North America

Ariel Lugo

Ariel Lugo forest hero

Dr. Ariel Lugo has dedicated his life to the conservation of forests and the improvement of communities around the world.

Ariel is an active scientist! His talent for environmental research is paired with a unique ability to create new linkages between forests and diverse audiences. His most recent project helps to prevent violence and promote healthy childhood development by encouraging the participation of youth in planting seasonal organic products and native trees. Ariel believes in the use of a variety of tools to engage and inspire people to discover the scientific and artistic significance of forests. While Ariel has published over 470 scientific articles, he continues to explore new ways to turn forest policy into practice.

His thought leadership has earned him innumerable honors, including the Zayed International Prize for the Environment, Distinguished Service and Distinguished Scientist Award from USDA, an Honorary Doctorate from University of Puerto Rico and a Meritorious Executive Rank Award from President George W. Bush. He also contributed to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Scientific Assessment that received the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore.

Ariel is currently the Director of the International Institute of Tropical Forestry (1986-present). He has consulted with UNESCO and also served in the Executive Office of the President, Council on Environmental Quality (1978-79); as Project Leader, US Forest Service (1979-92); and Acting Deputy Chief, International Forestry in Washington D.C. (1995). Born in Puerto Rico, Ariel received his Master’s Degree in Science (Biology) and a Ph.D. in Ecology.

Rhiannon Tomtishen and Madison Vorva

forest hero

In 2007, as 11 year olds, Madison and Rhiannon earned their Girl Scout Bronze Award by raising awareness about the endangered orangutan and their rapid diminishing rainforest habitat in Indonesia and Malaysia.

After learning that the Girl Scout Cookies they sold for so many years contained palm oil, an ingredient that results in rainforest destruction and human rights abuses, the two girls launched a variety of campaigns in order to convince the Girl Scout organization to remove this ingredient from their cookies. They worked to educate consumers about the impacts of palm oil and motivate them to take action by demanding deforestation‐free products.

In the fall of 2011, Girl Scouts USA announced their new palm oil policy, the first concrete action they”ve taken on this issue. Now juniors in high school, Madison and Rhiannon have finally gained the opportunity to enter a dialogue with the Girl Scout organization and are committed to ensuring that Girl Scout Cookies are produced in an environmentally‐friendly and socially‐responsible way. They are also expanding their campaign to persuade Kelloggs, a baker of Girl Scout cookies, and Cargill, a major player in the palm oil market, to adopt sustainable policies of their own.

After a recent trip to Colombia to learn about the human rights abuses occurring as a result of palm oil corporations, the girls have made it their mission to not only advocate for the rainforests that are destroyed for palm oil, but for the inhabitants of these tropic forests whose livelihoods rely on this invaluable resource. As youth, Madison and Rhiannon have fought to make their voices heard and show other youth the tremendous power they have to make a difference. It is their belief that with courage, passion, and perseverance, any person, regardless of their age, can create change within their local and international communities.