Town Haul Podcast | Episode 11

  • Host: Amy Koonin (Rubicon)
  • Guest: Justin Winters (Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, Executive Director)
  • Listen Here!

Bridging the gap between caring and doing can be difficult. But, for the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation (LDF), dedication to the health and well-being of all Earth’s inhabitants makes action necessary. That’s why LDF supports projects and organizations that protect wildlife and our environment.

Justin Winters has stood by the foundation for over a decade, shaping DiCaprio’s approach to philanthropy and activism. With Winters’ leadership, LDF is helping high-impact projects get the funding they need. Host Amy Koonin talked with Winters about LDF’s mission and the work that still needs to be done.

On how the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation began:

WINTERS: “From very early days, Leonardo had a deep connection to nature and to animals. He was really intrigued with the great beauty of the world, and all the different spectacular beauty and different species that live in our oceans and forests. He had a very pivotal conversation with Al Gore on climate change many years ago that made it very clear to him how epic and existential the threat of climate change and environmental issues are. That really set him on a course of wanting to take action in a meaningful and a very personal way, and he did that with the foundation.”

On the importance of World Oceans Day:

WINTERS: “These kinds of days are just important public markers for people to really focus in on the beauty of the oceans, how worthy they are of being protected, and the wide array of things that you can do to take action to protect the oceans and all the incredible life within our oceans. Right now, roughly three percent of our oceans are formally protected, and we need to reach a much higher percentage or full protection of our oceans if we want to see biodiversity thrive and all of our ocean systems continue to generate the incredible resources that they do. So, one of our key objectives in our oceans work at LDF is to support our partners that are working to secure more formal protections throughout the oceans.”

On the interconnectedness of our environment:

WINTERS: “We are pulling way too many fish out of our oceans. So, for example, it’s estimated that 100 million sharks and rays are pulled out of the oceans every year. That figure is simply astounding, and it just shows how grave the threats of mass overfishing of our oceans are to biodiversity and actually to the systems of our oceans. Our ecological systems are all deeply connected, and each life force within an ecosystem has an important role to play. So, when you pull sharks and rays out of the ocean at that magnitude, it’s going to have an impact on the health of the oceans.”

On how individuals can make a difference:

WINTERS: Almost every single oceans project that we’ve worked on, issues of waste come up. I think it just speaks to the broader issue that needs to be addressed, which is really mitigating the amount of waste that is coming into the ocean. Individuals on a day-to-day basis can really make an effort to use a reusable water bottle, to stop producing so much waste, ’cause so much of that waste, even when you’re working in a city, can end up actually in our oceans. A good tagline just to remember is leave nothing behind.”

On what sea creature Winters would most want to be:

WINTERS: “Dolphin, probably because they’re such incredibly intelligent creatures that have such deep emotional connections to their families. Plus, it would be pretty amazing to be able to fly through the ocean as adeptly as dolphins do.”

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