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Did You Know: Oils


100% pure essential oils are all natural botanical essences completely derived from real plants. They contain a biological "life force" that benefits the skin, can improve the mood, and calm the senses. When combined properly with the natural oils already present on our bodies, essential oils can bring out our individually unique, personal scent, an odor fingerprint that is a genuine expression of who we are. Essential oils are inherently biodegradable and cause no harm to the environment.

Fragrance oils are synthetically produced in a laboratory and contain many artificial chemicals that our skin and bodies don't recognize. These imitation oils are common ingredients in many soaps and cosmetic products because of their intrinsically cheaper cost. In the marketplace, fragrance oils give products a fragrant scent, but do nothing to benefit our skin or our health. Just as quantities of DDT were found in the bodies of pelicans and penguins forty years ago, traces of synthetic musk fragrances have now been detected in mother's breast milk and in turn, fed to human infants.

Fragrance oils can be harmful to birds and other wildlife (humans included) when eventually deposited into bodies of water, such as our rivers and lakes. They have the potential to chemically pollute important water sources needed for the survival of all avian species.

Our skin is considered the largest breathing organ found on our bodies and it has a "biological familiarity" with the essence of 100% pure essential oils. Always choose products that contain beneficial all natural essential oils, instead of a synthetic fragrance oil substitute. Even if the they might be less costly on the shelf, fragrance oils demand a higher price in the degradation of our health and resources.

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This used to be a lush rainforest...
Now it's just another vast Indonesian Palm Oil Plantation

©2005 Marco Lambertini
Photo used with permission

Palm Oil and its derivative Palm Kernel Oil are common ingredients found in most soap and cosmetic recipes. Most soap makers and companies who use these two oils in their products are either unaware or have turned a blind eye to the fact that the international trade in palm and palm kernel oil has been a major force behind rainforest destruction, catastrophic human rights injustices, loss of land rights, and other serious social and environmental crimes.

Many countries, such as Papua New Guinea, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the island of Sumatra have had their biologically rich tropical forests and savannas devastated by Palm and Palm Kernel Oil production. A blatant disrespect for the land and the species dependent upon it are trademarks of global palm oil production. Uncontrolled fires are started to clear former vegetation, which causes irrevocable damage to many critical species' habitats, especially those used by the avian community. Monocultures and plantation factories replace the once pristine, species rich lands and harmful pesticides and herbicides kill off the last traces of biodiversity able to co-exist with plantation life. Heavy use of agri-chemicals pollutes valuable water sources, resulting in a loss of livelihood for local peoples and the further deterioration of the fragile environment they live in. Original forests are increasingly scattered in fragments throughout various ecoregions leaving birds and other wildlife without crucial corridors that give them the ability to migrate from one area to another in search of food and other essentials needed for survival. In addition, plantations often displace local peoples who migrate into the forests to obtain valuable forest products, such as traditional herbal medicines derived from plants or trees, fresh water from local sources, and building materials.

Palm and Palm Kernel Oil plantations are the major cause of forest desruction in peninsular Malaysia. In Indonesia, about 70% of the plantations have been planted on virgin forestland, a country with 117 globally threatened species, more than any other country in the world. Without native habitat birds have nowhere to live, to collect food, to nest, or to interact with the natural world. Plantations offer few opportunities for most wildlife to survive. Some species, such as rats, might flourish in these monocultures, but bird diversity is very low.

Some may say the expansion of these Palm and Palm Kernel Oil plantations has resulted in important economic benefits for the governments and corporations that support such growth and this is a good thing for developing countries. Plantations do provide employment for increasingly displaced populations (albeit income of plantation workers is very low), yet government officials and corporate CEO's work hand in hand behind the scenes to generate a vast wealth for a small few in foreign exchange. This type of behavior by politicians and businessmen almost never benefits the local peoples or the communities they live in. In Indonesia, some palm oil companies have chosen to offset plantation set-up costs by first logging forests on the land to gain profits through timber extraction. Others will get permission to log valuable tropical hardwood forests under the pretext of later establishing palm oil plantations, only to abandon the agreement once the forest is removed.

The release of large tracks of forestland for palm oil and palm kernel oil production in Sumatra has resulted in the near extinction of its treasured lowland forests. 78 of 102 local birds listed as "globally threatened" or "near threatened" are solely dependent on lowland forests in Sumatra for survival. Is the economic and financial gain of a single company or politician worth losing an entire island's irreplaceable forest or its avian community?

According to Amnesty International, 13 years of documentation in Burma revealed "the widespread use of forced labor of ethnic minorities by the Myanmar military." The report also noted "perhaps the most common human rights violation of ethnic minorities is forced labor of civilians." In an extreme case of the violation of human rights in order to benefit the palm oil production, "troops ordered 230 villagers of Thagyet and Kyeinchung" in the year 2000 "to work for military palm oil plantations." In Cambodia, unfulfilled promises by palm oil companies to local villagers left some 300 families without a place to call home. A palm oil plantation quickly replaced their farmland and removed their forests without any recompense. Initially, these families were promised jobs at the plantation or small plots of land once the plantation was up and running. Years later these families still have yet to receive any compensation from the company or from their own government. Government officials claim the land was "empty" before the palm oil company took it over.

Both the world's smallest parrot and the largest pigeon have been recorded in the densely rich forests of Papua New Guinea, home of the Bowerbird. Although 75% of Papua New Guinea's original forests are still standing, housing 200 mammals, 20,000 species of plants, 1,500 species of trees and 750 species of birds (half which are endemic to the island), these forests and forest dwellers are in great danger of losing their home due to massive logging and palm oil production. Papua New Guinea's government is a strong supporter of this type of development, by giving tax incentives to large corporations to encourage growth and plantation production. Large investors from China, Malaysia, and Indonesia have started destroying forests in favor of palm and palm kernel oil plantation monocultures. Almost all of Papua New Guinea's oil is exported to Europe, leaving none to benefit the local population.

Currently, the indigenous Maisin peoples of Papua New Guinea are fighting for their right to stay on traditional lands. A Malaysian company claims to hold a valid permit to clear-cut the Maisin forests and then establish a palm oil plantation. If this is allowed to happen, it will surely condemn the Maisin community to impoverished conditions, threaten the unique avian species that reside there, and push the immediate biological community to further extinction.

Due to these unfortunate realities, Bowerbird and Company has chosen not to use Palm Oil and Palm Kernel Oil in any of the products we offer. Check the label on other products before you buy. They may contain traces of these oils in their ingredients. By purchasing palm and palm kernel oil products you are showing support for criminal actions and letting the continuing problems of deforestation facing our birds, our forests, and our planet carry on, unnoticed.

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