I love connecting with inspiring people who have dedicated their lives to making the world a better place. Jeff Corwin is that guy. Jeff exemplifies the power of what one person can accomplish in a positive way to improve our world.
I've been an admirer of Jeff Corwin's work ever since I read his remarkable and enlightening book, 100 Heartbeats. I had the good fortune to meet up with Jeff to talk about his extraordinary work as an animal and nature conservationist, and his awesome new eBook SHARKS.
SS: As an individual, you've done so much for animals and conservation, a testament to the power of one. Individually, what can each of us do to contribute to the health our planet?
JC: Well, the power of one is incredibly important. I think the greatest, most insidious adversary to conservation is when one feels that they lack power. When that happens, the apathy sets in and the feelings of, "What does it matter? I don't matter," can take over. Well, you do matter. You matter in the most positive way and the most negative way. We each leave behind a footprint. We each have a ripple effect in what we do. For every action, there's a reaction.
For example, let me show you how powerful you are. Each of us every day will produce five pounds of non-biodegradable waste. You add that up, to hundreds of pounds every year, so you can say that each of us has a genuine contribution to the giant vortex of trash. There is a great island of trash in the Pacific that we've produced that's now as big as Texas. That's a negative effect. When you drink water from a plastic water bottle, you may get water to sustain you for an hour of your hydration needs, but it was presented to you in something that can last for a hundred years in a landfill. That's a tremendous power that you have, again, negatively exercised because you and me, we contributed to trash.
When that rainforest is cleared in Sumatra, it contributes to greenhouse gases and the orangutans are sold off to the black market or for bush meat. You are powerful, because that rainforest was cleared to grow palm oil and one out of every 10 products we purchase in the supermarket from lip balm to ice cream to the white stuff in between the chocolate cookies comes from palm oil. That shows you your power.
What can you do? You can exercise that power positively. Your power as a consumer is incredible. You can drive the direction of what corporations will do through the power of the purse. You can exercise your political power by holding our leaders responsible and putting leaders in power that will have a strong sense of environmental stewardship.
We all have power economically, politically and civically within the community. We all have an individual responsibility about the choices we make. The greatest support to conservation is an understanding that you do matter, and you do make a difference. You don't have to be Dr. Jane Goodall or David Attenborough or me to save a rainforest. You could be a great Accountant and say, "I'm going to give one day every two months to a local NGO to help them make sure they qualify for their 501C3 status." At our company, JeffCorwinConnect, which is a social enterprise, we take responsibility to do our part and through all our programs, products and services we partner with and contribute a portion of our profits towards conservation. Our mission is to CONNECT global citizens to the planet, its species and ecosystems creating positive, fun and engaging experiences for them so that hopefully we can inspire them to do their part as 'individuals' while building the next generation of environmental stewards. Our newly launched first of its kind, e-Book series which is a modern-day digital encyclopedia does exactly that by introducing readers to amazing species, immersing them in their world through videos, images and text all curated by me and helping readers appreciate the significance of these awesome species on our planet.
SS: I was reading your new eBook SHARKS it was shocking to find out 70-80 million sharks are killed yearly. And yet, we fear sharks but the facts show that sharks should fear us.
JC: We're losing our planet's sharks, which was the impetus is to do this shark eBook. We have many, many challenges. We live in what I call: the age of extinction. This is the sixth extinction but unlike the extinctions of the past, that were the result of an ice age or a cataclysmic asteroid, we are the asteroids. We are because of what we do and how we live in our inability to be harmonious with our natural resources. We created this perfect extinction storm, where we integrate climate change, habitat loss, pollution, unsustainable harvesting of species, and black market trade. It all comes together; it doesn't work in a vacuum. We live in of great hope and promise and great tragedy and loss.
SS: In 100 Heartbeats you wrote, "I'm a conservationist because I believe that my species doesn't have the right or option to determine the fate of other species." Can you say more?
JC: We're always trying to make the argument that we're different than other species, but more often the points we use as examples of what makes us different is actually what makes us similar.
We would like to think of emotions, such as passion, aggression, and love, as uniquely human but the truth is emotions are the chemistry responses for survival that exist in all creatures. We see an octopus flashing with colors of anger and fear. Those emotions in an octopus are not less than they are in humans.
I don't think that human beings are any greater or lesser than any other species. We are one of many, many species occupying this planet.