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Young Manchester YouTuber Wins National Award For Environmental Education Videos

A young red-haired boy is in front of a green background with his hands up, palms facing screen. A orangutan picture is in the top left corner, and there is text that says "Ep. 1 Orangutans" and "10 Facts in 10 Seconds."
Jack Dalton
Jack Dalton of Manchester uses his videos to educate viewers on orangutans and the natural world.

Jack Dalton of Manchester educates his YouTube viewers about how everyone can do their part to help in conservation.

Eleven-year-old Jack Dalton of Manchester has another name: the “Kid Conservationist.” His YouTube channel is full of fun videos about endangered species and the natural world. His environmental education efforts have earned him the President’s Environmental Youth Award.

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Dalton joined NHPR Morning Edition host Rick Ganley to discuss his award and tell us about how palm oil production is threatening his favorite animal: the orangutan.


Rick Ganley: So, Jack, tell me about this award you won, the President’s Environmental Youth Award.

Jack Dalton: Yeah. So I actually get like a really cool plaque. And usually there's like this big ceremony at the White House. But sadly, due to COVID, I didn't get to go to the White House. Which was too bad. But I still got to have this really cool virtual ceremony and get this really cool plaque. So that was really cool. That was a really neat thing to win, which is one of a couple awards that I've won.

Rick Ganley: Jack, how long have you been making your videos?

Jack Dalton: Yeah. So a couple of years ago, we traveled the country for my dad's work. My dad is a nurse and my mom is a teacher. And we traveled the country for my dad's work, and one of the places that we went to was Memphis, Tennessee. And it was at the baby orangutan's birthday party there that I first fell in love with the orangutans and learned about how palm oil was affecting them.

And ever since then, I've been trying to help orangutans. I wrote a letter to three companies telling them about their usage of palm oil and the Orangutan Alliance named me their youth ambassador. And ever since then, I've been creating fun YouTube videos and trying to help orangutans in any way that I can.

Rick Ganley: And how does palm oil affect the orangutans? So we should explain that for the audience.

Jack Dalton: So palm oil is used in over 50% of grocery store foods and cosmetics because it's cheap and it helps products last longer. So it sounds like it's pretty good, right? But palm oil can only be grown within 10 degrees of the equator, [so] they clear the rainforest land to make room for these palm oil plantations. And over 85 percent is grown in Indonesia and Malaysia, which is where orangutans live.

They knock down the rainforest and orangutans live in the second highest part of the trees called the canopy in the rainforest. And if we cut down those trees, even if we try and grow back those trees, it may take hundreds of years before they can get back to the height where orangutans can use them again. Which is why palm oil is so detrimental to orangutans.

Rick Ganley: It's really just decimating their habitat.

Jack Dalton: Mm hmm.

Rick Ganley: I know, Jack, sometimes people feel that 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 that?

Jack Dalton: Well, I like to tell people every little bit helps. I actually once interviewed someone named James Mwenda, who's a caretaker for the last two northern white rhinos in existence in Kenya. And he said conservation works like a car. People think that only the people in the suits and the people who help and work directly with the animals can make a difference. But that's not true. Just like every part of a car needs to run for the car to work, every person needs to do a little, do their part to help in conservation. So if we all run our part of the conservation car, then we'll be able to make that car run and make a difference.

So together we can make a difference no matter how small, no matter how big. And the other thing I tell them is, look at me. I'm only 11 years old. I started doing this when I was nine. So think about it like this. If I can make a difference and be able to help the environment and be able to educate and go palm oil free, then you can too.

Jackie Harris is the Morning Edition Producer at NHPR. She first joined NHPR in 2021 as the Morning Edition Fellow.

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