Journalist Wudan Yan traveled to Southeast Asia to investigate the barriers to producing palm oil in an environmentally and socially responsible manner. Palm oil is a commodity that’s folded into myriad consumables, ranging from chocolate bars to toothpaste and body wash—it is also linked to massive deforestation. A team of scientists are trying to make the oil palm plant produce much more oil, which would theoretically reduce pressure for deforestation.
Yan spent time with policy makers in an effort to understand why this deforestation is so hard to prevent in Indonesia. In addition, she looked at labor issues in the large plantations that sprawl over thousands of hectares in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Myanmar—a frontier country for the development of palm oil.