To support World Environment Day on June 5, we asked five eco-celebrities to share what they think needs to happen to stop or, better still, reverse environmental damage. From planting trees to diving with sharks, these women are using their big profiles
MAGDALENA ROZE meteorologist, TV presenter, Planet Ark ambassador and author of Happy & Whole
I started working with Planet Ark six or seven years ago when they approached me to be an ambassador for National Tree Day. It’s funny because I’ve been pestering people about the environment since I was a little girl. I was the president of the conservation club in primary school, creating herb gardens and trying to get the other kids involved in various sorts of environmental initiatives and education. In the few years I’ve been a meteorologist, I’ve seen a massive shift in the weather. The climate change predictions I was reading about in university are already happening. They aren’t predictions anymore. We’re using more fossil fuels than ever and at the same time we’re cutting down rainforests, the very thing that has been helping us out. Trees help combat climate change by locking up carbon and giving us fresh, clean air, but we also need them to provide shade and habitat for native wildlife to prevent the loss of biodiversity – a major threat to life as we know it. Millions of trees have been planted because of Planet Ark National Tree Day and it’s a fun, hands-on way to care for the planet.
I’m grateful to be in a position in the media where I can raise awareness around lifestyle habits, but there are everyday things all of us can do. You don’t have to overhaul your life. I think when we look at environmental issues and particularly big-picture things like climate change, it can feel very overwhelming. But if we break it down to small things that are very achievable, it really doesn’t require much effort. That’s why National Tree Day is great because it invites us to get back into nature, plant a tree and hopefully it has a bit of a flow-on effect for the rest of the year. At the very least, it will spark a conversation with kids, because kids are the custodians of the land.
MAGGIE Q actress and animal activist working with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and Wildaid
About six years ago, Wildaid reached out to me to meet with them knowing we may have had similar objectives in the animal-rights space. They were correct. The group focuses on reducing demand for wildlife products with the goal of ending the illegal
“Climate change predictions I read about in university are already happening”
wildlife trade in our lifetimes. Their mission is simple: show consumers where their dollars are going, and what that destruction means for the future – appeal to their sense of compassion and their logic. “When the buying stops, the killing can, too” is not just a slogan, it’s the truth. If you don’t affect the consumer, you’ve already lost the battle.
I have been out in the field with Wildaid and other groups who fight to protect some of the same animals, and I’ll tell you, the first time you see an elephant or a rhino with its face cut off, or rotting like an upright corpse from poison arrows, you will never be the same. I remember shooting photos from a helicopter of a recently butchered elephant and I could barely see what I was shooting, I was crying so hard. We’re a brutally selfish species.
There’s so much that moves you when you’re in nature. Our wild friends deeply affect me. I was recently in the Galápagos Islands. It’s the only place I’ve been to in the world where the wildlife has no real fear of man. I felt as if I was in a time capsule. It was as if I was floating, high off the ability to have these encounters. I thought, “Is this how it could have been before we began to hurt them all, exploit them and endanger them?” It’s a sobering thought.
I fight for elephants, rhinos, sharks, mantas and pangolins (the most trafficked mammal in the world). I campaign against exotic skins, the illegal wildlife trade, fur and dog meat. I also campaign for plant-based diets as the most immediate thing you can do to save our planet. We need to be conscious of the choices we make, and mindful of the residual effect we have on other living beings. I don’t believe our mandate here is to cause suffering, I believe it is to alleviate it.
NADYA HUTAGALUNG Australian-indonesian model and environmental advocate, working with Nat Geo Wild, World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
I got my diving licence 24 years ago. Under the sea it was vibrant, full of life and colour. A few years later, the same place had changed completely. I was so moved by what I saw that I have never stopped trying to highlight the dangers of our human impact on nature.
My latest project with UNEP was helping to launch the #Cleanseas campaign [with actor Adrian Grenier] to eliminate major sources of marine litter by encouraging governments to pass plastic reduction policies. I’ve been diving with (small) sharks... they’re so humbling and awe-inspiring. To think that even those fearsome creatures are falling victim to our impact puts things in perspective. Who is actually more dangerous?
I’ve been working with the UN for about two years now as an Environment Goodwill Ambassador. My passion is both in environmental advocacy and conservation. Generally, I hope that through education and exposure to nature, children will be inspired to be passionate and engaged change-makers. By lending my voice, I hope we can bring a certain level of awareness about the state of our seas and instil a sense of urgency to work towards positive outcomes with governments, corporations and, most importantly, individuals.
My message to parents is to take your kids to explore nature on every holiday possible. Shopping centres and theme parks do nothing to enrich and inspire them to want to protect what is theirs.
LAURA WELLS biologist, conservationist, model and Fashion Revolution ambassador
As a model, my purpose is to sell you something, usually clothing. For you to spend money on whatever I’m wearing. I don’t tell you where it came from, who made it or what damage it does to the environment. You see my photo, see the price and purchase. As a biologist and conservationist, my purpose is to explore and preserve our natural habitats. Teach you to be curious about our natural environment and to protect it into the future. To open your eyes, change your behaviours, ask the questions and think about how our actions affect the world around us.
Two very different ends of the spectrum and a position not many models find themselves in. So instead of ignoring the issues to our environment and the associated human rights issues caused by the fashion industry, I’ve become actively involved to educate on the implications your consumer decisions have on our future. This year I’ve joined forces with Fashion Revolution and Mighty Good Undies to ask, “Who made my clothes?” The campaign primarily focuses on the poor working conditions a lot of industry workers are subjected to just so you can have that $10, “couldn’t make it myself for that much” T-shirt.
Raising awareness about these issues, adding a dose of humanity and showing the environmental impacts makes people think twice about their purchases and the flow-on effects. Many don’t realise that when you just “chuck it away”, there’s no “away”. Away actually lasts forever in terms of synthetic fibres, so that bargain $10 polyester shirt will long outlive you at the dump, and when you were wearing it, it was polluting the ocean with micro plastic every time you washed it. Overwhelming I know, but there are solutions and I’m a solutions kinda gal.
Fashion Revolution raises awareness of the true cost of fashion, shows the world that change is possible and celebrates all those involved in creating a more sustainable future. We can all make a huge difference to the lives of others, the environment around us and, ultimately, our own health and wellbeing, all through the power of our own wallet. Education is the key to creating a better future.
JADE HAMEISTER student and Australian Geographic Society’s Young Adventurer of the Year 2016
In April 2016 when I was 14, I became the youngest person to ski to the North Pole from anywhere outside the last degree. Through my experiences travelling across the frozen sea ice on the Arctic Ocean, I fell in love with these incredibly beautiful yet fragile parts of our planet. Our polar regions are like nothing you could imagine. They’re so clean and largely untouched by humans. It’s such a privilege to travel where no human has gone before and truly explore these incredible environments.
National Geographic Channel made a TV documentary on my North Pole expedition that aired in 170 countries last year and now they’re making a feature-length documentary on my Greenland and South Pole expeditions during 2017. Last June, I was privileged to be invited to attend the National Geographic Explorers Symposium in Washington DC. I’ve been invited back again this year. The symposium brings together all the explorers and scientists supported by the National Geographic Society. These amazing individuals from around the world, across a range of fields, meet to share their stories and find ways to collaborate on innovative projects – from the new technology they’re using to explore uncharted territories to the innovative ways they’re protecting threatened species and environments.
The loss of our polar regions from global warming is not just about there being no more ice or polar bears – it’s about the future of human beings on earth. If you take just Greenland’s ice sheet, the second largest mass of ice on the planet, the most recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that sustained global warming above a threshold of 1-4 degrees would lead to the near-complete loss of the ice sheet, causing global sea levels to rise up to seven metres! This would wipe out a lot of the world’s habitable land for our growing population to live and produce food on. That’s really frightening.
As possibly the only representative of my generation with firsthand experience in each of earth’s three main polar regions, I feel a responsibility to learn as much as I can about global warming and to play a more active role in years to come. We’re all capable of making a difference. We need to stop thinking about this issue as individual countries and start thinking as one human race who live on one planet – our home.
“When you just ‘chuck it away’, there’s no ‘away’. Away actually lasts forever”
“We need to think as one human race who live on one planet”