What is amazing about Olivia is the way that she was able to raise money for the Audobon Society’s cause—Olivia drew 500 original drawings of the wildlife, sold them, and donated the proceeds to the foundation. Because of her extraordinary efforts in getting people to help, Olivia has been recognized and awarded by various well-known organizations and groups. Aside from being an award-winning philanthropist and artist, Olivia is also a wonderful author. Olivia wrote the book “Olivia’s Birds: Saving the Gulf,” which garnered huge support from the community.
Olivia is the recipient of the Youth Leadership Award, the Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes, and the ASPCA Humane Award. Her talent in art has also earned her recognitions, such as the Audobon Artist Inspiring Conservation Award and being named as an AOL Artist. More recently, Olivia was included by Youth Service America in their list of the 25 Most Powerful and Influential Young People in the World, which showcases just how powerful of an inspiration and encouragement she has been.
A Young Environmental Activist
It is so amazing and inspiring to learn that even at a young age, people like Olivia have already taken steps to contribute to the care and preservation of the environment. Oftentimes, the young people of our society are taught to leave the “seemingly” big issues such as human rights and environmental protection and conservation to adults, hindering and suppressing the development of their desire to be able to do something for their communities.
Olivia, however, does not believe this. To her, kids can do as much change as adults can, given the chance. And though their skills and talents may vary, Olivia often says how people can use their unique gifts to help preserve the environment and save our world. In a blog she wrote, Olivia says:
“Every one of us has a great gift we can use to help the earth. Everyone, at any age, can do something, whether it is picking up trash along the side of the road, filling a bird feeder, or bringing reusable bags to the grocery store. For me, I used my artwork. Find your cause and use your talents. The quality of our world is counting on you.”
For someone as young as Olivia, it is so remarkable to find such insight and understanding on the connection between society, the environment, and the problems that mankind is facing today. Olivia recognizes the truth that every small act of kindness we show makes a great impact if they are seen through the lenses of the overall story. In an Earth Day blog, Olivia says:
“Sometimes we are left to wonder why this world has so much pain and hurt. Why do we lose the ones we love, the ones we try so hard to save? Life is so fragile, with ups and downs just like a bird in flight. We need to protect that bird in all of us. On Earth Day, my goal is to follow the words of Mahatma Gandhi, to be the change I want to see in the world. The little things we do, the small hello, the holding the door open... they can be all the hope in one's life. If there is still one light of hope, the darkness isn't quite so dark.”
There are times that when people hear of environmental protection and conservation, they readily identify such concepts with hindering the growth and development of technology and society by putting us back to the “Stone Age.” Olivia, however, counters this by stating:
“Protecting the environment isn't about stopping progress. We just need to put the eco back into our economy. There are huge opportunities in renewable resources. I mean, have you ever heard of a solar spill? By investing in alternative energy, we are investing in our economy and our habitat. I may only be 12, but it sounds good to me.”
Getting Inspiration from Father and Brother Jackson
Olivia Bouler was born in 1999 in Long Island, New York. Her father, James Bouler was an architect who worked on green projects, hence becoming the first inspiration for Olivia in pursuing her career. Like Olivia, James was also a passionate advocate for environmental protection by discouraging the use of pesticides, since chemicals that are found in pesticides are poisonous to the innocent creatures of the wildlife. Aside from this, James also promoted the idea of commercial and public establishments to set aside a portion of their land for natural planting for a greener community.
Olivia’s younger brother, Jackson, was greatly inspired by the work done by his older sister. An outdoor person, Jackson was a recipient of the Best Conservation Message Award from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, and was named as an Everyday Young Hero by Youth Service America. Seeing how his sister was already making huge impact in society in spite of his age, Jackson was inspired to do the same. As such, Olivia began to value the efforts of the youth because of the passion she saw in her brother. Olivia said of her brother in an interview:
“It was my eight–year–old brother Jackson who truly inspired me. As he described his love for the outdoors, I realized that it was essential to save our precious resources for kids like him, like those I met this weekend and for me. In other words, if we don't want to inherit pollution and deforestation, our generation needs to stand up and get involved, no matter how small we are. It's our only chance to save our planet. There is no tomorrow, only now. If we do not act now, there will be no tomorrow for us and the other inhabitants of our Earth.”
Because of her family, Olivia grew up having the same kind of love for the environment, although she wished a different path, developing a desire to become an ornithologist, someone who studies birds. As a student, Olivia exhibited amazing intellect and memory, often astounding her teachers for memorizing things very quickly, especially in the area of sciences. Olivia was also a talented artist, her skills being honed by her constant drawing.
The Gulf Coast Oil Spill Incident in 2010
Ever since Olivia was very young, she already had a fondness for the Gulf Coast which she and her family frequently visited during the summer for vacation. And so in 2010, after learning of the disastrous “Deepwater Horizon oil spill” which was caused by the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, a massive amount of oil covered a huge portion of the Gulf of Mexico. Olivia was deeply saddened by the incident, knowing how devastating the effects of the oil spill will be to the wildlife around the Gulf, she decided to do whatever she can in order to help.
Olivia said in a blog she wrote years later:
“When I first heard about the oil spill, I was devastated. I grew up visiting the Gulf of Mexico's pristine beaches, spotting birds and feeding the dolphins. I knew it was nesting season, and that danger was ahead especially for the brown pelicans who had just come off the endangered species list. The oil spill ruined the quality of life for thousands of birds, animals, and people who live along the Gulf coast.”
Olivia started by writing a letter to the National Audobon Society, an organization that focuses on environmental protection, from where she learned of the Gulf Coast oil spill incident. In the letter, Olivia stated:
“As you all are aware of, the oil spill in the Gulf is devistating (sic). My mom has already donated a lot of money to help, but I have an idea that may also help. I am a decent drawer, and I was wondering if I could sell some bird paintings and give the profits to your organization. -Olivia Bouler, 11 years old and willing to help.”
The National Audobon Society responded to Olivia’s request, thanked and appreciated her genuine efforts in contributing her drawing skills for the tragic incident. And so, Olivia spent a lot of her time drawing various pictures of birds and donated them to the foundation. In spite of the initial apprehensions on how her drawings would sell, Olivia remained steadfast, believing that people have an innate desire to appreciate and help.
Olivia Gets AOL’s Attention
Olivia was right. Not long after she started donating the paintings, the National Audobon Society requested for more due to the demand. Eventually, the workload became too heavy for Olivia, so she started selling the drawings, with the proceeds directly given to Audobon.
It was not long before Olivia’s efforts became known to the public. AOL, a well-known website and emailing company, learned of Olivia’s philanthropic work and promoted it online. It became very successful, and soon enough Olivia began receiving hundreds of thousands of emails every week. AOL partnered with Olivia, creating an AOL Artists page for her and donating twenty five thousand dollars to the National Audobon Society.
Olivia’s work was so inspiring that the people that learned of her efforts could not help but volunteer and do what they can to help the cause. Delta Willis, the spokesperson for Audobon, said of Olivia:
“What Olivia did was inspire other kids to do something positive. So many people were feeling outraged and sad, and they couldn't rush down there and volunteer.”
It was just so amazing. From the time Olivia began to raise funds for Audobon’s efforts in the Gulf Coast, she has helped raise over 200 thousand dollars to help in the cleaning operations at the Gulf of Mexico.
Olivia Bouler Releases a Book
In 2012, Olivia wrote and released her book, “Olivia’s Birds: Saving the Gulf,” and dedicated a portion of the sales to the National Audobon Society. When she was interviewed about the book, Olivia said:
“So the book, it is basically facts about birds to get you to love them, to see how fascinating and wonderful they are. More things on how to help them, and everything about all environmental things to help out the world. A little biography about me. Tips on how you get started—set up a bird feeder.”
Today, Olivia continues her efforts in helping preserve the environment. From getting people to help on the oil spill issue in the Gulf of Mexico, Olivia has now expanded her work and began to focus more on bigger issues in terms of environmental conservation and wildlife protection. For Olivia, the work has only begun, and now she encourages her fellow youths to start doing their part in making this world a better place to live.
Organizations and Programmes Supported
- Young Voices for the Planet
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
- National Audobon Society
- Roots and Shoots
Awards and Achievements
- 2010: Received the ASPCA Humane Award for Kid of the Year
- 2010: Received the Youth Leadership Award from Animal World
- 2010: Named as a People Magazine Hero
- 2010: Named as an AOL Artist
- 2011: Received the IQLA Award for Youth in Action Humanitarian
- 2011: Won the Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes
- 2011: Received the Audobon Artist Inspiring Conservation Award
- 2012: Included in the 25 Most Powerful and Influential Young People in the World by Youth Service America
- Included in Disney’s Friends for Change
- Named a Champion of Change by the White House
- Named as a Kohl’s Cares National Winner