Celebrity Visits Campus for Sustainability Talk
Written by Judy Hyojoo Rhee
A photo of Nathalie Boltt
Nathalie Boltt's presentation photo#1
Nathalie Boltt, an actress and celebrity well-known for her role in the television series Riverdale, visited University Hill Secondary on October 18th. Ms. Boltt gave a presentation regarding her advocacy for the preservation of vulnerable orangutans’ habitats; the presentation was a part of the Sustainability Fair project in which University Hill’s Grade 9 students participated. At the event, Ms. Boltt introduced students to her background, explained the ongoing issue of orangutan habitat destruction, and discussed her work as an activist helping to protect the livelihoods of orangutans. She also shared insight into the topic of mental health as it pertains to youth.
Following the presentation, the Newspaper Club held a brief interview with Ms. Boltt--In responding to the questions, Ms. Boltt shares the story of how she became an ambassador at the Palm Oil Investigations, and the small (and big) steps residents of the community can take to assist in ending the orangutan crisis.
How did you come to visit University Hill Secondary for your presentation?
I am a friend of Santa Ono, president of UBC, whose daughter, Sarah, attends University Hill Secondary School. He became aware of my involvement in the palm oil crisis and the plight of wildlife in deforested Indonesian rainforests when I asked him to connect me with experts in the fields of animal welfare, conservation and food security. Dr. Ono was interested in how I am using my public image from my role in Riverdale to raise awareness around problems in the world and asked me to speak at Sarah's school.
You are an activist for saving the natural habitats of orangutans. How and when did you become an advocate for this issue?
I have always been involved in saving animals and rehabilitating wildlife. But in the world we live in, it is becoming increasingly critical to save animals’ habitats or we will end up with species that have nowhere to survive but in zoos and on tiny reserves. A friend of mine posted a picture of an orangutan that was badly burned after it wandered into a village in search of food and climbed a tree. The villagers tried to scare it off by making a fire at the base of the tree, but the the tree caught fire and so did the orangutan. I was so horrified by this image that when I saw a call for help from Palm Oil Investigations, I offered to make a connection between my red hair as Blossom on Riverdale and the ‘other redheads’, the orangutans. I did this as a plea to my many followers to help stop the terrible things we are causing in Indonesia without even knowing it.
What is your role as an Ambassador at Palm Oil Investigations (POI), a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving orangutan habitats?
My role is mainly to raise awareness. Many people around the world, especially in North America and China, have no idea that the snack foods they eat and the toiletries and cosmetics they use are leading to the extinction of a species and the decimation of one of the last rainforests on Earth. I am bringing a group of people to Borneo island on an amazing adventure into the jungle to see orangutans in their natural habitat - and we have a few spaces left for fans and their families to join us. https://www.orangutanodysseys.com/
I am also raising funds for the animal rescue centres there — Please donate if you would like to help, as even a few dollars go a very long way. https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/poi-christmas-tour
Why do you think the issue of saving and protecting orangutans is of such significance?
Would you want to live in a world of only people, cars, buildings and roads? With every plant, animal and insect species that we lose, we lose biodiversity. Without biodiversity, we, the human species, will die. Think of what is happening with the mass loss of bee populations around the world. When you have no pollinators, you have no food. No food means no life. If we pollute all our water we will die. If we cannot breathe air we will die. Why are we letting companies cut down the trees that clean our air? Many of these trees can only survive and propagate with the help of the animals and insects that live among them. This is why we need biodiversity. It is a system that sustains itself, which means have to respect and maintain that system or it will not sustain us.
We have caused these problems, we have created an imbalance, and unless we learn to be responsible and care for all life, we have no chance at continuing to thrive. We will simply crash and disappear like every other species that failed to find a sustainable way of living.
As well as being a passionate activist, you are a well-known actress and celebrity--How do you think this has helped you throughout your campaign?
I have a large following on my social media and people recognise and listen to me when I ask to discuss certain issues. This is a great privilege, and I have never taken it for granted. So, I try to do more than just ‘be famous’, because, what is the use of that? I use my fame as a platform on which to bring issues into the spotlight and to inspire others to speak up for what they love. I believe in a world of kindness, balance, and one of great joy and a sense of community. I think we are starting to see how important all these things are for us.
What can residents of the community do to help put an end to this crisis?
Take a few seconds to check the ingredients of what you buy. If you see ‘palm oil’, anything with the word ‘palm’ in it, or ‘vegetable oil’, don’t buy it. The consumer has the power! If no one buys a product, the manufacturer will stop making it. Speak to the managers at your local store or supermarket about the palm oil crisis. Costco has started removing palm oil products from its shelves for exactly this reason! Email the Corporate Responsibility Officers of Nestle, Mondelez, Cargill, Unilever and PepsiCo, and ask them to stop or take responsibility for truly enforcing sustainable extraction of palm oil. At the moment, they may take responsibility, but no one really confirms the companies’ claims. Every day, more and more of forests are cut and increasing proportions of wildlife die.
Continue to email the CROs until they provide you with a reason for carrying out the actions in the face of a disaster. Take them to task. Why are they doing this when we, the consumers, do not want it? They need to take responsibility.
And always be kind and patient when you tell others about what’s happening. Discussions, rather than lectures or arguments, are the best way to open people’s eyes. Spread the message on social media, and talk to your family and friends. Raise awareness and be proud you are part of something good and powerful.
'Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has'. - Margaret Mead
Follow Nathalie Boltt on Instagram and Twitter: @natboltt and also @POI @palmoilinvestigations and @theorangutanproject
**This article is published in the 2018 December edition of the newspaper Campus Resident.