I had the good fortune of joining rock star Girl Scout activists, Madison Vorva and Rhiannon Tomtishen, on a whirlwind media tour in New York City that brought their compelling message of rainforest conservation to millions of viewers and readers across the country and beyond — with national TV appearances on ABC, CBS and Fox News.
Madi and Rhiannon have been campaigning to remove rainforest-destroying palm oil from Girl Scout cookies ever since they learned that palm oil plantations are a leading cause driving orangutans towards extinction. That was over four years ago, when they were just eleven years old. Now fifteen and sixteen, these inspiring young women partnered with RAN this year to amplify their message and get the attention of Girl Scout USA (GSUSA) executives.
In the past few months, RAN has worked closely with Madi and Rhiannon, together with Glenn Hurowitz of Climate Advisors, to generate a growing interest and escalating press coverage for this campaign. A major breakthrough came on May 20th when the Wall Street Journal published a front-page article titled Cookie Crumbles for Girl Scouts, as Teens Launch Palm-Oil Crusade. This major exposure caught the attention of the national TV networks, and soon ABC, CBS and Fox news were competing to get the young women on air first.
At the same time, Girl Scouts USA finally responded to Madi and Rhiannon’s longstanding request and agreed to meet with them in person at the GSUSA headquarters in Manhattan. The week that followed was a fast and furious tour de force that included fifteen back-to-back satellite TV interviews with news stations across the country, as well as live, nationally broadcast interviews on ABC’s World News Tonight, CBS’s Early Show and Fox News’ Happening Now — plus TIME Magazine.
These savvy young activists inspired the world last week. By elevating the problems associated with palm oil on mainstream national media for the first time ever, Madi and Rhiannon proved themselves to be incredibly articulate and visionary advocates for change. Since when does Fox News or ABC interview people about human rights abuses and orangutan extinction? Don’t just take my word for it — check out the clips included here to see some of the week’s highlights.
The meeting with GSUSA was a positive step in the right direction. Girl Scouts executives said they have been in touch with their cookie bakers daily, and they gave Madi and Rhiannon a verbal commitment to work with them to explore options for replacing palm oil entirely or to find a way to address the serious concerns of deforestation, climate change and human rights abuses they now know are associated with the production of palm oil. Stay tuned, because while we clearly have their attention, there is no guarantee that GSUSA will implement meaningful changes without further pressure to do the right thing.