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Abstract

This reflection touches on the writer’s experiences during the EnviroLab Asia Clinic trip in early 2016 to Borneo, Malaysia and Singapore. The reflection involves two events: a visit to a blockade protesting the construction of a hydroelectric dam and a meeting with the sustainability department of Wilmar, one of the world’s leading palm oil producers. The first event comments on the tension between the need for renewable energy and the destruction of the natural environment and communities due to the particular energy generation technology chosen. This event highlighted the importance of understanding the societal constraints a technology is being installed in. Moreover, this event made clear the opportunity developing countries have to leapfrog the problems developed countries have encountered in their energy infrastructure and define their own energy future. The second event comments on Wilmar’s improving but still lacking sustainability policy. The writer noticed a myopic focus on the origin of plantations but an ignorance of the other impacts of the palm oil industry (input resource flows, effluents etc.). This event highlighted the need to consider the product’s creation, use and disposal to construct a more lifecycle minded sustainability policy.