National Geographic Awards Jack Johnson “Arts Ambassador for the Environment” Award

Media Release:

Three exceptional individuals and a corporation were honored by the National Geographic Society at its first ever “Evening of Exploration” gala event Thursday night, presented by Rolex.

Environmental anthropologist Kenny Broad and the late underwater photographer Wes Skiles were named “Explorers of the Year,” a new award presented in recognition of their extraordinary achievements in exploring and documenting the Blue Holes of the Bahamas in 2010. Broad and the Skiles family each received a Rolex Explorer timepiece. Musician and environmental activist Jack Johnson received the newly created “Arts Ambassador for the Environment Award,” presented to an individual in the entertainment field who has demonstrated leadership in environmental and cultural conservation by elevating issues of sustainability and inspiring audiences to care about the planet. The National Geographic “Chairman’s Award” was presented to IBM for significantly advancing knowledge of the world through its research partnership with National Geographic on the Genographic Project, which is mapping the migratory history of humans.

“Those recognized last night set the gold standard in exploration, and their passion inspires all of us to care about the planet,” said John Fahey, National Geographic’s chairman and CEO. “It was a privilege to come together to acknowledge these explorers’ many contributions — to our organization, certainly, but ultimately to mankind.”

The theme of the inaugural “Evening of Exploration” celebration was “Oceans,” and the event was attended by an all-star cast of explorers and other luminaries, including newly appointed National Geographic Explorers-in-Residence filmmaker James Cameron and marine ecologist Enric Sala, as well as other Explorers-in-Residence who presented the evening’s awards: oceanographer Robert Ballard, marine biologist Sylvia Earle, wildlife filmmakers Dereck and Beverly Joubert and population geneticist Spencer Wells. Event co-chairs Catherine and Wayne Reynolds, Gayle and Ed Roski, and Christine and Stephen Schwarzman also joined the festivities.

The master of ceremonies was Wolf Blitzer, CNN’s lead political anchor. Following the awards presentation, Johnson performed songs for the crowd. The menu was designed by renowned chef and National Geographic Fellow Barton Seaver. All of the food served was created with ingredients sourced from sustainable farms, and the sushi was made from “invasive species.” Wine was donated by Iron Horse Vineyards. Additional support for the sold-out event was provided by GEICO. Proceeds from the evening will benefit National Geographic’s Explorer programs, comprising the Explorers-in-Residence, Fellows and Emerging Explorers.

The “Evening of Exploration” was the culmination of the two-day National Geographic 2011 Explorers Symposium, an annual event at which National Geographic Explorers-in-Residence, Fellows, Emerging Explorers, grantees and others affiliated with National Geographic gather to share findings of their research and fieldwork and take part in panel discussions.

Jack Johnson

Jack Johnson wins National Geographic Award


Jack Johnson grew up surfing and playing guitar on the North Shore of Oahu. He released his first album, “Brushfire Fairytales,” in 2001 and in the last 10 years has released five more albums that have sold over 20 million copies worldwide. With his success, Johnson has always tried to take the spotlight and shine it on issues important to him. In 2003, Johnson and his wife, Kim, founded the Kokua Hawaii Foundation and Kokua Festival to support environmental education in Hawaii’s schools and communities. Johnson, his Brushfire Records label and his touring crew have been leaders in the greening of the music industry in all areas of tour production and album packaging. In 2008, Johnson donated 100 percent of his tour profits to establish the Johnson Ohana Charitable Foundation, an endowment founded by Jack and Kim Johnson to support environmental, art and music education worldwide. One hundred percent of Johnson’s current “To The Sea” tour profits also will be donated to charity. Tour profits, along with Johnson’s personal charitable activities, have resulted in approximately $25 million donated to charity since 2001.

Johnson and his crew have taken many greening measures to minimize the environmental impacts of the 2010 “To The Sea” tour. These include reducing the use of single-use plastic bottles on tour and on stage, encouraging concert-goers to fill up reusable water bottles for free at water stations at every venue, and working to make the shows zero-waste events through recycling, composting and other means. Over the course of the tour, Johnson is collaborating with over 220 community groups focusing on plastic-free initiatives and sustainable local food systems, as well as environmental education, oceans and watersheds, tree planting and other hands-on community projects. Through his ongoing efforts to promote sustainability and to lead by example, Johnson has exemplified National Geographic’s commitment to inspiring people to care about the planet.

For more information on the other three winners click here: National Geographic honors four at inaugural “Evening of Exploration” celebration.

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