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Wed February 8, 2012
Two Michigan Girl Scouts nominated for "Forest Heroes" Award
Sixteen year-olds Rhiannon Tomtishen and Madison Vorva could teach us a thing or two about dedication.
They are two of three people in North America nominated for a United Nation's "Forest Heroes" award.
Since they were 11, the girls have been working to raise awareness about endangered orangutans and the diminishing Indonesian rain forests.
They began to get attention when, as Girl Scouts, they formed a petition drive to get the Girl Scouts of America to remove palm oil as an ingredient in their cookies.
Rain forests in Indonesia have been slashed and burned to make way for palm oil plantations. Palm oil is used in all kinds of products, including Girl Scout cookies.
Palm oil plantations are bad for orangutan habitat, and they're bad for global warming too.
In 2009, the Environment Report's Ann Dornfeld visited one of these forests months after is was burned:
Greenpeace Indonesia campaigner Bustar Maitar looks out on a charred landscape. You'd never know a forest stood here just a few months ago.
“Is the no more ecosystem here. No more forest here.”
Only a few burnt tree trunks are standing. Sour smoke curls up from the blackened ground. Maitar says this fire has been burning for a month.
You can listen to that report here:
After Tomtishen and Vorva learned about this type of devastation, they started a website to teach others about it.
In an interview with Michigan Radio's Lindsey Smith last March, spoke with Tomtishen:
“We felt motivated to continue this project and I think we also felt that because we were girl scouts and because this was an issue in Girl Scout cookies, we thought we were going to be able to make a change.”
At that time, the Girl Scouts of America hadn't removed palm oil from the cookies. But this past October, they did budge a little, as MLive.com reports:
The girls say purchasing offsets is a good first step, but they would like to see the organization do more to make sure harm to rainforests is minimized and human-rights concerns related to palm oil farming are addressed....
“(Offset certificates) are better than nothing, but we’re not done talking about it,” Vorva said.
Winners of the United Nation's Forest Heroes Award will be announced tomorrow in New York City.