The environmentalist was in a hurry. He was binging “House of Cards” on Netflix. But something was missing. “Popcorn!,” he blurted out, way too melodramatically for anybody’s own good , racing for his new all-electric Chevy Bolt — you know, the one that now gets about 235 clean energy (in the Bay Area) miles on one charge!
When he arrived at the supermarket, its aisles teemed with products that contained palm oil. And the popcorn aisle specifically? So much popcorn that it almost makes one guilty that starvation still exists in the world today, he considered thoughtfully, The environmentalist also knew first hand that some popcorn producers sometimes used palm oil. But he’d done his research in the past, so he’d been down this road before. Or so he thought. He reached for a box that looked safe, familiar, and beckoned with its pleasant blues and yellow hues. Ah, Pop-Secret!
Home, he charged. Back to Netflix, raising his popcorn box like a sword through the hot summer night. But the environmentalist was wrong. He was too bold. He was too brash. He thought he knew his palm oil products. But when he got back to his kitchen (his new Chevy Bolt not requiring any charge for the third day in a row now!), the environmentalist to his shock and horror caught a side-long glance at the Pop Secret’s ingredients panel as he ripped open the box to discard properly in the recycling bin. What’s that,” he quizzed?
Damn. Palm oil! There it was — like the ever-present sun on his all-solar-powered California home (he could dream, couldn’t he?). Palm Oil! The scourge of the Earth! The second fucking ingredient by volume in this very product! Hell, second only to the actual goddamned popcorn itself, his righteous indignation rising. “I’ve failed,” he muttered defeatedly to himself. He purchased a product not knowing its palm oil sourcing policies. This was not like him.
So he got an idea. Like he did before. The next day he wrote to Pop-Secret, sending them his usual “death and destruction” email, begging to know from where they source their palm oil.
Quicker than expected, Pop Secret wrote back:
Thank you for contacting us. Please accept our apologies for your experience with Pop Secret that was not to your liking. We do appreciate your feedback. Your comments are appreciated and will be useful in future work on this product.
What the hell did that mean?, the environmentalist thought to himself. Just another boilerplate customer service response sent by a harried, overworked, underpaid customer service drone, he guessed.
So the environmentalist queried further. From where do you get your rainforest-destroying, orangutan-killing, people-displacing/enslaving, global-warming exacerbating palm oil?, he pleaded, hoping to hear good news. Why didn’t you answer my question?, he prodded. From where do you get your palm oil?, he poked.
The cold, calculating, clinical response from Pop-Secret said it all:
Thank you for your email. I did not answer that previously as we do not disclose our vendor information to consumers.
Really? “Seriously?!” the environmentalist belted out in the cubicle of his office (to which he drove in his new all-EV Chevy Bolt). This isn’t a state secret, you know! (Well, actually, it IS a trade secret, but that’s beside the point here.) The environmentalist had a pretty good track record of getting such info before from even the biggest of evil corporations (can anybody say, “Pepsi”?). Ninety-five percent of the time a company reveals it’s palm oil sourcing policy proudly, as if they’re a good actor. But he also knew that most of the time they hide behind those infernal greenwashers, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), which wasn’t much more valuable than the paper upon those sustainability certificates were printed.
But not this time. This time Pop-Secret — probably the most secretive of all popcorn manufacturers, I mean it’s right in their freakin’ name! — refused to divulge a thing.
Refused to divulge, the environmentalist ruminated. He wrote back again. Who the F are you that Pop Secret’s sourcing policy is so top secret (see what I did there?) that it cannot be divulged to us, the mere mortal consumer?
Well, hell, he thought. Well, hell, we’ll boycott! “Yes! Boycott!,” he screamed at work, his workers looking quizzically at this madman suddenly bolting above the quite din of his cubicle work environment. Seeing the weird looks his way he inspired, the environmentalist shrugged and sat down silently. His crazy environmentalist reputation at work had already preceded him. So no harm there.
The moral of the story: stay vigilant my friends, look at labels. Write manufacturers. The fate of the world only hangs in the balance.