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Environmental Protection

Ted Danson’s Mission to Protect the World’s Oceans

Photo: Courtesy of Tom Vickers

Our planet is facing an environmental crisis. Climate change is drastically harming the world’s oceans, which are now polluted, overheated, and over-fished.

Founded in 2001, Oceana is dedicated to protecting the world’s oceans, and Ted Danson, star of “Cheers” and “The Good Place, has been involved as a board member from the beginning.

Danson first got involved with protecting the oceans while living in Santa Monica, California, with his daughters. 

“We were going to go swimming and we came across a sign that said ‘No swimming, water polluted,’” he said. “They didn’t understand and I couldn’t really quite tell them.” 

Asking questions led him to a partnership with Robert Sulnick. 

“We started something called American Oceans Campaign, basically out of our basement,” Danson said. “Over the years it became very well respected in Washington.”

In the early 2000s, the Pew Foundation funded Oceana to act as an international organization working to protect the oceans. 

“American Oceans Campaign ended up merging with Oceana,” Danson said. “My job, from the very beginning, has been to learn the issues as best as I can, but also to make use of the fact that I get the cameras and the microphone.”

A critical resource

Given that oceans cover 71 percent of the Earth’s surface and account for 97 percent of the Earth’s water, protecting our oceans is vital for environmental advocacy. 

“If we were to do everything we needed to do to protect the oceans, we would really be tackling all the major issues,” Danson said. “We’d have to face climate change because of the impact on our oceans. We’d have to deal with pollution. We’d have to deal with drilling in the ocean for oil. We’d have to deal with plastics. 

“We could talk about the economy and jobs, because every time you do the right thing by the oceans, you actually create more jobs.”

One major crisis facing our oceans is overfishing. 

“We’re about to have 8 billion people on our planet,” Danson said. “That’s a huge stress on land and land animals.”

 As a result, fishing has become a larger industry but is in danger of becoming unsustainable. 

“If we harvested the ocean correctly, which is doable, we could end up providing a billion fish meals a day,” Danson said.

Inspiration everywhere

One of Oceana’s board members, Dr. Daniel Pauly, has worked with fisheries all around the world to encourage sustainable fishing. 

“That’s somebody who may not get the flashy platform I have,” Danson said, “but he’s certainly one of my heroes.”

Danson mentioned two of his other heroes are “the two Janes” — Jane Goodall and Jane Fonda, who inspired Danson with her recent Fire Drill Friday actions. He did, however, caution against only focusing on celebrity activists, as this can make ordinary Americans feel as though they cannot participate in advocacy. 

“All the scientists who work for this particular administration, who stood up and said ‘Actually climate change is not a hoax, this is very real’ — those people are heroes,” he said. “People who live in areas of this country where it’s not popular to believe in science and they still get up every morning to try to persuade their neighbors that this is real — those people are heroes.”

Danson believes environmental protection is the most urgent issue of our time, and that we have to act now to limit its effects. 

“We desperately have to change, or we will have more fires than we already have, more droughts, more floods, more forced migration because we can no longer grow crops,” he said. “This is what we’re being told, not by extremists, not by people who are overly excited, but by scientists saying this is real. And it’s already here.”

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