Raising enough money to plant 20 million trees in a few months would have been enough for most ordinary YouTubers. But YouTube star MrBeast (Jimmy Donaldson) and his frequent collaborator, Mark Rober, are by no means ordinary.
After launching the massively successful environmental campaign #TeamTrees, which raised $20 million to plant 20 million trees in a few months, the two household names teamed up on Oct. 29 for #TeamSeas, with the bigger and more ambitious goal of removing 30 million pounds of trash from the world’s rivers, streams, and oceans. The premise is simple: the two YouTubers teamed up with two prolific ocean cleanup organizations: Ocean Conservancy and Ocean Cleanup. Each dollar donated equals a pound of trash removed from the ocean, and the campaign seeks to raise $30 million by Jan. 1.
The fundraiser has already reached half its goal, despite the fact that only two weeks have passed. While the degree of MrBeast’s philanthropic efforts is quite an anomaly compared to other social media stars, Team Seas is just one of the many causes successfully championed by our generation. Past events include the climate strikes led by Greta Thunberg in 2018, or the March for Our Lives campaign in the same year.
Before donating money to the cause, I had to do some research on where specifically it would go. It’s clear that MrBeast did his research on nonprofits that would put the donations to good use. Here’s what I learned about each organization, so you don’t have to look them up yourself.
About the fundraisers
Ocean Cleanup is focused on removing trash from the world’s oceans using a solar-powered machine called the Interceptor, which floats on rivers and other bodies of water with heavy pollution, autonomously collecting trash. Mark Rober’s video premiering Team Seas showed him comically relaxing on a beach, his Interceptor hard at work, while MrBeast and his friends sweated under the sun to dig and transport trash on the sand.
Ocean Conservancy, on the other hand, is more focused on volunteer efforts to clean up the oceans as well as prevention measures, such as educating others on the importance of keeping our oceans clean. It organizes the International Coastal Cleanup, the largest volunteer organization for ocean health, and works with businesses in polluted areas to help prevent the flow of trash down rivers, which could carry harmful debris into the ocean.
MrBeast’s video premiering the fundraiser involved him doing the hard work that many of the volunteers of Ocean Conservancy will do thanks to his donations. Specifically, he and Rober traveled to areas of the Dominican Republic where rivers can get so filled with floating trash that the water itself is often invisible.
This can be frustrating, but the reason why the pollution is so bad in certain areas adds much complexity to the question of cleaning our seas: people dump their trash in the waters simply because they have nowhere else to put it. These areas lack large enough roads to allow big garbage trucks to pass through, and there’s little space for landfills. I myself had no idea how much of an interconnected problem ocean cleanup is — it’s so much more than simply taking the trash out of the ocean. It goes to show how important it is that our generation pitch in to help save not only the oceans but also the communities that rely on them.
Collaborations with other creators
Though the two YouTubers have enormous reach, this feat is much too great to do alone. As with Team Trees, Rober and MrBeast have enlisted the help of the entire YouTube community to achieve this unprecedented task, calling for all creators to make videos related to saving the seas. Over the past week, tens of thousands of creators, big and small, have lent their voices to the cause in a variety of creative ways. All of these videos and streams are worthwhile watches, and some contain fundraiser-related information that might be important if you want to learn more about the significance of #TeamSeas before you donate.
The $30 million goal, as flashy as it was, was one of few numbers provided by Team Seas to convey to its audience why such a goal was worth pursuing. The Infographics Show’s video on the topic, which is packed with easily-digestible statistics and bright animations, excelled at filling that gap. As an environmental enthusiast myself, the video was thoroughly enjoyable. It effectively communicated the magnitude of ocean pollution while also emphasizing the impact that Team Seas and governments around the world are making, and planning to make, in the coming decades.
Minecraft YouTube and the Dream SMP’s Team Seas Event
The Dream SMP, a survival multiplayer server in the popular sandbox game Minecraft, has also run a major event in support of Team Seas for hundreds of thousands of viewers. Its massively popular streamers (including TommyInnit, Dream, Sapnap, and GeorgeNotFound) participated in an oceanic trash hunt coded into Minecraft. Whoever collected the most trash would win a highly sought-after, unobtainable item called an Elytra, and all proceeds from any of the streamed perspectives went directly towards Team Seas.
One common notion that many outsiders have about YouTube is that the platform is fueled by drama and petty fights between YouTubers. At first glance, the title of this video by Twitch titan MoistCr1TiKaL (known alternatively as penguinz0 on YouTube, or by his real name Charlie White) only contributes to that stereotype.
However, Charlie goes on to shower MrBeast and his environmental efforts with compliments. As MrBeast is such a beloved figure on YouTube, I didn’t really expect anything else, and Charlie’s commentary makes the video hilarious.
Diving into traditional media — and the changing definition of “celebrity”
To ensure that the fundraiser reaches its astronomical goal, MrBeast and Rober have been doing more than ever before to promote Team Seas. Specifically, it appears that the duo has been turning to older, more traditional forms of media as well: he and Rober appeared on a recent episode of Jimmy Kimmel Live on YouTube. Given that this is their primary platform, the video has already amassed more views than many of Kimmel’s interviews with those that we typically see as “celebrities” — musicians, actors, and models. It’s a testament to the reach of social media stars and the fact that the notion of a celebrity is changing; as Kimmel joked during the interview, his “sidekick” Guillermo’s son had never asked to come onto the show until he learned that MrBeast and Rober were visiting.
This endearing fact just goes to show how much power “Gen Z” has in terms of enacting change through the Internet, though many may still believe that YouTube and other social media platforms are just videos about drama and video games. MrBeast stated in his video that while the primary goal of the fundraiser is to clean the world’s oceans, it’s also to show society that our generation can make a difference beyond, in his words, “just retweets.”
So if you would like to make that difference, no matter how small, go over to teamseas.org and donate!
Claire Shin is a Contributing Writer for The Prospect at the ‘Prince.’ She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Instagram at @claireshin86, or on TikTok also at @claireshin86.