Photo courtesy of Roger Moenks ©
Media mogul. Philanthropist and long-standing environmentalist. Co-creator of the environmentally themed animated series Captain Planet and the Planters. Founder of CNN and the United Nations Foundation.
Interview by Erica Commisso.
I’m doing everything I can to save the world. That’s my ultimate goal. I know it’s a lofty one, but we’ve made some progress through my foundations.
Tell us about The Turner Foundation. What initiatives do you support?
The Turner Foundation’s mission is to protect and restore the natural systems on which all life depends – air, land and water. We provide support to organizations that share this focus on a localized level and provide education and outreach to the public with concern to these causes. We also focus our energy on promoting conservation engagement among everyone – people of all ages, ethnicities, socioeconomic status, political association, etc.
What is the achievement of yours that you are most proud of? The biggest hurdle that you have overcome?
Professionally, I’m most proud of CNN. But personally, I’m most proud of my family. My five children have all grown into accomplished individuals with different interests and talents, but they all share the same sense of responsibility when it comes to Planet Earth and its species.
As far as hurdles go, I’ve dealt with my fair share of challenges, just like anyone else. My biggest challenge now is fighting for the Planet, and I’ve still got a ways to go.
Currently watching/reading/listening to:
I don’t watch a lot of television, but I do watch CNN. I built it from the ground up, so I’ll always tune in to see how they’re doing. Overall, I’m pretty impressed.
I also rely on the [New York] Times Digest, The Wall Street Journal and The Economist to keep me up-to-date on the news.
When you’re not working to save the environment, we can find you:
I’m usually spending time with family and friends when I’m not working. In my downtime, I like to fish and ride horses. I also do yoga most mornings for exercise.
You own millions of acres of land across the country. How did you choose which land to buy and conserve?
Most of the larger land purchases I’ve made are based on whether or not they have the proper environment and sufficient pastures to accommodate my bison herd, which totals about 51,000 across 15 ranches in the United States. Other factors that come into play are streams for fishing and opportunities for bird hunting.
Tell us about the expeditions for environmental educations on your properties.
In 2015, I launched Ted Turner Expeditions, which is a hospitality venture that operates on all four of my New Mexico properties. Eco-tours, like hiking and biking, are available on all three ranches – Vermejo Park Ranch in northern New Mexico and the Ladder and Armendaris Ranches in southern New Mexico. We also offer overnight accommodations at Vermejo, Ladder and at my boutique hotel, Sierra Grande Lodge & Spa, that’s located about a half hour away from both the Ladder and Armendaris. These properties are incredible – the wildlife is really outstanding, and the scenery is unmatched. TTX has provided a great way to share with the public these places that my family and I have enjoyed for so many years.
What message do you have for people who want to become activists?
I would tell them to follow their hearts and be passionate about what you do.
What, do you think, is the most immediate problem we need to take action against?
We’re facing a lot of issues all over the world right now that require our immediate action – disease, environmental degradation, racial tensions, political discord, and the list goes on and on. But, I think the most pressing issue we face and the one that frightens me most is the threat of nuclear or biological attack. I’m doing my best to address this through the work of the Nuclear Threat Initiative – an organization I started 17 years ago with Senator Sam Nunn.
Your children and grandchildren have become advocates as well. How did you educate them as they grew up?
I think it was important for them to witness my philanthropic work at young ages to see what kind of impact can be made not just by giving money to certain causes but by really championing these causes and utilizing your voice. They’ve had front row seats to the great work that’s been done through my five foundations, and I think that ignited a fire in each of them to make a difference.
What is a simple thing people can do in their lives to make a big difference in saving the environment?
It doesn’t take a lot of money or even power to make a difference. I always say it’s as simple as picking up trash in your neighborhood or turning off the lights when you leave the room. If we all work together to make this world a better place, the impact could be huge!
How did you educate yourself about world issues?
I’ve always been curious about the natural world and fascinated by human behavior. No matter where you live, what you look like, or what you believe – we’re all human beings and we all deserve to be treated with kindness and respect. That’s how I approach any issue at hand whether it be political, social or environmental.
Who is an eco warrior in your life (a person who inspires you, who you look up to)?
The two individuals who probably had the biggest influence on me when it comes to environmental advocacy are Jacques Cousteau and Rachel Carson. I’m also inspired by people like Jane Goodall and Sylvia Earle. They’ve made huge contributions to our environment and serve as terrific role models for our youth. My five children inspire me as well. They all share a sense of responsibility when it comes to our environment, but they contribute in their own, individual ways.
Do you think awareness of environmental issues has increased over the years? Why?
Yes, I do. I think it’s because people are really using their voices and understanding that there’s a sense of urgency when it comes to our environment. We need to take action now, not later. I also think we’re realizing the importance of youth engagement. The Captain Planet Foundation, which I co-founded in 1991 and is now chaired by my eldest daughter Laura, works diligently to empower youth and instill in them an appreciation and love of nature through education and engagement.
My mission is…to save everything.