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Maranda Pleasant: What makes you come alive?

Ian Somerhalder: “What doesn’t” is the better question…

The world is so tremendously spectacular that every visual, sense, and sparked connection swells my unrestrained passion for life. I find I feel this the most when I am immersed in nature and sliding into the bloodstream of the wilderness. The symphonic sounds of nature awaken every cell in my body and, in that moment, without a doubt, I am truly alive.

MP: What makes you feel vulnerable?

IS: Strangely enough, very little makes me feel vulnerable these days. I hit my absolute apex of vulnerability when I returned to my home state of Louisiana, during the Gulf oil spill disaster, and witnessed mass devastation to every demonstration of life surrounding me – from grass, trees, bayous, insects, to animals and people – we all felt demolished. Overcome with a raw, true vulnerability, so deep and echoing, I knew I never wanted to feel this way again.

MP: If you could say something to everyone on the planet, what would it be?

IS: More than ever, it’s very apparent that we are strapped for natural resources. We configure and reconfigure to try and find a way to maintain these natural assets, when, ultimately, we are overlooking the most abundant, dynamic, and powerful resource we have available to us – our youth. The youth have a prodigious talent for inventing progressive ideas and alternative courses of action that elude the jaded, in-the-box minds of worn-down adults. If we take our youth seriously, provide tools to strengthen their natural prowess, and empower them to make the changes they want to see in the world, then this planet and her creatures have the chance to heal and flourish.

MP: Why is protecting the environment personal for you?

IS: Growing up in rural Louisiana, the ecosystem around our home wove harmoniously into our family and into our daily life. Every life lesson that trickled its way into my being came from a mutually respectful relationship between the environment and my family. We were raised to appreciate the teachings of animals and the untouched magnificence of raw natural beauty. This understanding of our precious and complex ecosystem has carried me throughout every chapter of my life and is a significant column of my identity.

MP: What are some of your biggest concerns right now?

IS: I really appreciate this question, because it provides an opportunity to explore a new way of thinking. Often we at the Ian Somerhalder Foundation (ISF) are asked what our main focus is – whether that be deforestation, species preservation, the health of our waters, etc. The way we understand it is that all of these issues are interdependent, so if we were to focus our attention on one particular problem and neglect the others, we would fail to see the true scope of our current global issues. The changes made in that form of thinking are limited and self-contained. Instead, if we recognize the interconnectedness of the changes our planet needs, we become true solutionaries and our united power is unparalleled.

MP: How do you keep your center in the middle of chaos? Do you have a daily routine?

IS: We all exist in a time of widespread exponential growth. We are busier than ever. When things pile sky-high on top of each other, I try to take a moment to: breathe, smile, repeat. This mantra helps me align to the reality outside of the superfluous noise. Visualization is also essential. Whether it’s physically having a visual of what you want to accomplish in front of you, like a running list or a vision board, or mentally visualizing and taking time to meditate, having a vision of what you are running for keeps you from running for the sake of running.

MP: What’s been one of your biggest lessons so far in your life?

IS: “It’s not who you know, it’s who you don’t know.”

A dear friend and colleague of mine once said that to me, and it has profoundly altered the mode in which I understand connection and interaction. Your strongest ally or your greatest teacher may be sitting within reach, unbeknownst to you. Collaboration – the ultimate intertwining of skills, passions, and knowledge – is what concocts the most shatterproof forms of changemaking. When we unite our impassioned voices, the echoing power is magnificently deafening.

MP: What truth do you know for sure?

IS: We will, at some point, reflect back at our rampant acceptance of speciesism with profound regret. Our journey to understanding that all demonstrations of life possess equal value is a slow and harrowing one. The will to live that possesses us to create medicine, to become firefighters or teachers, is the same will to live that is woven into all living beings. We are all dropped into our lives on this planet with a limited amount of time and cosmic understanding, yet we know one thing for certain: we wish to live. We share this yearning for life and love with all the beings that fly, grow, slither or swim amongst us. Ultimately, it will take a pooled shift in consciousness to reach that next level of understanding, and I believe our youth can guide us there.

MP: Tell me about your latest projects.

IS: First, I am really excited to finally be formally designated as a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador this year on World Environment Day, which I have been supporting for the last several years. I really look forward to working on a number of environmental priorities, including a campaign against illegal wildlife trade; a trade that is currently decimating elephants, rhinos, and many lesser known species like Pangolins across Africa. I was pretty shocked to learn that as many as 30,000 elephants are being killed every year to fuel the ivory trade, despite an international ban since 1989, and that 60% of forest elephants have already been wiped out. At this rate, experts say populations will become extinct in the next decade. No one needs ivory.

Currently, with ISF, we are proud to be developing and growing our U Factor program, which empowers our youth to identify their passion, cultivate their talents, and amplify their purpose. We had our pilot event a few months ago and were joyously overwhelmed with positive feedback. We also recently launched ISF’s Emergency Medical Care Grant for Animals to provide assistance to rescues and animal care agencies who are working tirelessly to heal our four-legged, or sometimes three-legged, companions in need. We will be unveiling some new phenomenal initiatives that combine forces between the untapped power of our youth and the infinite wisdom possessed by animals. Stay tuned!

Bad boy vampire, who first experienced death on the island in Lost, now seeks empowerment and unity between global changemakers to heal and protect our planet and its creatures. Activist by day, blood-sucking brother by night, lover of action and an admirer of words, but ultimately an artist at heart.

www.isfoundation.org

www.unep.org/wed

wedchallenge.com

 

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