You might know Hello Kitty as a commercial property, appearing as she does on everything from hairdryers to skateboards.
But the iconic Japanese character, it turns out, also has an activist side.
Kitty White, as she is formally known, is throwing her support behind the oceans in a new series of videos for the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). In them, she highlights the plight of coral reefs, which are threatened by overfishing, pollution and warming oceans.
“It is our duty to protect the corals,” she says, clad in diving gear and floating in front of a reef off the Thai island of Koh Toa.
The video is part of a push by environmental organizations, like UNEP, to use famous spokespeople to raise awareness about the dangers facing the environment. In recent years, for example, Brazilian model Gisele Bündchen, four-time African Footballer of the Year Yaya Touré and actor Ian Somerhalder (Vampire Diaries, Lost) have all helped raise awareness about the illegal animal trade through the Wild for Life campaign.
Coral reefs support a quarter of all marine life—up to 9 million species. They also provide half a billion people with jobs and food while protecting coastlines from storms and flooding.
But they are among the world’s “most vulnerable ecosystems” to climate change, says Gabriel Grimsditch, a marine ecosystems expert with UNEP. “Scientists believe we have lost 50 per cent of original coral cover and with projected warming, we stand to lose another 70 to 90 per cent in the coming decades,” he adds.
Video of Hello Kitty’s promotion of the SDGs:
The Hello Kitty video is part of a partnership between the United Nations and Sanrio, the Japanese company behind the character. Launched in 2018, it’s designed to highlight the Sustainable Development Goals, a blueprint for ending poverty and safeguarding the environment. The most recent video focuses on Goal 14—conserving marine resources—and includes UNEP Goodwill Ambassador Nadya Hutagalung.
The first video of the series was released on the opening day of the Sustainable Development Goal Summit 2019 in New York and featured a conversation between Hello Kitty and the UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed.
The quintessential emblem of cute in Japanese popular culture, Hello Kitty debuted in 1974. Paraphernalia bearing her image can be found 130 countries and regions, with more than 50,000 different branded products hitting shelves each year.
“Hello Kitty is bringing her enormous fan base to our global efforts to educate young people, in every part of our world, about the Sustainable Development Goals, and why they should be involved in achieving them,” said Melissa Fleming, Under-Secretary-General for Global Communications with the United Nations.