John Seydel is the third-generation of his family to dedicate his life to finding a solution to environmental problems and promoting social good. His grandfather, media magnate Ted Turner, founded the animated ‘Captain Planet’ series in the 1990s. His Mother Laura Turner Seydel, is an international environmental advocate who wants to help create a sustainable and healthy future for our children. John tells us what the future of leadership looks like and how he intends tackling the problems his generation sees around them.
The face of leadership for my generation will look diverse. We need international cooperation between men and women who take control of global issues and work together to solve them. It’s important to remember that these are human issues.
We should not just tackle the solutions to these problems, but also the roots. For example, with disease, we should not just find the cure, but explore how we prevent them from happening in the first place. This can sometimes be achieved by changing lifestyle choices, but also through something as simple as a bed net – in the case of malaria prevention.
It’s becoming cool to care, and this makes me happy. We’re seeing young people sharing their stories on social media and demonstrating to one another how they’re helping the world in a positive way. It’s spreading a message of peace, volunteerism and positivity that’s encouraging to see. When I first began with social media I saw Facebook as a distraction – the Kardashian’s and funny videos – but it’s motivating to see how this has changed.
Within the next 15 years my generation will be in its prime, and you’re going to see many young people emerging to take the bull by the horns and lead. Words are ok, but action is what we really need. It would be foolish of us to think that an individual, organization or country can achieve all of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals that were recently announced by the United Nations. The only way to make them work is if we have true global cooperation and see these goals as a means to act beyond our own borders. We must act as a united species.
You don’t see poverty anywhere in nature – it’s a human-made problem – and the inequalities that exist today can, likewise, only be fixed through human cooperation. It’s going to take a strong, united group of people who are passionate about saving the world, but we can’t fool ourselves by thinking we can do it alone, or with just one or two other countries. We need everyone to be on-board – social entrepreneurs, millionaires, NGOs, doctors, lawyers and politicians – from every sector and every country.
My inspiration to create change in the world has been closer to home. I’ve been fortunate to grow up in a family that has powerful men and women. My mother has founded multiple organizations that have spurred action and created awareness around social issues. My one grandmother, Pat Mitchell, is the first female CEO of the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) in the U.S. and my other grandmother, Jane Fonda, is a legendary actress and political activist. My grandfather, Ted Turner, the founder of CNN does not need much introduction.
Besides the positive role models within my family, I also look up to people such as Dr. Martin Luther King and Ghandi – both of whom promoted meaningful change through non-violent means. True global security will not come through military force, it will come through non-violence; by uniting and tackling the roots of the problems and not reacting out of hate. The great thing about technology is that it’s enabled a global perspective; we cannot pretend to be ignorant of what’s going on in the world anymore.
I’m a firm believer in getting young people involved in their civic duty and making them realize the voting power they posses. Around the world, our generation feels pessimistic whenever they vote. They feel completely disconnected from their political representatives, who they’ll only hear from when it’s election time, and willing to say anything just to get elected. Whether these politicians ever follow through or not, no one knows (most assume not).
We have to change the way we view politics and start getting people excited about becoming empowered. We are a little spoiled that technology has made our lives so much easier. It’s become easier to get around on transportation and easier to become more educated. One thing that technology needs to make easier is the ability for us to unite on issues that plague us the most.
I look at the next 50 years as a time that will define whether we survive as a species. There’s really no greater motivator in life than that.