It's hard to imagine a world with no orangutans. These 'persons of the forest' are facing dire circumstances in Borneo and Sumatra. With over 80% of the forest ecosystem gone due to logging destruction for palm oil, our closest relatives (orangutans share 97% of their DNA with humans) truly need our help in order to survive. The power of consumer choice has never been so critical.
It may seem like an overwhelming and daunting prospect, but there's one person who combines our love of art and music to make a huge, impactful difference: Sallie Campbell. A Brisbane-based composer and string instrumentalist, Sallie has teamed up with Daniel Denholm (Australian Chamber Orchestra, Powderfinger, The Whitlams, Washington), Kate Miller-Heidke and a cohort of musicians to produce the exquisite 'Nightingale Floor', an arts project designed to raise awareness and much-needed funds for positive change against the destruction of the Orangutan's natural habitat.
A 20 minute piece (The music video is almost five minutes), Sallie wrote this while working in Japan. "I had a gig on a boat for six months and I had one day off a week because they work you so hard! On my day off I would go to these ancient Japanese castles, where I came across the Nightingale Floors."
Sally explains, "Nightingale floors are the floors that squeak when you walk on them. That was my analogy (for the piece), in the same way that we really have to protect our fragile ecology – because they can't speak up."
A freelance musician with a career spanning over 20 years, Sallie was playing in five shows a day on the boat and writing the song during the day, playing her violin and originally thinking it would be a solo piece. A gnawing feeling that the song could be more, saw Sallie complete the composition in one month, now designed for an 11 piece string section, electric bass, soloist, feature vocalist and electric guitar!
It's this unrelenting passion that draws you to Sallie and this hauntingly beautiful piece of music. The music video features Australian actress Sarah Snook, who viewers may recognise from All Saints and Packed to the Rafters. "The clip is about her being in this place, with four walls and feeling dead – she sees a better version of herself somewhere else and she has to go and find that.
Sarah Snook - Nightingale Floor music video
Sallie talks about the video showing reinspiration after connecting with nature, "art and music are entry points for people to come and learn. I think the video clip just expresses it beautifully. Because we are having a crisis of consciousness and we are disconnected from nature."
The video production is delicate and meaningful. Sallie reflects on how it all just fell into place, "Everyone came together and did such a beautiful job. I didn't have a grand plan, as each idea came into my head I said, yeh I'll ask them, yeh I'll try that. The end result is an incredibly elegant and emotional video. "The theme is reconnecting with nature, do you want to be a conscious consumer?"
Sallie's passionate about helping people make informed choices about how they can make a difference when purchasing products. With palm oil contained in most consumer goods, Sallie sees education as the way forward. A Facebook page 'Palm Oil: Products on Australian shelves that contain palm oil', has been set up by Palm Oil Investigations.
With a palm oil product scanner app on the way, consumers will be able to confirm via their mobiles if the goods they are purchasing are certified. "It's a complex thing and it's not as simple as just boycotting everything. The message that I'm trying to get to people, is let companies know – you want them to use a sustainable source."
Sallie explains, "we're seeing so much change already, the page is our best education. They are growing exponentially - like 2000 likes a week. People want to know about this, they don't know that their Tim Tams are destroying the habitat. What happens on these plantations is that the orangutans have no food, their forests are being cut down and they are treated like pests - they get shot."
At a recent party she held, Sallie advised one of her friends that the packet of Twisties she brought in wasn't welcome! "I said sorry the Twisties can't come in the lounge they've got palm oil in them." She laughs as she reflects on her friend then putting on her Facebook page, "my Twisties just got banned because they've got unsustainable palm oil in them!"
"People don't want to feel like they are getting judged for their lifestyle or choices. People can palm it off (Sallie laughs at her unintentional pun) as being like a hippie or a greenie, but Palm Oil Investigations is having meetings with Coles and Woolworths. For example Cheezels has palm oil - so Coles are bringing out a product that tastes just like Cheezels but has no palm oil. People want to help."
With the Facebook page up to 50,000 likes (it was 46,000 at the time of the interview), Sallie is really enthused about the positive reaction. "It's something I find really exciting, that we can empower people. And you can tell your friends, if there's a product that you love, you can go on the company's Facebook page and say, "hey, I love your product, but I can't buy it knowing that it is destroying the beautiful rainforest and habitat. Can you please change to a sustainable source?"
Sallie advises the production of palm oil can vary, "unsustainable means they have really hacky practices. Which means they burn – contributing so much carbon into the atmosphere. The rainforests are filters of carbon, the number #1 filters. We are not only tearing them down, we are burning them. Some companies are doing all the right things, so let's support them. Every time you vote, you vote with your money."
For Sallie and the teams she is working with, the biggest thing is consumers making conscious choice everyday. As palm oil features in most products and it is insidious, she hopes the music will put people on a positive journey to change, "that is the best possible thing that can happen, we can make change every single day."
Nightingale Floor musicians
"We just want to buy this land so these creatures have a home. More than anything."