Meeting Notes: From Girl Scout to the Jane Goodall Institute

After signing “God Bless America,”Wendy Correll invited us to consider the thoughts of Gopal Krishna Sarangi on sustainability. Sarangi calls sustainability “a complex, daunting puzzle…tantalizing but elusive.” This is certainly a lesson that we would learn later from our speaker.

Next up was Shelley McMillan, who also inspired us, but this time with song, as she led us in signing “Camelot” and “Climb Every Mountain.” The songs were not only inspiring but challenging as well. Of course, Shelley’s song selections are always challenging…at least to me.

After recognizing the luncheon team and introducing our guests and visitors, President Greg led us all in singing Happy Birthday to Joanie Knoertzer.

Following that, we heard announcements from the Golf and Tennis Outing (GTO) Committee and the Website Committee. Cassie Reins noted that the GTO Committee is still looking for volunteers for the day of the event and for silent auction items. She also noted that new shirts are available and suggested that volunteers might wish to purchase one.

Speaking for the Website Committee, Lauren Heinonen announced that she’s recently taken on the position of associate webmaster and would be looking for content for the website. President Greg admonished those attending to make note of that. After all, he said, Lauren is our new “spider woman.”

Fighting for orangutans

To introduce our speaker, Madison Vorva, Lauren Heinonen was once again called to the podium. Lauren and our speaker have been friends since they were in high school, so who best to introduce? Lauren ran through a long list of Madison Vorva’s accomplishments, many of them while still in high school and while studying for her bachelor’s degree in environmental science at Pomona College. She’s been named a “Forest Hero” by the United Nations and sits on the board of the Jane Goodall Institute. Her latest award is a Rotary Global Grants Scholarship to study environmental policy at the University of Cambridge (England).

Madison, or Madi, then shared with us her remarkable story. While still in middle school, she saw an IMAX presentation about Jane Goodall and became aware of the problems facing orangutans. Along with her friend, Rhiannon Tomtishen, she put together an awareness presentation about why orangutans are now endangered.

As it turns out, one of the biggest threats to these primates is the deforestation that is occurring to make room for palm oil plantations. According to Vorva, palm oil is an ingredient in about 60% of the products you find in the grocery store—including Girl Scout cookies.

A Girl Scout herself, Vorva started a campaign to get the Girl Scouts to stop using palm oil. After more than five years of hard work—and a lot of learning along the way—Vorva was successful in getting the Girl Scouts to use palm oil only from sustainable sources.

Buoyed by that success, Vorva and her team set her sights on Kellogg’s. Not only did Kellogg’s comply by announcing in 2014 that it would implement a deforestation-free policy for all its products, but Wilmar International, which trades 45 percent of the world’s palm oil, also agreed to adopt a deforestation-free landmark policy. Vorva noted, “You can all eat Pop Tarts guilt free now.”

Madison Vorva is a truly remarkable woman, and I’m proud to say that our club has helped make her work possible. I don’t think that this is the last we’ll hear from her.