Ted Danson, Keith Addis and Oceana Save the Oceans
By Deborah Martin
A commercial fisherman sorts a recent catch of cod off the coast of Massachusetts
|Ted Danson, Jeff Bridges, Keith Addis, Andy Sharpless and Valarie Van Cleave at last year’s SeaChange Summer Party in Orange County. The celebrity-studded event is one of Oceana’s largest fundraisers|
Two-time Emmy winner Ted Danson has spent the past 25 years fighting the good fight to save our oceans. The 63-year-old LA-based actor—who has played such lovable characters as Sam Malone in Cheers and Dr. John Becker in Becker, and who is taking the lead in CSI: Crime Scene Investigation this fall—started this journey when he joined a campaign to stop offshore drilling near Will Rogers State Beach in Pacific Palisades in the early 1980s. The small group of concerned residents managed to halt the drilling, and flushed with success, Danson helped found the American Oceans Campaign (AOC). Keith Addis, cofounder of Industry Entertainment and Danson’s agent and longtime friend, served on the board of AOC with Danson.
Then, in 2002, AOC merged with Oceana (formed in 2001 by several leading foundations and headquartered in Washington, DC), making it the largest international organization dedicated solely to saving the world’s oceans. Oceana’s current board president, Addis is a powerful voice in support of conservation efforts worldwide, while in March of this year, Danson published his first book, Oceana: Our Endangered Oceans and What We Can Do to Save Them, coauthored with journalist Michael D’Orso. “People are getting more and more receptive to ocean conservation,” says Danson. “Since the release of Oceana I’ve been touring around and people are so ready to ask questions and get involved.” In that spirit, we asked a few questions of our own of the two ocean-saving warriors.
Ted, you have said that seeing a sign on a beach in Santa Monica that read BEACH CLOSED, WATER POLLUTED inspired you to become an environmental activist. Did growing up with an archaeologist father and a spiritual mother also influence this decision?
TED DANSON: In many ways my parents laid the foundation for the environmental work I do today. By instilling in me a respect for science and an appreciation of the spiritual connectedness between people and the environment, they gave me the tools I needed to begin this journey. Science and spirituality go hand in hand, and I was lucky enough to learn this lesson at a very young age.
Keith, how did you get involved with this crusade?
KEITH ADDIS: I grew up in Southern California. The beach and ocean have been in my life from my earliest memories, but the truth is I was laser-focused on my business when I met Ted and hadn’t given any thought at all to conservation work. I joined Ted’s ocean team only because he was an incredibly important new client—the biggest TV star in the world—and I wanted to become as valuable to him as possible. My motive was completely Machiavellian. I’ve always rooted for underdogs, and it became crystal clear to me right away the oceans were under siege and almost no one was paying attention. Even now only about half a cent out of every dollar spent on conservation in the US goes to deal with critical ocean problems. We’re in the trenches fighting to protect one of the great miracles of our world— the one from which all life has evolved. I’m hopeful we’ll all wake up and get involved in whatever way each of us can, with the best tools each of us has.
Ted, you have been actively fighting to protect the oceans for 25 years. What made you decide to write the book now?
TD: The oceans are really at a tipping point, and right now we can still reverse a lot of the damage. With comprehensive policy changes that tackle the toughest issues like overfishing and acidification, we can fix this. It can become a “good news” story, but the clock is ticking. So for this book, there really was no time better than now. I want everyone to come away with the realization that these are fixable problems; this is a hopeful book. Whether it’s overfishing, pollution or habitat destruction, all of the problems we face have very achievable solutions.
Some people will say, “Ted Danson is just another celebrity with a cause.” Why should people listen to you about saving the oceans?
TD: I’m the guy who brings people to the conversation but then passes them on to a marine biologist who really knows his stuff. I’m lucky enough to work with some of the best scientists in the world at Oceana, and it’s my job to help get their message out. So don’t take my word for it, take theirs.
KA: Ted is the real deal. He could have walked away from his mission when he helped stop oil companies from putting up monster drilling platforms in Santa Monica Bay, but he’s invested a tremendous amount of time, money and love into understanding the issues and promoting solutions. For me it’s simple: When kids ask me in 10 years what I knew about the daunting challenges facing our oceans—and what I did about them—I want to feel good about my contribution.
Often people who speak on behalf of the oceans are seen as anti-fishing. But both the book and your organization seem to be pro-fishermen. Isn’t this counterintuitive?
TD: Personally, I love seafood. Nearly three billion people around the world rely on seafood for their animal protein—for many of them it’s more than just a tasty meal, it’s life or death. So we can’t stop fishing. But we need to manage our fisheries responsibly enough that our children and our children’s children can enjoy the seafood we take for granted.
KA: We’re definitely working to protect the livelihoods of the hundreds of millions of workers whose jobs depend on fishing. All of those countless families will suffer immeasurably if we can’t figure out how to manage the world’s fisheries effectively.
photography courtesy of oceana; by jeff rotman/getty images (fisherman)