So, this is the comic version of chapter three of my dissertation. I wish I could substitute 40 pages of one chapter with one Snarky Fanon (my new comic series and Sistah Vegan venture) comic. Maybe the dissertation committee would be okay with that? Goddess, I wish it were that easy!
One of the most important ideas that the reader is left with is the notion that just because a company claims ‘sustainability,’ doesn’t mean they will actually create sincere actions around it. Readers who have clicked on the link to the Der Spiegel article, from the Food Empowerment Project (FEP)page, read an unsettling idea about corporate concepts of sustainability:
Despite claims of sustainability, many companies continue to deforest the area. A concession costs about $30,000 in bribes or campaign contributions, reports a former WWF employee who worked in Indonesia for a long time. ‘Sustainble palm oil, as the WWF promises with its RSPO certificates, is really nonexistent,’ he says. (Glüsin and Klawitter 2012, 2)
Yes, Earth Balance’s own webpage about sustainability claims that they source their palm oil from Malayasia and Brazil, not Indonesia. However, in reading the above paragraph excerpt from Der Spiegel, the reader is left with the potential initiative to start questioning how sincere Earth Balance’s sustainability initiatives are, and to what degree profit is the defining factor for sustainability, particularly if RSPO is working with World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Readers learn that WWF was initially established and financially support by incredibly wealthy people with big interests in preserving certain wildlife areas for their own amusement, such as ‘big game’ hunting. Largest financial capital investments that WWF received have come from Shell and BP oil companies, Monsanto and Cargill as well as backing from nuclear, tobacco, and arms industry. One of the most striking realities implied in the Der Spiegel article is never-ending roles that European colonial configurations of the globe, economy, and people play into palm oil industry’s construction of ‘sustainable.’ Overall, those who have clicked on this article link from FEP are left with the knowledge that RSPO, WWF, and the palm oil industry are simply legalized forms of colonialism and cultural imperialism that benefit the same groups of wealthy white Europeans from a lineage that started over four hundred years ago during the racial colonial project.
Rich Europeans or Americans are allowed to behave as if the colonial period had never ended. They are allowed to shoot elephants, buffalo, leopards, lions, giraffes and zebras, and they can even smear the blood of the dead animals onto their faces, in accordance with an old custom. A WWF spokesman defends this practice, saying that quotas have been established, and that the proceeds from this “regulated hunting” can contribute to conservation.(Glüsin and Klawitter 2012, 3)
Only one of 55 article hyperlinks on FEP’s page, the FEP’s campaign against the use of palm oil functions as pedagogical tool to decode the language that Earth Balance and Smart Balance present to the USA consumer as ‘sanitary’ and ‘feel-good.’ Most importantly, FEP re-narrates the landscape of which the palm oil is coming from, explaining to USA consumers that the story of ‘wellness’ they are being marketed, is a myth. Through careful analysis, consumers learn that corporate capitalist’s sense of ‘sustainable’, ‘wellness,’ and ‘healthier world’ are not universal, but are rather defined by the logics of neoliberal whiteness; vegan products by Smart Balance and Earth Balance are no different. It is another type of ‘white talk’ or ‘white logic’ that has set the rules for what is ‘ethical.’ Such ‘white logic’ means European and US American consumer’s material privileges are protected, while fooling them into thinking that their consumerism is ‘helping’ primitive non-white people go through “development” (Cárdenas 2012).
Cárdenas, Roosbelinda. “Green Multiculturalism: Articulations of Ethnic and Environmental Politics in a Colombian ‘Black Community’.” Journal of Peasant Studies 39, no. 2 (2012): 309-33.
Glüsing, Jens, and Nils Klawitter. “Green Veneer: Wwf Helps Industry More Than Environment.” Der Spiegel May 26, 2012, no. 22 (2012): http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/wwf-helps-industry-more-than-environment-a-835712-2.html.