I have always loved animals. Growing up in a rural area near Ontario, Canada, I learned to appreciate and respect the wildlife around me. My sisters and I would play outside for hours, just exploring and witnessing the wonders of the natural world.
Today, on this World Environment Day, a day that celebrates all the courageous and positive environmental actions taking place around the world, I stop to reflect on what being an environmentalist means to me.
Now that I'm older, I know that the world's most iconic and beloved species and beautiful, awe-inspiring places are in jeopardy.
And I am using that knowledge and understanding to fight to see change on a more global level.
I recently became involved with World Wildlife Fund -- an organization that fights for what I love and believe in and one that I've been excited to work with for a while now. Earlier this year I helped launch the "Hands Off My Parts" initiative -- an effort tied to WWF's Stop Wildlife Crime campaign to raise awareness and mobilize support to end the illegal trade of wildlife.
Poaching has reached epic proportions. Rhinos, tigers, and elephants are being killed at alarming rates for their skins, bones, tusks, horns and other body parts. In South Africa alone, at least one rhino a day is killed for its horn (and at the time of publication, already 367 have been poached this year -- on pace to exceed 800 by year's end). Sixty two percent of the world's forest elephants have been killed in the past 10 years for their tusks, and as few as 3,200 wild tigers exist on the planet because we exploit them for their parts.
This is unacceptable.We must do more. By pledging to not buy products made from endangered species, we can all do our small part to ensure a future for tigers, rhinos, and elephants and the many other species threatened by illegal trade.
I am proud to say that "Hands Off My Parts" was a tremendous success. It galvanized the public to help encourage Thailand's Prime Minister to boldly pledge to end Thailand's ivory sales. This was a massive win because Thailand has one of the world's biggest ivory markets. Current Thai law permits the sale of ivory from domestic elephants, resulting in a major loophole that allows for massive quantities of illegal African ivory to be sold alongside the domestic ivory in Thai shops.
But the fight to save endangered species and help our planet doesn't stop there. I'm mindful about recycling; I'm mindful about my water usage; I'm mindful of what I eat; and I use environmentally friendly products in my house. I always drive a hybrid car or ride my bike.
I also work with the Environmental Media Association on the Young Hollywood Board. At the moment, we are trying to develop school garden programs that encourage kids to understand the benefits of home grown, organic foods all while learning other basic subjects such as math and science. It's truly an amazing way to get kids excited about learning, develop healthy habits, and build appreciation for the natural world -- the very same admiration that I had as a child.
Environmental causes, all of them, are so close to my heart because I want the children that I will have one day to live on a planet that is safe, and one where we are thoughtful of what we share with nature.
On World Environment Day, let this be the day that we start to take that small, but significant first step. Every action, large or small, counts.