If you’re sitting in New York or San Francisco, you’re probably munching on food you cooked with healthy first-press coconut oil. Or maybe you’re chomping away at imitation meat made with coconut milk. It’s healthy and tasty, isn’t it? Well, not so much for the coconut farmers of Indonesia and the Philippines, as the latest OZY investigation reveals. In today’s Daily Dose, we dive into the coconut craze that’s draining poor farmers and the deeper issues at play for these countries and our diets. Also, plunge into other OZY investigations that reveal shocking truths that the powerful don’t want you to know.
Ever wondered what gives Burger King’s Impossible Whopper and Dunkin’ Donuts’ Beyond Sausage Sandwich their meat-like taste? It’s coconut oil, which helps mimic animal fat. Seen as a healthy, environmentally friendly alternative to palm oil, coconuts are fast becoming a sought-after ingredient used in everything from burgers and cookies to shampoos. America’s coconut water market has tripled in size since 2011, crossing $1 billion in 2020, and Europe’s demand for virgin coconut oil is growing by double digits annually.
Indonesia and the Philippines export 70 percent of the world’s coconuts, and with demand in the West booming, you’d think the 8 million small-scale farmers who produce almost all of these fruits would be celebrating. Far from it. OZY’s latest investigation shows their earnings have halved since 2015. That’s because even as consumers in London, New York and San Francisco gobble up coconut-based products, the fruit and its producers are facing an existential crisis in their home countries, Indonesia and the Philippines, which are also two of the five biggest markets for coconuts.
Western and Asian palm oil multinationals, struggling with declining demand in the West because of growing evidence of a link between their plantations and deforestation, are flooding poorer nations with their cheap products. Since 2011, the Philippines’ palm oil imports have grown by 300 percent, while Indonesia’s production of palm oil has grown by 65 percent. Palm oil costs a third of what coconut oil does, making it hard for the latter to compete in markets where consumers don’t have the luxury to pay extra for environmentally friendly products.
Your plant-based meat, the livelihoods of millions and the survival of key habitats. Agribusiness giants like America’s Cargill and Singapore’s Wilmar say they’ve improved their environmental practices, but green groups insist that’s not true. With their earnings dwindling, many coconut farmers are abandoning or chopping down their trees and turning to palm cultivation instead. That’s threatening the future supply of coconuts for products like plant-based meat, which has seen a 264 percent growth in demand during the pandemic.
Coconut companies, fair-trade groups and associations of coconut farmers are banding together to create new supply chains catering to this exploding demand in ways that also help farmers earn more. That’s important because the additional income allows farmers to replace senile trees with fresh ones. But at the moment, these efforts only account for 1 percent of the coconut production in Indonesia and the Philippines. And the powerful palm oil industry isn’t easy to defeat. “The environmental consequences of palm oil have started to come to light,” says Deborah Lapidus, a campaign manager with environmental group Mighty Earth. “But the market doesn't want to die.”
Since the beginning of time, Indonesia has been the world’s vortex of natural catastrophe. The nation of 17,500 islands is home to two major seismic zones: the Ring of Fire and the Alpide Belt. Plus, Jakarta is the fastest-sinking city in the world. So Indonesian President Joko Widodo has a wild solution: He plans to move Jakarta — and its 7 million people — to create a futuristic city in a Borneo jungle 1,250 miles to the northeast.
As wildfires rage across California, maybe it is time for the U.S. to learn from Indonesia. Since 2015, “Jokowi,” as the president is universally known, has implemented strict policies aimed at addressing root causes of fires, such as deforestation and poor management of peatlands. The result has been fewer fire hot spots.
Did you know that Indonesia is the most generous country in the world? Despite its gross domestic product per capita ranking 127th in the world — and the fact that 1 in 10 people there were still living below the poverty line as of 2017 — the country topped the 2018 World Giving Index, which tracks how many people donate money, volunteer their time or help out strangers in need.
Keep your eye on Haryoto. This 43-year-old gay rights activist in conservative Indonesia has overcome societal restrictions to ensure that the most persecuted populations in the country — such as the urban poor, the LGBTQ community, women and children — get food on their plates. How is he doing that? Auctioning “pre-loved” clothes, shoes and handbags on Facebook Live.
You’d be mistaken to think a country full of short people cannot be interested in basketball. The Philippines’ love affair with basketball dates back to the start of the 20th century, when it was an American colony. But the rise of Kai Sotto, the 7-foot-2 basketball player from the Philippines — who has joined the NBA G League — could propel the island country to new basketball heights.
There’s a national emergency brewing in the Philippines. Over a 10-year period, 1.2 million Filipina girls between the ages of 10 and 19 have had a child. That's 24 babies per hour. And the pandemic has only worsened the situation by curtailing access to birth control. The University of the Philippines Population Institute is predicting a baby boom in 2021 — an estimated 751,000 additional unplanned pregnancies.
3. Killing Field
Over the past four years, 318 human rights workers and activists have been killed in the Philippines, the human rights group Karapatan recently revealed. And now the killings are coming to the capital, Manila. What does that indicate? That the Rodrigo Duterte administration has become even more brazen in its willingness to eliminate its political enemies.
Sara Duterte, the current president’s daughter and 41-year-old mayor of Davao City, has been quietly building her political base over the past two years. Her increased presence on the Philippine national stage is sparking speculation of a run in 2022 … and a family dynasty.
The waiting game is over: Your favorite OZY guessing game is back for round five. Who does this gorgeous smile belong to? Head to our Instagram Story to take a guess!
how else is the climate changing our diets?
1. Bovine Herb
Recently, Burger King announced that it is improving its cows' low-carb diet by adding 100 grams of lemongrass to reduce heat-trapping methane emissions by 33 percent per day. Plus, it tastes great in soup.
Climate change is disrupting the Bolivian tradition of making chuño — prepared with baby potatoes — and threatening to deny poor rural Bolivians of what is often their most reliable source of calories in the bitter cold of the Andean highlands.
In the U.K., the chocolate industry alone generates 2.3 tons of carbon emissions annually. Kocoatrait, designed and produced by chocolatiers in Chennai, India, is trying to change that. How? By packaging its bars using cocoa bean husks and biodegradable wrappers that come with mandala art and habit trackers to encourage users to reuse them. And the chocolate is made with unrefined sugar and other natural ingredients. The feel-good aftertaste is real.
Globally, climate change is leading to vanishing glaciers, swelling seas, searing drought and devastating storms. But some regions are expected to benefit from the warming trend. Northern Europe, for example, could by 2080 see its arable land increase 40 percent compared to 1990 levels. What does it mean? There’s been an expansion of wine growing in Denmark.
Outdated regulations and a convoluted web of health care programs are forcing a growing number of Americans with disabilities to choose between health care and marriage because having a legal partner can render them ineligible for Social Security benefits. Between 2009 and 2018, nearly 1.1 million Americans with disabilities got divorced, almost twice the number — 593,000 — that got married. In the same period, 1.5 million people without disabilities divorced — less than a third of the 5.2 million who got married.
From cancer-causing coal ash and radioactive waste to everyday garbage, northern states are increasingly dumping their waste in the Bible Belt, drawn by lower landfill tip fees and looser environmental restrictions in the South. Seven of the 10 states that export the biggest chunk of their municipal solid waste — commonplace trash — are from the North, according to thousands of pages of trash data and public records from all 50 states analyzed by OZY. Meanwhile, 5 of the 10 states that receive the most waste as a share of their total trash burden are in the South: Virginia, South Carolina, Mississippi, Kentucky and Georgia.
A confluence of rising conservatism in Croatia and an exodus of doctors — including many anesthesiologists — is turning the operating table into a theater of violence against women undergoing procedures related to childbirth. Doctors are increasingly using conscientious objection exemptions to deny women abortions. In other cases, women — even lawmakers — are being operated upon without anesthesia. That’s forcing a growing number of women to cross the border into Slovenia for access to safe abortions.
An increasingly open, modern slave trade of young girls is taking root in East Africa, starting in Uganda and culminating in closed rooms in Gulf nations. At fast-spreading weekly markets, some women are promised jobs in the Gulf only to be sold once they get there, while others — many of them girls between the ages of 10 and 18 — are directly and publicly “bought” as slaves in Uganda and then resold in the Middle East.
Among U.S. psychologists, the odds of entering the profession are dramatically loaded against those from minority communities — even after they’ve earned top degrees — because of subtle biases against minority test-takers that ignore their perspectives, starting with the prep materials. Nonwhite test-takers are twice as likely as white candidates to fail the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology, which psychologists must pass to practice in America and most of Canada, despite holding doctoral degrees.
Mexico — traditionally known more as a route for drugs meant for the U.S. — is now witnessing its own narcotics epidemic. With the Trump administration tightening border security and cracking down on the production of illicit drugs in their territory, Mexican cartels are increasingly flooding their homeland with fentanyl and methamphetamine. That’s coinciding with record homicide rates and a spike in overdoses along the border with the U.S.