Eleven-year-old Jack Dalton from Manchester has another name: the “Kid Conservationist”. His YouTube channel is full of fun videos about endangered species and the natural world. His efforts in environmental education have won him the President’s Environmental Youth Award.
Dalton joined NHPR Morning Edition host Rick Ganley to discuss his award and explain how palm oil production threatens his favorite animal: the orangutan.
Rick Ganley: So, Jack, tell me about that award you won, the President’s Environmental Youth Award.
Jack Dalton: Yeah. So I get like a really cool plaque. And generally, there is like this great ceremony at the White House. But unfortunately, due to COVID, I couldn’t go to the White House. Which was a shame. But I still have to have this really cool virtual ceremony and get this really cool plaque. So that was really cool. It was a really nice thing to win, which is one of the few awards I have won.
Rick Ganley: Jack, how long have you been making your videos?
Jack Dalton: Yeah. A few years ago we traveled the country for my father’s job. My father is a nurse and my mother is a teacher. And we traveled the country for my dad’s job, and one of the places we went was Memphis, Tennessee. And it was during the baby orangutan birthday party that I first fell in love with orangutans and learned how palm oil affects them.
And since then I have been trying to help the orangutans. I wrote a letter to three companies telling them about their use of palm oil and the Orangutan Alliance appointed me as a youth ambassador. And since then I have created fun YouTube videos and try to help orangutans in any way I can.
Rick Ganley: And how does palm oil affect orangutans? So we should explain this to the public.
Jack Dalton: For example, palm oil is used in over 50% of food and cosmetic products in grocery stores because it is cheap and allows products to last longer. So that looks to be pretty good, right? But palm oil can only be grown within 10 degrees of the equator, [so] they clear the land of the rainforest to make way for these oil palm plantations. And more than 85 percent is cultivated in Indonesia and Malaysia, where orangutans live.
They cut down the rainforest, and orangutans live in the second tallest part of the trees called the rainforest canopy. And if we cut these trees down, even if we try to regrow these trees, it may take hundreds of years before they can return to the height where orangutans can use them again. This is why palm oil is so damaging to orangutans.
Rick Ganley: It’s really just decimating their habitat.
Jack Dalton: HM hm.
Rick Ganley: I know, Jack, sometimes people just feel like they can’t make a difference, you know, when it comes to saving the environment or an endangered species. What do you tell people when you hear this?
Jack Dalton: Well, I like to tell people that every little bit counts. In fact, I have already interviewed someone by the name of James Mwenda, who takes care of the last two northern white rhinos that exist in Kenya. And he said conservation works like a car. People think that only people in costume and people who help and work directly with animals can make a difference. But this is not true. Just as every part of a car has to work for the car to run, so every person has to do a little, do their part to help with conservation. So if we all manage our share of the conservation car, then we can make that car work and make a difference.
Together, we can therefore make a difference, regardless of their size. And the other thing I tell them is to look at me. I am only 11 years old. I started doing this when I was nine. So think of it like that. If I can make a difference and be able to help the environment and be able to educate and stop using palm oil, then so can you.