4/6 Coal Baron Blockade & A Crude History of Palm Oil w/ Jonathan Robins & Warren Hilsbos

April 6, 2022

Sam and Emma host Jonathan Robins, Associate Professor of History at Michigan Technological University, to discuss his recent book Oil Palm: A Global History. Then, Sam and Emma are joined by Warren Hilsbos of the Coal Baron Blockade! Prof. Robins begins with the state of the palm oil industry – the world’s biggest oil industry – extracting from tropical regions of South East Asia, with some production in Africa and Latin America as well, all funneling into the oil’s ubiquity across our food products, as well as the industry’s absurd rates of deforestation, indigenous displacement, and destruction of biodiversity. Next, he, Sam, and Emma jump back to the 19th Century with Europe’s colonization of countless African nations and communities and the appropriation of many of their medicinal and culinary practices, central to which was the use of palm oil. As the transatlantic slave trade was slowly abolished, the shipping industries saw palm oil as the perfect replacement, central to countless of the developing products of the industrial revolution. As the world progressed into the 20th Century, fats and oils became central to nutrition in the western world, palm oil slowly moved to the center of colonial business interests, producing more oil per tree, per acre, than coconuts and other agricultural oils, yet, as Professor Robins explores, the power of indigenous communities, and their connection to their land stood strong, refusing to hand over their forests or their labor to the settlers in their backyard. Thus, the settler-colonial industry switched its focus to the much less densely populated forests of South East Asia, where it was much easier to lay claim to others’ land and funnel in indentured servants from across the continent, subsidized by European regimes like the English and the Dutch. Next, Jonathan walks Sam and Emma through the developments of the mid-1900s, which saw a crackdown on cheap labor practices that competed with American businesses, with much of the labor coercion leaving the industry up until the 1980s (classic). They wrap up the interview by touching on regulation in recent years, as more progressive practices exist only independently, while the main palm oil industry employs the ever-trustworthy practices of self-policing, evaluating, and promoting their own vastly more expensive “ethically sourced” products (which, unsurprisingly, has seen little-to-no engagement on the corporate level). Sam and Emma also touch on the rampant spread of “Don’t Say Gay” and anti-abortion bills throughout the South and Midwest, all charges falling through in the murder of Amir Locke, and Jen Psaki’s incredulous response to Steve Portnoy’s “why not?” take on World War Three.

Then, Emma and Sam are joined by Warren Hilsbos with West Virginia Rising, as they discuss this weekend’s “Coal Baron Blockade” at Grand Town Power Plant, the sole consumer of Manchin’s dirty coal plant, and how the group is taking on their senator’s decision to side with corporate corruption over his constituents’ well-being. In the Fun Half, Ben Shapiro joins in with Senators Cotton and Blackburn as they take on “radical left” constitutionalist Ketanji Brown Jackson, due to her fear of discussing bajingos and hoo-has in a Senate confirmation hearing for a SUPREME COURT seat. Dustin from Queens calls in on Democrats’ refusal to invest in public housing, particularly from the angle of building their base, and PR Mayor Eric Adams funnels some taxes to billboards promoting his city in Florida. Mike Lindell gets served, before trying to politely return the envelope, Charlie Kirk and the Right want MORE gender neutrality in schools (one would assume with their rhetoric at least), and Wren from Oregon calls in with updates on anti-trans legislation, and her experiences with Gender Critical community members, plus, your calls and IMs!

Check out Jonathan’s book here: https://uncpress.org/book/9781469662893/oil-palm/
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