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Environmental Organizations’ Call to Action: World Environment Day 2020 Roundup Post

From the oceans that make up 70% of the Earth’s surface to the air we breathe each second, everything we have, we owe to nature. We constantly forget this fact. But today is World Environment Day, a day of awareness reminding us of our responsibility to the Earth.

For World Environment Day, we have interviewed a number of experts in environmental justice organizations. These environmental leaders have shed light on some of the major issues that Mother Nature is currently facing. In addition, they have shared their tips on how ordinary people can play their parts in helping save the environment from destruction.

Whether you’re looking for environmental organizations to donate to or just finding valuable resources about how to celebrate World Environment Day, read on and find out what the leaders of these organizations have to say.

One Tree Planted

Trees provide the world with clean air, potable water, and habitat to more than 80% of terrestrial biodiversity. They help create jobs, ingredients for medicines, homes, and so many more. 

As a non-profit environmental charity, One Tree Planted focuses its efforts on global reforestation. It makes the idea of planting trees a lot less daunting than it is. By just donating one dollar to this organization, they will plant one tree in your preferred area—making it easy for people to proactively help save the environment.

From its inception in 2014 up until 2019, One Tree Planted has successfully planted 4,000,000 trees all over the world.

Interview with Kaylee Brzezinski, Sustainability Maven

What led you to become a part of One Tree Planted? 

While taking a step back from my career in finance, I was searching for something that would feel like I was living my purpose every day. And then one day this happy little nonprofit called One Tree Planted showed up in the job postings. It was such a unique opportunity to help the planet and be creative every day! 

What do you think is this generation’s worst environmental problem? 

Climate change. But I have a lot of faith in the younger generation coming up who are dedicating themselves to spreading awareness and really walking the talk when it comes to sustainability. 

What do you wish more people understand about your organization’s work and environmentalism in general? 

That trees and caring for the environment is connected to everything and everyone. Planting trees helps mitigate a lot of the problems we see today. Not just environmentally either but socially and economically as well. 

As an environmentalist, what do you see as your biggest accomplishment so far? 

Consistency. It helps me sleep at night knowing that I am doing something good for the environment every day not only with my work but at home too. 

What are your organization’s future goals and how can ordinary people and businesses help? 

Our goal is to reforest the planet. One of the reasons One Tree Planted was founded was because we wanted to make it easy for both individuals and businesses to make a positive impact. With our one tree one dollar model pretty much everyone can help and every single tree helps achieve our goal. 

To learn more about One Tree Planted, visit their website at www.onetreeplanted.org.

Pure Earth

An international non-profit organization, Pure Earth is dedicated to mitigating toxic soil, water, and air pollution that causes a wide range of diseases. This organization aims to improve the quality of life in poor communities without adversely affecting the livelihoods of people in these communities. Simply put, this environmental justice organization helps save lives through the reduction of disease-causing pollution.

Founded in 1999, Pure Earth has helped millions of people by successfully completing 110 projects in 27 countries.

Interview with Richard Fuller, Founder and President

What led you to start Pure Earth? 

Following the success of my private company, one of the first aimed at helping businesses go green, I realized I could make a bigger contribution to environmental progress. I identified pollution as a major environmental problem that was causing great harm but was not being addressed. I traveled through Southeast Asia, organized a few cleanups with simple, low-cost interventions, and launched Pure Earth in 1999 with profits from Great Forest.

What do you think is this generation’s worst environmental problem? 

Toxic pollutants at contaminated sites affect the health of more than 200 million people worldwide. 

Women and children are especially at risk of suffering neurologic and immune system damage and an early death. (The number of people affected is comparable

to HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria. Yet pollution is one of the most underreported and underfunded problems in the world.)

What do you wish more people understand about your organization’s work and environmentalism in general? 

Interventions to mitigate these toxic exposures while protecting livelihoods have proven to be manageable and cost-effective. By partnering with local champions we clean up chemical and waste legacy toxic hotspots, prevent re-contamination, and guard against future pollution.

As an environmentalist, what do you see as your biggest accomplishment so far? 

Pure Earth has cleaned up toxins in over 120 locations that were affecting almost 5 million people—20% being children under six. These people will live longer, have less intellectual impairment, cancer, and other diseases.

What are your organization’s future goals and how can ordinary people and businesses help? 

People can sign up to learn more about our work and how they can help at www.pureearth.org

To learn more about what Pure Earth does, watch this video about their reforestation efforts in an artisanal gold mining area in Peru—one of their many projects across the globe.

Rainforest Foundation US

Rainforests protect the Earth from 30% of carbon emissions each year. They provide habitats to over half of all flora and fauna. Plus, rainforests are a crucial source of livelihood, resources, and even means of survival to humankind, including millions of indigenous people.

But no matter how important rainforests are, the world is losing a forest area the size of the state of New York to humankind every year. The Rainforest Foundation aims to conserve rainforests by working directly with indigenous communities and providing them with tools and resources to protect their ancestral lands. 

As of today, the Rainforest Foundation has protected over 33 million acres of rainforests in South America.

Interview with Marina Zelle, Donor Relations Director

What led you to become a part of the Rainforest Foundation?

In 2012 I visited the Amazon rainforest. I witnessed both the magnificence of the forest and how quickly it is disappearing, which was visible from the plane. Upon return, I decided to make a donation to an organization that was effectively and efficiently protecting this forest. I landed on Rainforest Foundation because I appreciated its human rights-based approach that was backed by data.

8 years later, just as I was thinking about making a career shift to do something more meaningful, I saw this job opportunity posted in a WhatsApp group chat. I jumped at the opportunity and here I am. 

What do you think is this generation’s worst environmental problem?

Human greed.

What do you wish more people understand about your organization’s work and environmentalism in general?

I wish people would understand how close we are to irreversibly destroying the Amazon rainforest. Climatologists warn that at the current rate of deforestation, we are as close as 10 years away reaching a tipping point where the whole ecosystem will collapse and turn the entire forest into a dry scrubland. This means mass species extinction, a catastrophic reduction in rainfall globally and 200 billion tons of carbon released into the atmosphere causing global warming. 

All of this will affect the entire world, including economies. Action has to be taken NOW to prevent this. 

As an environmentalist, what do you see as your biggest accomplishment so far? 

I’m just a regular person who tries to keep the planet in mind as I navigate each day. I hope that after several decades all of my small contributions will add up to something big.  

What are your organization’s future goals and how can ordinary people and businesses help?

We have a system that is working and we would like to scale it to have more reach in the countries that we’re currently involved in. Individuals can, of course, donate, but they can also have a direct impact by boycotting the goods produced through the destruction of the Amazon by refusing to buy Brazilian beef, “dirty” gold, palm oil, and endangered wood species such as mahogany, Brazilian walnut, and rosewood.

For more information about the Rainforest Foundation, visit their website at www.rainforestfoundation.org.

Marine Conservation Institute

Each year, eight million metric tons of plastic find their way into our oceans—among other things. With this significant amount of trash polluting the earth’s deep blue waters, among many other ecological issues, marine life is suffering the consequences of humankind’s impact on the environment.

With the help of government organizations and scientists, the Marine Conservation Institute creates solutions to issues threatening our marine ecosystems. They help build strategic systems and comprehensive databases to conserve and ensure the abundance of vulnerable marine ecosystems.

Interview with Lance Morgan, President

What led you to become a part of the Marine Conservation Institute?

I grew up in the ocean, and as I learned more and more about the ocean I wanted to be able to apply my education to conserving and protecting the ocean life I love. As a graduate student in marine biology I met marine ecologist Dr. Elliott Norse and became inspired by his passion to launch the field of Marine Conservation Biology.  I was lucky enough to be hired by him and started working with him in 2000, taking over leadership of Marine Conservation Institute in 2012. 

What do you think is this generation’s worst environmental problem? 

Loss of biodiversity and species extinction from converting and destroying habitats. Climate change is accelerating this loss.

What do you wish more people understand about your organization’s work and environmentalism in general?

We are small but mighty and work hard every day to protect marine life and the places they live. I wish more people knew just how little of the ocean is protected (only about 5%) and how much more is needed (30%) to make sure life can regenerate and thrive.

As an environmentalist, what do you see as your biggest accomplishment so far?

Successfully advocating for protecting the Northwest Hawaiian Islands (now known as Papahānaumokuākea Monument), this helped ignite a global movement to protect vast, wild places of the ocean.

What are your organization’s future goals and how can ordinary people and businesses help?

Our highest level goal is creating and supporting more Blue Parks so that wild ocean places can regain their health and rebuild wildlife populations for future generations. We are working to protect California’s seamounts (biodiversity hot spots in the sea) off the coast of California.

Individuals can sign our Seamountaineer Pledge to promote healthier ocean ecosystems and protect our oceans – https://marine-conservation.org/seamountaineers-pledge/

Or they can donate to our cause – https://marine-conservation-institute.networkforgood.com/projects/70404-support-us

Learn more about oceans by following @savingoceans or signing up for the Marine Conservation Institute’s newsletter by visiting www.marine-conservation.org.

Defenders of Wildlife

After decades of environmental destruction, humankind has a debt to pay to the planet. We have the responsibility to protect vulnerable species and ecosystems in order to maintain ecological balance.

Like other environmental organizations on the list, Defenders of Wildlife understands that environmental justice and social justice are interconnected. That means protecting the environment results in a better society as a whole. For this very reason, Defenders of Wildlife aims to help biodiversity thrive for the sake of a healthy Earth and generations to come.

Since 1947, this environmental organization has been protecting habitats and imperiled species, defending conservation laws, combatting climate change, and improving conservation in North America and beyond.

Interview with Aimee Delach, Senior Policy Analyst, Climate Adaptation

What led you to become a part of the Defenders of Wildlife?

I started at Defenders of Wildlife in 1997, as an intern on a campaign to restore wolves to the northeastern US. I had recently completed my Masters research at a site in the Adirondack mountains of New York, so I was familiar with the area where Defenders hoped to catalyze wolf reintroduction. I stayed with Defenders, working on a number of projects, including increasing funding for private lands conservation programs, combatting invasive species, and since 2009, I have worked on developing policies to help wildlife adapt to climate change, and also supporting renewable energy development in a way that minimizes wildlife and habitat impacts.

What do you think is this generation’s worst environmental problem? 

From my perspective, it’s really a tie between climate change and biodiversity loss. These two crises are intertwined – for one thing, they accelerate each other: the loss of key habitats, like rainforests, puts a huge amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and the effects of a warming climate are accelerating biodiversity loss, like the decline in coral reefs. Also, biodiversity loss and climate change contribute to other problems that we are seeing in the world, including racial injustice and the COVID-19 crisis. Many of the current problems we face in our communities tie back to a lack of investment in protecting people and places. Communities facing systemic injustice have in many cases also endured a long history of environmental injustices, including excessive levels of water and air pollution as well as disproportionate impacts from climate change.

What do you wish more people understand about your organization’s work and environmentalism in general? 

I wish more people understood how misguided the idea of “environment vs. economy” is. The words “economy” and “ecology” both have the same root, which is the Greek word for “house.” Trying to develop one at the expense of the other is unsustainable and ultimately unsuccessful. Defenders of Wildlife does a lot of work to promote coexistence between people and wildlife by helping prevent conflict at key places such as farms, beehives and campgrounds. We emphasize the value of keeping habitats intact so they can continue to provide those ecosystem services that people tend take for granted, until they are gone.

As an environmentalist, what do you see as your biggest accomplishment so far?

I think in the past several years, we’ve really started to see more widespread understanding of the fact that climate change is not a problem for the distant future, or something that only affects species halfway around the world. It is here now, and it’s already impacting both human and natural communities. I think Defenders has helped bring that awareness, and we’ve promoted solutions. Personally, I am proud of having served on the federal advisory committee that helped the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service develop guidelines for wind energy. I think our work helped this important renewable energy resource to really expand, while also paying attention to siting and operating practices that minimize habitat loss and harm to wildlife.

What are your organization’s future goals and how can ordinary people and businesses help? 

In the coming years we are going to continue to tackle those very important goals of addressing both climate change and biodiversity loss. We are planning to push for major new investments in protecting and connecting natural areas, so that species have habitat both now and in the future. And we will continue to push for more investments in renewable energy, particularly those developments that minimize impacts to wildlife and habitat and maximize benefits to local communities. People can help by encouraging politicians at the local and national levels to support these types of initiatives, by choosing products that are produced sustainably, and by supporting groups like Defenders of Wildlife!

To learn more about Defenders of Wildlife, you can find additional information about their work on their website: https://defenders.org/.

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