When I was six I became a Davidson Young Scholar. Every year, this group meets for the purpose of learning and making connections. In my first year at the Davidson Summit, I was walking through the vendor area late at night with my parents when I found that one of the small booths was still open. An older girl was sitting behind a table covered with bracelets, handmade magnets, and lollipops. She explained to us that palm oil plantations were destroying orangutan habitat. Orangutans are very similar to humans, sharing 97% of our DNA. They also seem to enjoy many of the same things that humans do, such as movies like Tarzan and Adele music videos. Some orangutans even use Tinder to find their mates. The girl sold us a palm oil free lollipop as she told us about the fight to preserve orangutan habitat. The girl’s name was Emma Freedman, and she continues to be a figure in the fight against palm oil, inspiring many young change-makers like myself.
In second grade I became very active with respect to the palm oil issue. I began boycotting goods that contained palm oil and I even created a presentation on the environmental costs of palm farming, titled, “Do you like orangutans? Stop eating palm oil!” I was disappointed when the principal didn’t allow me to share my presentation with the whole school, as I felt I would have motivated more people if I had been given that chance.
I soon created this website and asked visitors to take the palm oil free pledge and become informed about the products they purchase. I have also passed out slips of paper in my community, an action I performed while dressed as Birutė Galdikas- an orangutan researcher and advocate. These slips contained information about sustainable foods prior to Halloween, a time when many palm oil foods are purchased.
I continue to be motivated by the injustice that this monocrop causes in the rainforest. In my second year at my current school, I wrote a paper on the issue titled, “The Environmental Costs of Palm Oil”. I hope that the destruction of the rainforest can be halted before entire species, including the sentient orangutans, find themselves without a home. By continuing to update my website, The Orangutan Gang, and spreading the word with public appearances, I hope you can learn about this little-known issue, and that you will take action to end it. Please explore the rest of my site to learn more.