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There is a growing sense of urgency around the need to protect Earth’s natural resources for both people today and for future generations. The issues at stake are massive in scale and affect all of the earth’s population. Current patterns of consumption along with a rapidly growing population are leading to dwindling natural resources and a changing climate – with the potential for drastic detrimental effects. A number of the philanthropists we interviewed are putting their dollars to work to tackle these issues. As Ted Turner says, “We better get our act together if we want our grandchildren to have a life at all.”
Environmental challenges are daunting due to a complex set of interconnected issues that cut across national borders. Yet the philanthropists we interviewed are finding a variety of ways to tackle these issues: They are working to orchestrate policy responses to global climate change, curb population growth, conserve natural resources, promote sustainability, and raise awareness generally. They describe, however, a complex set of choices regarding where to focus. The sheer magnitude of problems that affect the environment, the difficulty in defining the issues, the intractable differences in politics and ideology, and the inherent complications stemming from the environment’s interconnection with such causes as health and the economy all combine to make this a challenging area in which to choose where one can have the greatest impact.
Some of the philanthropists we interviewed have chosen to narrow their focus by zeroing-in on a specific place, such as the San Francisco Bay Area or the Amazon. For others, cross-sector collaboration is essential to achieving results, including working with government to modify or abandon detrimental policies. Still others are working on changing the entire conversation: pivoting from a strict preservation-of-nature stance to a focus on sustaining people within the environment.
Common among all the philanthropists we interviewed who are focused on the environment, however, is the conviction that, because potentially irreversible damage is accumulating all-too-quickly, the environment is “the issue of our era.”
- See what Ted Turner and Tom Steyer have to say about the urgency around preserving the environment.
- Watch Steve McCormick and Ted Turner talk about reframing the issues of climate change and conservation to focus on improving quality of life.
- View Josh Mailman and Tom Steyer discuss private and public sector approaches to tackling environmental issues.
- Watch Paul Brest discuss the big bets he’s made on conservation and climate change.