Pulitzer Center Update

This Week: Can Science Save Palm Oil?


Young shoots, grown in culture, at the Malaysian Palm Oil Board's lab, in Kuala Lumpur. Scientists use tissue culture to clone the highest-yielding trees. Image by Wudan Yan. Malaysia, 2017.

Science in Service to Humanity or Profits?

Wudan Yu

Palm oil is a key ingredient in everything from cookies and candy bars to cosmetics. Despite its utility, it is a commodity that has a (deservedly) bad reputation, evoking images of mass deforestation, human-rights violations and dying orangutans. In a story for Nature, grantee Wudan Yu talks with scientists who are trying to develop more productive trees that would yield more oil. Their hope is that yield-improving technology would decrease the pressure to clear more land, but as Wudan reports, “technological boosts to efficiency could increase the profitability of palm oil, making it even more attractive to developers.”

Drones vs. Poachers

Rachel Nuwer

Drones have proven their effectiveness as weapons of war. Can they help in the war against wildlife poachers? In this story for The New York Times, grantee Rachel Nuwer reports on a company that is testing the technology in three African countries.

War on Environmental Activists

Fred Pearce

Last year 185 activists around the world were killed while taking a stand against development projects ranging from dams and mines to agricultural plantations. Grantee Fred Pearce documents three cases in his series for Yale Environment 360.