We’ve written extensively about the negative environmental impacts of palm oil — it’s a biofuel and ingredient that’s now found in a wide range of foods, chocolate, cosmetics — sometimes even under different names.
But whatever it’s called, it’s clear that palm oil production is leading to massive deforestation due to carbon-emitting activities like slashing and burning the forest to make way for palm plantations, as well as habitat loss for a wide variety of species like orangutans, tigers, rhinoceros, and elephants. The statistics are pretty overwhelming, but one artists’ collective is hoping to raise awareness about the grim picture through creative installations and interventions that highlight the crisis.
Calling themselves Splash and Burn (a wordplay on the destructive practice of slash-and-burn), the group is led by Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic, who told This is Colossal why he is spearheading the project:
A state of global environmental crisis is defining our generation. As consumers, we are so disconnected from the source of our commodities that we do not recognize the impact of our daily choices. This project is an effort to bridge that gap.
Seen from above, Zacharevic collaborated with a palm plantation in North Sumatra, Indonesia to carve a huge “SOS” (Save Our Souls) into the landscape, which runs for about half a kilometre (1,640 feet) and can be seen from the air. The land will be replanted with native species of trees in the future.
For the last couple of years, Zacharevic has been researching the issues around palm oil, and reaching out to local residents, NGOs and other artists with the aim of bringing these critical matters to the forefront of public discussion. These other collaborations include works such as murals, sculptures and more, done with artists like Alexandre Farto a.k.a. VHILS / Splash and Burn, Anders Gjennestad a.k.a. Strøk, Pixel Pancho, Isaac Cordal and more.
Spreading public awareness and encouraging action can be difficult if it’s just conveyed with numbers and doom-and-gloom. This collective is hoping to shift the bigger-picture perspective, while remaining dedicated to pushing these issues forward, says Zacharevic:
I wanted to communicate the magnitude of the problem to a wider audience, as well as provide creative outlook, hope, and inspiration to local communities and conservationists. From the ground, you would not suspect anything more than just another palm oil plantation, the aerial view however reveals an SOS distress signal. ‘Save our Souls’ is a message communicated to those at a distance, a reminder of the connectedness we share with nature. As more of the forests are lost, we lose a little bit of ourselves in the process.
To find out more, visit Splash and Burn.