Earth is facing a tremendous number of problems and so are all of the species that call it home, including humans. Deforestation is rampant, thousands of precious animals are robbed of their lives in the wild and in factory farms, our air quality is diminishing with every passing year, and our oceans have never been worse. Many of us may read about these issues, often we compartmentalize them, choosing to focus on things that affect us more directly, like our career and family. While this mode of thinking is one of the very reasons our planet is in the dire shape that it’s in, we understand that people have busy lives and it can be hard to dedicate time to a cause, especially when there are so many pressing matters at hand. Activists, on the other hand, see the problems of the world and are determined to bring about change. Some take to the streets, clipboard in hand, some spend time volunteering, and some seek to simply bring awareness to the issue by capturing powerful images that expose Earth’s problems in their rawest form.
Paul Hilton is a conservation photojournalist with a focus on the manta and shark fin trade, palm oil, and wildlife crimes. With a focus on palm oil, it is no surprise that Hilton has spent much of his time documenting the plight of orangutans. These fascinating, intelligent, and expressive creatures may very well become extinct within our lifetime, greatly in part to palm oil production. Palm oil is a popular commodity found in around 50 percent of consumer products. In the Indonesian islands of Borneo and Sumatra, native habitats to orangutans, nearly 300 football fields of forest are cut down every hour to make way for palm plantations. Due to this deforestation, orangutans, who spend their time in the high trees of the rainforest, lose their lives. In the past decade alone, 20,000 orangutans have been killed at the hand of the palm industry. Hilton spent the last few weeks in the Leuser ecosystem, an area considered to be one of the most biodiverse ecosystems ever documented.
As Hilton relays in an Instagram post, “It’s the last place on earth where tigers, rhinos, orangutans and elephants still run wild, but for how long?” As someone who works closely with animals whose homes have become nothing but rubble, he knows without help, it won’t be very long at all.
Hilton uses his powerful photography to remind people that while it can seem almost impossible that our actions can have an impact on animals across the globe, just one look at the traumatized faces of orangutans and the decimated forests of Sumatra and Borneo says otherwise. Just like our food choices affect the planet, so do our shopping choices. Because of this, it has become clear that the most profound action you can take to help orangutans is to cut palm oil out of your life as much as possible. To learn how you can do this, click here. To learn more about Paul Hilton and the amazing work he has done, click here.
Image source: Paul Hilton Photo/Instagram