GEOG 430
Human Use of the Environment

Current Event Essay 2: Nutellagate and Palm Oil Production


Using the course content and the information provided below, you will write your second Current Event Essay to understand real world problems as they relate to palm oil production and the destruction of the rainforests and impacts on wildlife.

For this assignment, you will write a 1000 word essay in response to the prompt below by Thursday of Week 6 at 11:59 pm (Eastern Time). Note that this current module is the Week 5 module. Check the calendar in Canvas for specific time frames and due dates. This current event essay is worth a possible 60 points toward your final grade. Please see syllabus for more information on how you will be graded.

This week we will be looking at palm oil. Palm oil has become ubiquitous in its usage in food and cosmetic production.  One prominent example that recently made the rounds in the news and on social media is Nutella when the French ecology minister suggested that consumers boycott the hazelnut spread based on its involvement in the palm oil industry, setting off a controvery dubbed "Nutellagate" (Longeray 2015, click here for more info)

Take a look at the websites/articles below to understand the issues related to palm oil, the impact this industry has on the rainforest environment, and how the use of this product is related to issues we have learned about in the course in recent weeks (think: overconsumption, technological advances and farming transitions, environmental conflict, and commodification).

In response to these articles and drawing on things we've covered in class already, consider the following questions in your response:

  • How does the content you have read/watched on food production impact how you think about issues related to the production of palm oil?
  • How do changes in globalization, agricultural transitions, and changes in diet and consumption across the globe impact the usage and proliferation of palm oil in much of our food and cosmetics?
  • What do you think led to palm oil becoming ubiquitous in so many products? How do we as consumers play a role?  Feel free to research on your own to help you answer this last question.


The strongest answers will draw specifically on course materials (articles, videos, etc.), use college-level language, and make connections across the literature. Make sure to use proper citations!**