Paul Nicklen, Cristina Mittermeier, Bill Kurtis and Donna LaPietra: 4 Eco-Warriors on How to Save Our Oceans and Planet Now

From raging wildfires to tornadoes and flooding, extreme weather has issued an increasingly urgent reminder that the fate of our planet hangs in the balance. If the threat of climate change keeps you up at night—it should. Scientists warn that we are at or even past critical tipping points in the climate crisis, and it’s imperative we act now. If you think it’s too late or that you’re too small to play a role in turning the tide in the right direction, four of the world’s top conservationists want you to change your tune. 

On July 21, world-renowned National Geographic wildlife photographers Paul Nicklen and Cristina Mittermeier were joined by legendary news anchor Bill Kurtis and famed producer Donna LaPietra for a moving conversation about saving the planet. The discussion was part of a virtual fundraiser for the nonprofit SeaLegacy, which uses powerful visual storytelling to inspire millions of people to fight for our oceans and other areas threatened by climate change. Read on and watch the video to learn more about the incredible charge for our planet these eco-warriors are leading and get inspired to join them.  

What Actions Can We Take Now? 

Nicklen and Mittermeier say the environment movement needs two major things for us to see progress: We need more people to care, and we need to raise more money. 

Kurtis noted that Nicklen and Mittermeier are giving people exactly what they need to be inspired to action: visual evidence, both of the beauty of our oceans and wildlife, but also of the grave dangers it faces. “You can be on the front line because you have the best evidence, and from there you lead us,” Kurtis told the couple.

Leading the charge, here’s what Mittermeier and Nicklen say we need to do to take action. 

1. Ask Questions, Realign Our Values, and Change Our Behavior First

Nicklen emphasized that every move we make in life is a choice made for or against our Earth. 

“Every time we pull out our [credit card], every time we sit down in a restaurant and order something, every time we travel, you know, we are making a decision about what type of planet we want to have,” he said.

To begin to change we must first take a hard look at our own values and behaviors. What are we personally willing to give up?

“We’re all going to have to make a little bit of sacrifice and give up the conveniences we’ve been accustomed to, but that are costing us our planet,” Mittermeier said.

Mittermeier highlighted two major issues impacting the oceans: single-use plastics and overfishing. But, while reducing our use of disposable plastics and changing our diet to forgo seafood or to make only smart, sustainable seafood choices helps, it’s not only up to us. We must demand more of our leadership.

2. Demand Change from Above

Change starts at home, but then we must join forces with a global community of action takers to demand legislative and policy change. 

“It’s not fair to ask us as consumers to make all the changes because when we go to the grocery store, we’re not given choices,” Mittermeier said.

We need to insist that governments and corporations make changes, and then hold them accountable. “They’re the ones making the decisions, and they’re the ones that made the mess and they’re the ones that need to clean it up,” she said. 

3. Use Social Media to Push for Change

Nicklen and Mittermeier said don’t discount the power of petitions and strength in numbers to demand change.

“There’s real power in social media when people come together,” Mittermeier said. “We have built our platform so that every piece of content is linked to an action that we can take together.”

And don’t get discouraged. Keep signing those petitions, Nicklen said. “Your petition-signing fatigue goes away when you start having those wins.” 

4. Donate, Donate, Donate

Mittermeier painted a grim picture of just how “systematically and chronically underfunded” the environmental movement is, noting that it receives just 1.8% of the U.S.’s annual charity spend. A core component of SeaLegacy’s mission is to make it easy for anyone to donate and join the movement. They created a digital platform, “Only One,” which solicits support with a message of hope: “This decade, we can rewrite the future. There’s only one planet, one ocean, one way to do this — together.” Every small thing we do as individuals can make a huge difference toward helping our oceans—and by helping the oceans, we can help ourselves, and our world. 

An easy way to make an ongoing commitment to support SeaLegacy’s important work is to join The Tide, a global community of supporters who donate monthly in any denomination. SeaLegacy uses that money to reinvest in other organizations doing critical conservation work around the globe. Members of The Tide receive regular communications from the SeaLegacy team, can view the status of all of their campaigns, and can check in on the SeaLegacy 1 and its expeditions around the globe. Members get exclusive, inspiring video content—regular reminders of the impactful work their donations support. 

Ultimately, Mittermeier says, it’s time to put our money where our mouths are. “If you want to sleep really well tonight and if you want to feel better about yourself, stop talking about the planet and align your values to your wallet,” she said. “We all think that somebody else is doing something, and guess what… nobody else will. It’s up to each and every one of us.”

Donate Now

There’s no better time to support SeaLegacy in the mission to save our oceans and planet. Donate now and Susan B. Noyes and Make It Better Media Group will match all donations, up to $25,000. 

More from Better:

Brooke Geiger McDonald is the national content director for Make It Better Media Group. A Chicago native, she has worked for publications like O, The Oprah Magazine and SHAPE Magazine and her work has appeared in Parents, TravelPulse, Attractions Magazine, MSN, Disney Food Blog, and more. Her favorite nonprofits to support include The Walt Disney Birthplace and Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. Follow her on Instagram @brookegmcdonald and Twitter @BrookeGMcDonald.

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