BRIDGETOWN, June 5 (Xinhua) -- Ian Somerhalder, an actor best known for his work on the international hit TV Series, "The Vampire Diaries," has a new role, which is of great importance not only to himself, but also to hundreds of thousands of others.
Somerhalder was designated as a United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Goodwill Ambassador Thursday, also the World Environment Day, in Bridgetown, the capital of the small island nation of Barbados.
"Ian Somerhalder is a committed environmentalist who has the capacity to inspire millions of fans worldwide to support conservation and green living," said UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner during a brief designation ceremony. "We are proud of Ian Somerhalder's affiliation with UNEP and we look forward to his active involvement in our initiatives and campaigns."
Besides his formal designation as Goodwill Ambassador, Somerhalder will be taking part in a number of celebrations of the World Environment Day -- a UNEP-led initiative that draws people together each year for concrete action on a particular environmental theme.
A native of the U.S. state of Louisiana, Somerhalder represents a new generation of dedicated environmental activists. He says that his childhood in the delicate Gulf Coast ecosystem -- and the horrific disaster of Hurricane Katrina -- were part of his inspiration to work with UNEP against climate change.
The Ian Somerhalder Foundation makes up a large part of Ian's philanthropic work. For example, it distributes funds and resources towards global conservation, green energy development and educational tools, raises awareness on deforestation and supports efforts to end animal cruelty.
Somerhalder's climate activism also includes his work on a ground-breaking new documentary series, Years of Living Dangerously, whose nine episodes are currently running on the SHOWTIME Network.
Produced by James Cameron, the series sends Somerhalder and other celebrity climate "correspondents," including UNEP Goodwill Ambassador Don Cheadle, to report on real-life stories of climate change from around the world.
"When I found out about this series, my heart jumped out of my chest, because I realized -- finally -- this needs to happen now," said Somerhalder. "What scares me the most about climate change is, within 50 years, half of all species on earth will be extinct. We will be experiencing floods and droughts that will prohibit agriculture and fisheries. It's going to be increasingly difficult for us to get food and water. And within that lies the balance of our very existence."
While in Barbados, Somerhalder will narrate a short film that shines light on climate solutions underway around the world. The video, which will be released by the United Nations Climate Change Secretariat's Momentum for Change initiative in September 2014, aims to inspire others to take similar action.