You don’t need a lot of money. Or a lot of experience. Olivia Bouler — a young Islip, New Yorker who really loves birds — is proof that anyone can make a difference.
Four years ago when the Deepwater Horizon offshore oil rig (which, at the time, was leased by BP) spilled 200 gallons of crude oil onto the Gulf of Mexico (a place where Olivia spent many vacations with her cousins and grandparents who live in Louisiana and Alabama), she was so distraught that her beloved birds and other animals were suffering that she immediately wanted to help.
Armed with nothing more than her arts supplies and a whole lot of passion, the 11-year-old contacted the National Audubon Society to see what she could do to help.
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As Yes! Magazine reports, the youngster painted pictures of hundreds of bird species and set up her own web page where she sold her art. Incredibly, she painted more than 500 watercolors, raising $200,000 to go towards the Audubon’s wildlife rescue and recovery efforts.
Her efforts did not escape the attention of the media. The inspiring fifth grader appeared on several prominent news outlets including the Today Show, CBS Evening News and was recognized as a Champion of Change by the White House.
Olivia, now a high schooler, recently put out a children’s book of her artwork called Olivia’s Birds: Saving the Gulf, with part of the proceeds going to Audubon. On behalf of bird and wildlife advocacy, she also makes speaking engagements across the country, and her artwork has also been displayed in a traveling exhibition to encourage others to join her effort.
(Let’s not forget that Olivia’s accomplished all of this before she’s even old enough to vote.)
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Four years later, the BP oil spill — the biggest one in U.S. history —  is still hurting local economies and ecosystems. And BP’s own efforts to clean up their spill could be making people sick.
Even more alarming, however, is that it seems like BP’s spill is just the tip of the iceberg: Oil spills increased 17 percent in 2013. Just last year alone, EnergyWire writes, “the oil industry spilled more than 26 million gallons of oil, hydraulic fracturing fluid, ‘fracking’ wastewater and other substances….the same volume as what gushed four years ago from BP PLC’s ruptured Gulf of Mexico oil well in 11 days.”
Making it clear that we need more people like Olivia — giving of their time and their talents — all in the name of the environment.