It’s been a very fast-paced, epic few months in preparation of our General Mills campaign launch! And we finally did it on Tuesday, January 19th in the company’s HQ city of Golden Valley, MN, outside of Minneapolis. It was such a huge success! It was SO inspiring to see FOURTY TWO people show up at 8:45am on a Tuesday morning, missing work and school,  in the freezing 18 degree weather, to deploy a banner at General Mills HQ! It made my heart so warm to feel the amazing community support! Go RAN Twin Cities! It’s so important to have a solid local group on the ground in the city where both Cargill, Inc. and General Mills – our two targets – are located.

General Mills: Take Action Now!

Right after the action I posted this on my RAN blog:

My alarm went off at 6:15am this morning and the excitement of butterflies in my stomach reminded me that the launch date had finally arrived! After four hours of sleep and months of preparations, I met up with 41 local Twin Cities community members concerned about palm oil’s contribution to tropical deforestation, global climate change, the rights of indigenous communities, and the survival of threatened species like the orangutan. Specifically in question: the corporate ethics of one of the most trusted American food giants based right here in Minneapolis, MN – General Mills.

Why is the maker of such powerful brands as Cheerios, Haagen Dazs, Progresso soups, Betty Crocker and Pillsbury – that cater mostly to parents and kids across the U.S. – stalling on taking action to protect our world’s forests increasingly threatened by big Agribusiness’ industrial palm oil plantations?  What will it take to get them to listen?

I know of one thing that got their attention- a massive, bright yellow 30 x 70 ft. banner getting unfurled in the snowy, wintery morning light at their Headquarters in Golden Valley, MN! At 11:11am 42 people inspired by the prospect of getting General Mills to wake up and be a leader in the food industry held the huge message: “Warning: General Mills Destroys Rainforests” up high in the air for General Mills executives watching from their desks above to see. And that they did!

General Mills: Take Action!General Mills: Take Action!

Our campaign launch was an effective way to inform General Mills that we don’t have any time to waste – we need them to take action now as a company with a unique ability to affect the palm oil marketplace, both by changing its own consumption habits and by publicly taking a stand against rainforest destruction from palm oil.

So why General Mills, you may be asking?

General Mills has a very close relationship with Wayzata based Cargill, Inc. and purchases all of their palm oil from them, among other commodities. Cargill is the most powerful agribusiness and commodity trading group in the world, and as the largest privately owned corporation in the U.S., it’s also among the most secretive companies on earth. It owns plantations in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, where it grows oil palm on freshly cleared rainforest land. It is also a major global trader of palm oil and the biggest importer of palm oil into the United States.

Over 100 of General Mills’ products in total contain palm oil. By purchasing from Cargill, General Mills is directly contributing to the destruction of Indonesian rainforests. We’re asking General Mills to stop buying palm oil from Cargill and we need your help – please take action by sending an email to General Mills CEO Ken Powell!

General Mills at a CrossroadsGeneral Mills at a Crossroads

Be part of the solution: Join RAN in pressuring General Mills to become an advocate for change in the palm oil industry!

General Mills has definitely felt the fire we just lit under their ass. In fact, they put out a press release in response to our action and the 9,000+ people that sent letters to the CEO Kendall Powell on Tuesday as a result of our action alert!  Our Agribusiness Campaign Director Leila posted a response to the GM press release on the RAN blog – it’s awesome. Also as a result of our pressure, Cargill updated their palm oil commitments.  Leila says, “While these commitments are still not up to par, they’ve definitely improved since last year.”  Our campaign is definitely making an impact on the world’s largest privately owned corporation!

If you want to see some great photos taken by Brian with Indymedia and his fantastic article, look here.

If you want to follow some awesome press hits from our action, check em out here:

Star Tribune:  http://www.startribune.com/business/82160837.html?elr=KArks:DCiUUUUr

Examiner.com   http://www.examiner.com/x-13344-Wildlife-Conservation-Examiner~y2010m1d20-General-Mills-controversy-your-breakfast-cereal-may-be-linked-to-rainforest-destruction

Food Navigator  http://www.foodnavigator-usa.com/Financial-Industry/Campaigners-attack-General-Mills-on-palm-oil-policy

Pioneer Press  http://www.twincities.com/business/ci_14227098?nclick_check=1


Green Right Now  http://www.greenrightnow.com/minneapolis/category/earth-nature/forests-earth-nature/

Care2  http://www.care2.com/news/member/193692282/1363757?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:%20c2nn%20(Care2%20News%20Network)

Mongabay  http://news.mongabay.com/2010/0119-palm_oil.html

Cool Earth  http://www.coolearth.org/306/news-32/rainforest-news-155/general-mills-linked-to-unsustainable-palm-oil-1172.html

For more info on palm oil, visit www.theproblemwithpalmoil.org, our super amazing and updated website!! And stay tuned for a truly AWESOME YouTube video we’re about to post of the action, including sick aerial images taken from the helicopter of our huge banner and all our activists on the ground. General Mills (and Cargill) is going to LOVE it!

On a more personal note, I went to Walker Church for service in Minneapolis with my colleague Hillary. Their social justice chapter has taken on our campaign for the year so we wanted to see what they are all about. The community there is vibrant, open, progressive and lovely. Their Welcome Ceremony was so moving and resonated with me so much, I wanted to share it with you. They read the following aloud from the stage where all the children sat in a circle:

Center (Spirit Candle)

The flame in the center, the core and the heart
Is the source of all beauty, peace, joy and art,
Unfailing, eternal, lighting the way,
It’s the love and compassion I share every day.

East (Yellow Candle)
The East holds the promise that each day is new,
That fresh new beginnings await me and you;
Although I don’t know what tomorrow may bring,
I have courage and hope and my own song to sing.

South (Red Candle)
The South kindles fire of passion and power
To make the heart race and open the flower;
It’s a flame that can warm or burn out of control:
Desire that moves me, makes me human and whole.

West (Black Candle)
The West welcomes darkness, invites me to dream,
And reminds me my fears may not be what they seem;
I offer the tears of my grief to the earth
To water the seeds that wait for rebirth.

North (White Candle)
The north offers silence, shelter, and rest;
it’s the home of the stillness that comforts distress;
I can go to this place, because it lives within me;
When I’m quiet and still, I can just let it be.

Completing the Circle
From the east and the south, from the west, north and center,
We welcome each other and bid all to enter
Our circle of joy, of love and of light;
We walk together in beauty to make the world right.

And lastly, here is an inspiring quote sent to me by the lovely Pete Huff:

“This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.

I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community, and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can.

I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no “brief candle” for me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.”

— George Bernard Shaw

Community Support of Changing General Mills!