Hope Springs Eternal: 14 Thought Leaders Provide Their Take on 2021

With everything that was thrown at us in 2020, and everything we continue to throw out at the world in turn, early January 2021 has often felt like a lonely place to be, with a long year of unknowns ahead. But hope springs eternal, as they say, and here at Plastic Oceans International we thought that hearing from a wide range of notable voices, on their hopes for this new year would help us all gather ourselves and push on towards brave, positive horizons.

This is the first in a new series for our blog. Beyond being a one-off, we will bring you an In Their Words: Leading Voices On The Health of Our Planet on a variety of environmental topics throughout 2021. If there are any questions that you would like us to ask, let us know! Each installment will feature a very eclectic mix of people … from environmentalists and scientists, to actors, musicians, athletes, politicians, educators, every day people and more. 

In the meantime, enjoy these words from this month’s collection of voices providing their thoughts on the hope of 2021:

CEO of Plastic Oceans international

“2020 highlighted how we are very much connected to each other and nature. Borders alone cannot protect our health or our environment – reminding us that we live together as one affected by each other’s choices. I hope in 2021 to continue to rethink how I defineTeam to include not only people, but the environment and all of its living creatures. I hope to take the time to think of our connections, both seen and unseen, and the impact of my choices on the broader team of which I am a part.” 


Co-Founder and CEO of Plastic Pollution Coalition

“We believe 2021 is the year for pivotal systems change. The movement to stop plastic pollution has come so far since we founded Plastic Pollution Coalition 11 years ago. From youth speaking up to stop plastic pollution and climate change to corporations and businesses reducing their plastic footprint on the earth, and hundreds of pieces of legislation created across the world to stop plastic pollution—like the groundbreaking U.S. federal Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act. The events of 2020—the global pandemic and movement to end racism and systemic oppression—show us that we must change. Let’s work together to create a more sustainable, just, equitable, and regenerative world.”

CEO of Atando Cabos 

“2020 was a difficult year for humanity, but for the environment it was a year of relief. The lockdowns allowed nature to take back its place, and for us humans to realize our effects on it. Today I see with hope what is coming, we realized that if we give the planet a break, the improvements in ecosystems are almost immediate. It also showed that companies and businesses that have a focus on sustainability are much more resilient in these difficult times. I invite you to take advantage of what 2020 taught us, to value nature, to enjoy it and to be more aware of our effects on it.”

Mari Copeny

MARI COPENY “Little Miss Flint”
13-year-old Environmental Justice Activist, philanthropist and future president

“My hope for the next twelve months is to see the water crisis that many Americans are facing comes to the forefront of media and in our government so we can work on fixing the water crisis nationwide and stop pushing it out of sight and out of mind.”


World-record Endurance Swimmer and Founder of Breathe Ocean Conservation 

“My hope for 2021 is that nature wins. My hope is that 2020 has taught us how, with a little respite, nature has an incredible ability to restore itself. My hope is that covid does not further destroy the lives of people or the planet through its devastating effects both silent and through disposable ppe. If we continue to consume less, support local and refuse single use products, we have a shot at living in harmony with nature and restoring the balance. We need nature now more than ever. Let 2021 be a year of restoration both for us as humans and the planet. My hope is that people will fully grasp the concept of living deeply and treading lightly.”

Native American activist and Spokesperson for the International Leonard Peltier Defense Committee

“Indigenous People have been fighting this war to protect this portion of Earth and Nature for 529 years, and 2021 will be an added year to that battle. Saving nature hinges on an attitude founded in Native American Culture and Traditions. Our Traditions teach us to live in a way that Earth can renew itself every Spring, take no more than we need, and leave things as good or better than we found them. The destruction of Mother Earth will continue until there are enough people willing to do what it takes to stop the onslaught on Nature.”

Founder & CEO of One Tree Planted

“There’s light at the end of the tunnel, knowing that things are going to open up, but we still have the question of when. 2020 brought to light the value of the environmental scope of things. Companies had time to reflect and realize that there are more things to consider than just the bottom line. We’ve seen that you can work remotely and still be productive, and thus reduce that carbon footprint with less driving and fewer flights. Find one thing you can do. Collectively, it does make a difference.” 

Actor, Filmmaker and Global Ambassador for Plastic Oceans International 

“It is more and more common to hear people say we humans are a virus upon the earth. Earth, our mother, is ancient and we humans are no more than mayflies in the scope of astronomical time. The simple fact is that if we are a virus, we won’t survive if we kill our host. We must develop a metaphorical vaccine that will change our thinking and open our eyes to environmental reality. We must find a vaccine that will put the value of sustainability and harmony with the earth over unfettered consumer consumption and waste.” 

Founder and CEO of Algramo

“2020 was a watershed year in illuminating flaws in business-as-usual economic systems and society in general. We are hopeful that 2021 will bring new ways of looking at the economy and society where we can strike a balance between a strong and socially inclusive economy that also respects planetary boundaries. This would enable people today to live with dignity and not jeopardize the environment for future generations. An opportunity that excites me is Doughnut Economics. It’s exciting to see The City of Amsterdam, and now the state of Ireland, planning to use Doughnut Economics as their post-Covid economic recovery strategy.”

Research Fellow at the University of Plymouth (UK) and Research Scientist at National Geographic  

“The last year has certainly been difficult in more ways than one. However, it has given us the opportunity to pause and reconsider what is important. My hopes for 2021 are that we remind ourselves what we have learnt. Provide small acts of kindness to support our loved ones and community. Go outside to appreciate being in nature, whilst breathing in that fresh air. Remember to take time for ourselves to reset. Live within our own means without buying unnecessary items. Everyone has their own lessons to take forward. No matter how small, they are still important.”  

Wallace J. NicholsDR. WALLACE J. NICHOLS
Scientist, activist and community organizer

“My hope is that our leaders, agencies, schools, health professionals, non-profits, artists and businesses put blue mind science into practice. We’ve had a record level of red mind (anxiety, distraction and stress) leading to gray mind (burnout, breakdown and disconnection). We can all use more time near, in, on and under our wild, domestic, urban and virtual waters. Let’s remember to keep our lakes, rivers and oceans accessible and healthy for their physical, emotional, spiritual and social wellness benefits—for all people, for life. I wish you water.”

Filmmaker, director of the award-winning documentary Eating Up Easter

“I hope that we as a society can lean into our discomfort. The more we do it the easier it will be to make difficult decisions that lead us to healthier, more peaceful resolutions to our current crisis and dilemmas. Together we can do it. Divided we have not chance, so I look forward to 2021 as a year of collaboration.”



Chef, author of The Plantiful Plate and co-author of Living Without Plastic

“Last year showed how fragile our planet is and how we have the power to make a change when the world unites. 2021 is the time to take action on all the insightful events of the past twelve months – time to heal and reset; to continue the fight for racial justice; and to address environmental issues with the same urgency as we did for the pandemic. We can do this!”


Merijn TingaMERIJN TINGA (Plastic Soup Surfer)
Visual Artist, Biologist and Surfer

“Never waste a good crisis; I hope we can draw on the solidarity we have felt in the fight of the common enemy and cash in steps towards sustainability permanently.”




We thank all of these thought leaders for providing their answers and we look forward to bringing you many other voices in the coming weeks and months. Here’s to 2021; to aiming high; to finding our better angels.