palm oil, so it is an issue right under our noses, and we need to do something about it."

While some small-scale plantations are managed sustainably, the huge demand for palm oil worldwide has dramatically increased the clearing and burning of tropical rainforests, further threatening critically endangered Sumatran tigers, Asian rhinoceros, orangutans and sun bears, and pushing locals out of their traditional forest homelands.

"Twenty eight million hectares of former rainforest land is now covered in industrial-scale palm oil plantations, and apart from the dire local effects, the burning of shrubbery once the trees have been felled contributes to global warming – literally the burning issue of our time", warns Eesha.

"But there are lots of things we can do, like consult the Palm Oil Free shopping guide on the Auckland Zoo website, and encourage your friends and family to reduce their palm oil consumption. You can express your concerns about lack of clear labeling to your local M.P. and supermarkets, and hopefully the 7400-strong petition that was delivered to Parliament last month will be considered by a Select Committee soon."

Nikita and Eesha are part of Kapiti College's Eco Action Group, and took their message to the Year 7 and 8 students of Raumati South School recently. They are available to share their presentation to other schools on the Kapiti Coast.

Nikita and Eesha are part of Kapiti College's Eco Action Group, which is supported through the Enviroschools programme. The girls took their message to the Year 7 and 8 students of Raumati South School recently. They are available to share their presentation to other schools on the Kapiti Coast.

 
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