Greenpeace calls attention to rainforest-damaging palm oil industry through new Cambodia Town mural

Artist Ricky Lee Gordon paints his mural, Wings of Paradise. It’s part of a global street art intervention drawing attention to the devastating rainforest destruction at the hands of palm oil giants in Indonesia. Photo courtesy of Greenpeace by David McNew.

An Indonesian woman watches over a burning forest as two birds escape the destruction of their home now gone. This is the subject matter of a new mural in Long Beach aiming to draw attention to how the palm oil industry threatens and destroys rainforests in Indonesia.

The Wings of Paradise Project, a “worldwide art intervention” by Greenpeace, seeks to shed light on the importance of the ecosystems lost to deforestation in an effort to prevent further destruction, the conservation organization announced Wednesday.

“The palm oil industry has already trashed large areas of rainforests in Indonesia and it’s now creeping into the pristine landscapes of Papua to expand its operations,” said Greenpeace USA Senior Forest Campaigner Diana Ruiz in a statement. “We have a big chance to come together to stop a devastating loss before it happens and to demand that companies like Nestlé, Colgate-Palmolive, and Procter & Gamble drop dirty palm oil.”

Mural by Ricky Lee Gordon located in Long Beach, CA on Lewis Avenue and E. New York St. Photo courtesy of Greenpeace by David McNew.

Through vibrant images of birds-of-paradise, a species of bird iconic to the island of New Guinea, 19 artists in 20 cities around the world, including Long Beach, have taken up the challenge to raise awareness of the issue through outdoor art. Thirty-seven of the 41 known species of birds-of-paradise call New Guinea home, and, according to Greenpeace, are at risk of losing those homes to the expanding industry.

One of these artists is worldly Long Beacher Ricky Lee Gordon who recently finished his mural in Cambodia Town on Lewis Avenue and E. New York Street. Other murals recently announced have appeared in Oakland and New York City, by artists Norman “Vogue” Chuck and Jess X. Snow, respectively.

“I have chosen to paint a local Indonesian woman watching over a burning forest being scorched by deforestation and two birds-of-paradise flying for safety,” Gordon said in a statement. “I want to show that the problem is global. We must wake up and see that this affects everything, that we are connected, that everything is connected.”

More than half of the products you can find at a supermarket are made with palm oil—including cooking oil, non-dairy creamer and ice cream—which can be produced without contributing to deforestation, according to the announcement. Papua, which holds about a third of Indonesia’s remaining rainforest, suffers a loss of tree cover to deforestation practices which threaten its biodiversity.

“Household brands like Unilever, Nestle, Colgate-Palmolive, and Mondelez have promised to only buy palm oil from companies that are not destroying rainforests or exploiting communities, but our researchers recently discovered that they’re breaking this promise,” Greenpeace claims.

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Asia Morris has been with the Long Beach Post for five years, specializing in coverage of the arts. Her parents gave her the name because they wanted her to be a world traveler and they got their wish. She has obliged by pursuing art, journalism and a second career as a competitive cyclist.