Profile: Nathanael Johnson
Writer & Journalist
Nathanael Johnson is a journalist who lives in Berkeley, California with his wife and daughters. He has contributed to magazines such as Harper's, New York, and Conservation, and to National Public Radio, and This American Life. His first book is called All Natural, and he's writing another about the synanthropes - the creatures that thrive alongside humans. He writes the 'Thought for Food' column at Grist.org, and tweets @SavorTooth.
NoteStreams By Nathanael Johnson
This is a story about how change happens. It happens for big reasons: economic shifts, political winds, technological revolutions. But it also happens for small reasons: individual people making very personal choices.
In the last 10 years, palm oil has found its way into just about every processed food and cosmetics product you can imagine. The world’s hunger for palm oil has driven farmers to clear an area the size of Taiwan. All this cutting has pushed Sumatran tigers and orangutans to the edge of extinction, along with hundreds of less charismatic species.
Palm oil itself isn’t inherently evil: It can be grown in a sustainable fashion. The most responsible players in the industry have helped lift communities of farmers out of poverty. But only if it’s grown where there aren’t old-growth forests and peat swamps.
It sometimes feels as if the wheels of environmental reform are spinning in the mud, so when real change happens, it’s remarkable. And then, all of a sudden, every major player begins to commit to transformative change, one after another. What the heck happened?