Here are 10 environmental hotspots around the globe — and ways that you can help.
Oil drilling, logging and mining threaten the Amazon rainforest and its indigenous peoples, namely those in Brazil. But since 1996, Amazon Watch, with offices in Oakland and Washington, D.C., has worked to protect the rainforest and the rights of indigenous peoples in the Amazon Basin. Oscar-winner and passionate environmentalist Leonardo DiCaprio has long supported Amazon Watch through his eponymous foundation, founded in 1998. “We only get one planet,” DiCaprio told the United Nations in 2014.
The Arctic is warming at twice the rate of the planet as a whole, leaving many species of its wildlife in peril. Polar bears are in danger of extinction, not only because of the rapid warming and melting of the ice, but also because of the Trump administration’s plans to fast-track oil and gas development in their habitat. Still, organizations including the Center for Biological Diversity and Earthjustice, supported by such actors as Mayim Bialik and Melissa Rauch, are working to eradicate these environmental injustices. In 2008, the Center for Biological Diversity earned Endangered Species Act protection for the polar bear. The Endangered Species Act also helps to protect the Arctic from oil companies.
“Earthjustice has been fighting for years to protect America’s Arctic from being ravaged by oil and gas development,” says its president Abigail Dillen. “This work is essential to safeguard the fragile lands and waters of the Arctic and the wildlife and people dependent on them, including many Alaska Native communities.”
biologicaldiversity.org and earthjustice.org
This past year, wildfires ravaged the Australian landscape. Founded by the World Economic Forum and various business partners, 1t.org vows to support reforestation projects not just on the land Down Under, but on every continent. The organization plans on planting 1 trillion trees by 2030. Software company Salesforce, shepherded by CEO Marc Benioff, is stepping up to help as well with its commitment to plant 100 million trees as part of the initiative.
Despite its hippie-dippie green reputation, California is a top oil-producing state. The greenhouse pollution from all this dirty oil production feeds right into the climate crisis. Covid-19 has temporarily forced the closure of businesses and traffic no longer clogs the Los Angeles freeways, but who knows how long this stretch of fresh air will last? The Center for Biological Diversity has won many lawsuits against fracking and oil extraction in California. “During the COVID-19 crisis, the last thing California needs is more toxic fracking chemicals polluting the air we breathe,” says Maya Golden-Krasner of the Center for Biological Diversity. The Last Chance Alliance has also responded to the crisis, along with Jane Fonda and her Fire Drill Fridays rallies, in working to protect public health and protesting new fossil-fuel projects.
Due to land-quality degradation, deforestation and changes in fresh and ocean waters, Caribbean nations such as Antigua and Barbuda, St. Kitts and Nevis and Dominica are especially vulnerable to climate change. The impact on tourism and fisheries has been devastating. With help from musicians such as hip-hop artist Chad Harper and St. Lucia Soca artists Ambi and J Mouse, PCI Media produced “This Is Who We Are” campaigns — comprising videos, festivals and radio programs — to raise awareness of these issues and provide increased support for marine-managed areas in these coastal communities.
DAKOTA ACCESS PIPELINE (DAPL)/STANDING ROCK
In December 2016, President Obama’s administration denied permits for DAPL to cross the Missouri River. On his second day in office, President Trump reversed that order. Pipeline construction was completed in June 2017. But the fight to protect the area continues, with such showbiz activists as Shailene Woodley, Emma Watson and Jason Momoa voicing their protests. On March 25, a federal court granted a request by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, led by Earthjustice attorney Jan Hasselman, to strike down federal permits for the DAPL. “After years of commitment to defending our water and earth, we welcome this news of a significant legal win,” says Mike Faith, chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.
Resource-poor communities abound across Europe, and climate change, including ozone-layer depletion, has affected a large swath of the continent. Since 1948, Direct Relief, the Santa Barbara-based humanitarian healthcare NGO, has been lending aid to people in all 50 states and 80 countries around the world, including Romania, Greece and Ukraine. In Europe alone, Direct Relief, supported by Sean Combs, has donated more than $1 billion in medical aid and administered more than 260 million doses of medicine. “Weak primary health systems remain among the greatest threats to human health everywhere,” writes Andrew Schroeder, director of research and analysis for Direct Relief.
HAITI, KENYA, NICARAGUA, COLOMBIA, INDIA, U.S.
Untreated sewage and fecal sludge are major causes of environmental and water pollution worldwide. Billions of people lack clean water; more than 2.5 billion people lack access to a sanitary toilet — or any toilet. On an annual basis, 1.8 million people die from diarrheal disease, and half of these deaths are children under age 5. Following the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti, Patricia Arquette and Rosetta Getty co-founded the organization Give Love to promote sanitation and build compost toilets in countries around the world.
Pollution, plastic, poachers — all of it threatens the ocean. But Paul Watson, who founded Sea Shepherd Conservation Society as a grassroots movement in 1977, has been fighting tirelessly to reverse that trend. The nonprofit marine conservation organization has expanded into an international movement, with groups in more than 20 countries, all working to protect the world’s oceans from illegal exploitation and environmental destruction. Martin Sheen, Daryl Hannah, Christian Bale and Flea are among Sea Shepherd’s myriad industry supporters.
Countries from Liberia to Ghana to Ivory Coast are struggling from the detrimental impacts of climate change. They lack the resources to contend with coastal and forest erosion. To improve conservation and resilience to climate change in the region, the West Africa Biodiversity and Climate Change (WA BiCC) Program was founded. The program is a six-partner initiative funded by the U.S. Agency for Intl. Development (USAID).