Act for Nature- a poem on Common Palm Civet and its associated coffee trade

A bandit in the dark, armoured with its three dark stripes

Its body long and sleek, ready to strike

Then it spots its favourite delight

A fruit so ruby red and ripe

Defecating the fruits’ seeds, what a fine seed disperser it is alright!

Then horror strikes when a ‘special’ ability comes to sight

“Kopi Luwak- the most exquisite coffee consisting of the best beans paw picked and fermented by the Common Palm Civet”

Projected in such glamorous might

This product came to light

But so did the wildlife trade, battery cages, force feeding…putting them in plight

Once sleek now obese

Once nocturnal now kept diurnal

Once free now caged

All for a stale, lifeless cup of droppings steeped in water

Is this right?

In my opinion, many people associate Human-Wildlife Conflict with something physical in nature. For example, coming into close contact with wildlife or feeding them. I suppose this is because humans can be negatively affected by their own actions in return, such as the animals turning aggressive. However, I would like to highlight a more implicit side of such conflict through the case of the Common Palm Civet. By purchasing Kopi Luwak, consumers are also validating the mistreatment of these animals. These animals are taken away from the ecosystem, disrupting nature’s balance, which will greatly impact humans as well. Although we might not be sharing the same physical space as this wildlife, the impact of our involvement in a capitalist economy ripples to sources beyond our knowledge. When we do not do our research, our market purchase perpetuated by companies fetishising their products could be fuelling immoral practices which we are blind sighted to. If to follow the definition of Human Wildlife Conflict closely, there are also touting coffee farmers who purposely place civets on display so that tourists can watch them in action.

This poem is hence targeted to mainly consumers of Kopi Luwak, or the public to raise awareness about being discerning of their purchases. I chose this medium as I find it less commonly used compared to infographics and videos. It was also a personal challenge as I have had no prior experience writing a poem (which explains the most standard rhyming structure), and I would not consider myself as the most eloquent writer. Therefore, I would say this was the most interesting aspect as it brought me out of my comfort zone to try something new.

Due to the constraint of time and lack of contextual knowledge of people around me who drinks Kopi Luwak, I decided to show my poem to my family.

Candid Shot of them reading my poem (-:

They said that the poem reminds them of how animals in general are farmed for our wellbeing/enjoyment and exploited. In particular, the line of the Civet becoming sleek to obese was similar to chickens being injected with hormones to lay eggs faster. Although they find that purchasing eggs are more reasonable due to the lack of substitutes, they believe that purchasing Kopi Luwak is a luxury that one can easily forgo since natural beans are available. I am happy that this poem was able to motivate them to make connections with their purchases and consequently reason out their stance on them.

One key takeaway from this activity is slowly easing my way into becoming a voice for the environment. Introverted by nature, advocacy work becomes a challenge, especially with its high emotional investment. This activity gave me the impetus to try out different medium to influence my social circle one step at a time.

I would like to end off with more Dos and Dont’s to supplement my poem. In the event of meeting a Common Palm Civet, do observe from a distance and leave the Civets alone. Do not chase them as they might be provoked and act in aggression to protect themselves. Do ensure that there is no unnatural open food source around them and do not feed them. Lastly, be extra careful with baby civets and keep a greater distance away so that the mother will not abandon its child.

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