12 November 2015

At the end of October we ventured into the world of theatre to raise awareness of the growing palm oil industry and how it’s affecting wildlife around the world. This piece of experimental theatre is part of our wider Palm Oil Challenge and aims to inform and inspire – showing people the impact palm oil is having on the environment and what we can do about it as consumers.

The Green Gold Conspiracy performance at The Lowry, photo credit Museum of Science and Industry. Sebastian Matthes, MannoxThe Plantation Game. Photo credit: Museum of Science and industry, Sebastian Matthes-Mannox 

The interactive game was created by award-winning makers of theatre, Coney, and was performed at The Lowry as part of the Manchester Science Festival and then at the zoo. Each table represented an oil palm plantation – they had to generate enough income to keep their workers happy, keep an eye on what their competitors were up to (the other tables) and decide which route to take when dealt a new business opportunity. It was great to see the different choices made by the audience and the consequences they faced as a result!

The Green Gold Conspiracy at The LowryPhoto credit: Museum of Science and Industry. Sebastian Matthes, MannoxPhoto credit: Museum of Science and industry, Sebastian Matthes-Mannox

Owen Chamberlain, from the University of Chester’s RECAP (Research into Education, Creativity and Arts through Practice) centre took part in the event here at the zoo and he kindly took the time to share his feedback of the adventure game.

“It was with some intrigue that I found myself at Chester Zoo on a Saturday night to take part in what had been described to me as a murder mystery, with the main suspect being a plant. Palm oil, as I was soon to find out, is not only in everything (including toothpaste apparently), but is also increasingly being grown everywhere. Not coming from an environmental standpoint, but having a minor eco-conscience (recycling is about my limit), I was interested to know more about what has been termed ‘Green Gold’.

“The night was based around a three course meal and in between each course came a new round to the game. Each table was assigned a country, given a selection of forest cards, and the task of making as much money as possible over the night, whilst simultaneously trying to not cut down everything.

The Lowry performance of The Green Gold Conspiracy. Photo credit: Museum of Science and Industry. Sebastian Matthes, MannoxPhoto credit: Museum of Science and industry, Sebastian Matthes-Mannox

“Games like this usually bring out the worst in me, and it soon became obvious that everyone on my table was the same – we opted to cut down, bribe, use chemicals etc. We soon ended up with $20,000 (10K more than everyone else), however the clincher came at the end. I don’t want to give away too much, but we lost the game!

“And that is one of the major things to have come out of the evening for me. We are constantly told within media circles that the environment is in a losing battle with us – within our game, this was brought into a stark light. We had all the money, yet no forest, animals or soul left by the end of it.

“The event did an excellent job of lulling us into a false sense of security, acting with us to damage our tables’ environment; and then showing us that we had backed ourselves into a corner of environmental ruin of our own making.

The Green Gold Conspiracy adventure game. Photo credit Museum of Science and Industry. Sebastian Matthes, MannoxPhoto credit: Museum of Science and industry, Sebastian Matthes-Mannox

“Fundamentally, changing to sustainable palm oil production is going to take some serious business change, and it is something that we could do now if there was the will. Palm oil is not a glamorous subject, even with the inclusion of orangutans. However, it is a component in such a wide range of products, and we have to change our approach to its use.

“Kudos to Chester Zoo and Coney for showing this in an innovative, challenging and inspirational way!”

Thank you to those who attended The Green Gold Conspiracy. Don’t worry if you missed it; you can still get involved and help us make a difference by taking part in our Palm Oil Challenge. Together we can make sustainable palm oil the norm!