Online Insights on FIVEaa Sunday November 29 2009

December 1, 2009

This fortnight on Online Insights we discussed Palm Oil (it will make you gasp and stop eating Tim Tams), Sesame Street’s new site, Morning Glory (not what you think), and a wonderfully quirky site for lifting your mood. Enjoy.

Palm Oil

A selection of products from producers who have certified that they DO contain palm oil or a derivative
A selection of products from producers who have certified that they DO contain palm oil or a derivative

So many products we use day to day contain palm oil and most of that palm oil has been obtained by destroying the rainforests of Sumatra and other areas where orang-utans are clinging on for dear life. I have been working with Adelaide Zoo recently and when I heard about this I thought I was doing okay because I couldn’t recall seeing palm oil on ingredient lists for anything I bought. But in fact, for many products that use palm oil – such as well known dish washing liquids and soaps – they do not need to list palm oil, only the “active” ingredients.

There is a double bind with soaps because most producers use either palm oil or beef tallow from slaughter houses. This causes concern for vegetarians trying to live in harmony with their beliefs. For me, it would be hypocritical to object to the beef tallow base because I do eat meat and am glad that very little (if any) of the animals, whose lives we take to sustain our own, go to waste.

So, using products from animals who are already a food source is one thing. Felling trees to make dish washing liquid easy on your hands is another. At the rate things are going, we, as a human race, would have notched up another species kill within ten years or less. Goodnight orang-utans.

But it doesn’t have to end in tears. The Australian Orangutan project has a Facebook group that contains basic information about this situation and, importantly, a discussion board where members update visitors with lists of products that are FREE from palm oil. And we’re not just talking soaps, but biscuits, cosmetics, and a whole range of products use palm oil, most of it plundered from rainforests. It is as absolute disgrace that well loved household names are destroying our closest neighbours in the animal kingdom while smiling at the camera and making supermarket shelves bright and cheery. Every executive at these large soap making and food making conglomerates is living with blood on their hands and they deserve to have their homes and support systems ripped away from them to give them a taste of what they are inflicting on orang-utans, all in a vain chase for some extra lousy bucks.

To give you a taste of how disconnected many producers are from this pesky inconvenience of being reminded they are destroying orang-utans, look at Girl Scout Cookies. It looks like a couple of Scouts have started a movement to lobby for the removal of palm oil from Girl Scout Cookies. They met with the Girl Scouts and reps from their bakers and were told to gather market-research to prove that removing palm oil would be a worthwhile decision. So there you have it – the Girl Scouts and their bakers don’t give a damn about the orang-utan, they just want to know that enough people want them to change so that they can follow the market. Is that the sort of philosophy they teach young girls to live their lives by, which equates to this “do bad things if they make your life easier, unless you can find that there is more in it for you to do the right thing”. What a wonderful philosophy!

Another site that helps spell things out is Palm Oil Action. This well-made site explains the background to the issue along with forthright lists of some big name products that contain palm oil, like Tim Tams, Pringles, Arnotts Shapes, Kit Kat, LCM bars, Oreo, Sara Lee Apple Danish, Ritz crackers, Maggi 2 minute noodles. But there is some good news. Pressure from consumers has led Cadbury to announce they will remove palm oil from all their chocolates, and KFC is moving its oil away from palm oil. So it can’t be that hard. Come on Colgate-Palmolive with your rings of confidence, Arnotts with your never-ending Tim Tams, and Nestle with your Kit Kat – don’t just have a break in your ethics so you can fill your coffers and weaken our hearts, take a stand for this planet, for the orang-utan and for your stature as organisations run by people of merit.

Finally, Zoos Victoria has a campaign underway – I will embed the YouTube video here in this post or you can visit the Don’t Palm Us Off site yourself. I urge you to sign the campaign form at this site to put pressure on our food labelling authorities to demand listing of palm oil on food labels.

So, if you want to change your habits, or even do more, visit the Palm Oil Action website – it could change your life and save many others!

Sesame Street

With long holidays on the way, it is time to start rolling out sites to help parents occupy their kids. Sesame Street is a good place to start for pre-schoolers. There are plenty of counting games, letter games and pattern matching, with all the favourite characters involved.

What I particularly like is the little Parents’ Tip that sits on screen while the rather large and heavy flash files load for each game. These tips suggest things you can do with your child while waiting for the files to load, or ideas for things to do later.

Games include:

  • Singing Clap Your Hands with Elmo.
  • Picking what each food is from a close up shot with Zoe and Cookie Monster
  • Learning to count while helping Grover and Elmo run a lemonade stand.

Be warned though, the higher your broadband speed the better. If you are on dialup or a slow connection, the games offered are very simple and probably boring (better than nothing but nowhere near as dynamic as the full games).

While on the subject of disappointments, I am very disappointed that The Count does not have any games available at the moment. Please bring them on, Sesame Street crew!

Our little 18-month old seems just old enough now to “get” what is happening and join in. See if yours will at the new Sesame Street site.

Morning Glory

At a wedding a few weeks ago, I met Alec Doomadgee, who comes from the Gulf of Carpentaria. He told me about the morning glory phenomenon in that region; something I had never heard about.

According to, the Gulf of Carpentaria is home to the Morning Glory Cloud during the latter part of the dry season (which means October). The cloud is up to two kilometres high stretching from horizon to horizon and moves at about 60km/h.

Glider pilots and hang glider pilots trek to the region each year to ride it just like surfers ride waves.

The best location to see the Morning Glory is Burketown in far North Queensland.

Alec was telling me it is quite an amazing experience to move through the cloud – temperatures drop from the average of 40 degrees Celsius at that time of year to very cool inside the cloud and then back to heat again.

You can see a documentary, shorter videos, pictures and other information at Rob Thompson’s Morning Glory website.

Make My Mood

This is a delightfully quirky site with image-laden posts that often make you smile. As an example, today’s post (November 29, 2009) is What Cereal Should I Eat. It is a tongue-in-cheek flow chart to help you decide on what to eat. Here are some of the gem questions and suggestions:

  • Are you Australian (yes) – Weetbix
  • Do you care about the roof of your mouth (no) – Capn Crunch
  • Are you over 50 and regular (yes) leads to Fiber One (no) leads to Quisp
  • Are you trying to be healthy (yes) really (no) – Honey Bunches of Oats
  • Are you drunk (yes) – Froot Loops
  • Are you immune to diabetes (yes) – Frosted Flakes

Have a look at Make My Mood and then click the make my mood logo to go in to the rest of the site.