Youth Activism: Two Girl Scouts Create Rebellion in the Ranks

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May 23, 2011; Source: The Wall Street Journal | Could even something as seemingly benign and traditional as the Girl Scout cookie be subjected to progress? If Rhiannon Tomtishen, 15 and Madison Vorva, 16, of Michigan, have anything to say about it – and they do – the answer is yes.

Vorva and Tomitshen, who have both been scouts since they were five, were researching Orangutans in order to win their Bronze awards in 2007 when they happened upon the fact that the habitat of the Orangutans in Southeast Asia was disappearing because the rainforests are being cleared for palm oil plantations and – you guessed it – palm oil is a key ingredient in every single variety of girl scout cookie.

The two girls had already been campaigning against the use of palm oil that is not sustainably grown when, as they were preparing to sell their own organization’s cookies, they turned the box over and saw that palm oil was one of the ingredients. “Both of us were disheartened and upset,” said Madison. “But we also felt empowered to do something about it.”

They first approached the Girl Scouts but had no luck sparking change directly so they then went to other activist groups like Rainforest Action to turn up the volume. Rainforest Action helped the two girls start a campaign to have other scouts post disapproving messages on the Girl Scouts Facebook page.

Soon after the campaign began, the Girl Scouts took the posts down and replaced them with its own statement allowing new posts beneath it. This earned the organization charges of censorship from the two girls.

Some troops are already apparently opting out of the cookie campaign until the issue is resolved.—Ruth McCambridge

  • charles

    I was expecting that the girls wanted to get the palm oil out of the cookies for health reasons, but protecting the rainforest is an equally important reason, if not more significant. For those who want to know more, there is a report from the Center for Science n the Public Interest: