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Antonia Iannucci: In the Business of Fighting Extinction

Antonia Iannucci is an Italian designer who founded the jewelry company Xtinctio.  When her twin girls were born she found it hard to reconcile the negative environmental impact of the apparel industry with building a future for her children. Antonia felt compelled to seek out a more positive and responsible role.  

Here, she tells us about her relationship with the ocean, and why preserving marine ecosystems is important for all life on Earth.

Standing on the sand looking at the vast expanse of ocean, it was as if I was letting go of a part of myself that, even in my developing mind, held a sacred place.

What is your earliest memory of the ocean?

It was the Tyrrhenian Sea in Italy, a 45 minute drive from my childhood home. I was around five or six years old. My memory is one of never wanting to leave. I remember having to go home and trying to find ways to savor the moment. I wanted to save the physical and emotional space that I found there. More than anything I remember the sense of mourning when I had to let it go. Standing on the sand looking at the vast expanse of ocean, it was as if I was letting go of a part of myself that, even in my developing mind, held a sacred place.

What is your favorite marine creature?

The whale. I find them strikingly beautiful. How can a creature so enormous be so elegant? I find them to be a symbol of the mysteries locked inside the depths of the ocean. They are an enigma. It’s just a feeling, but for some reason, I feel like they know so much more than we humans do. They humble me.

Have you experienced a healthy coral reef ecosystem? If so where, and how did it make you feel?

No. Only in a Jacques Cousteau documentary. To be honest I had never heard of coral reefs until I heard that they were rapidly dying. Having lived in the South of Italy until the age of 18 I was deeply impacted by how joyful and astounding life under the sea was. My fondest memory was snorkeling in the Emerald Coast at around 16 years of age in Sardinia, and observing the most colorful, peaceful, breathless scenery.

Have you seen a badly degraded reef system? How did that make you feel?

Once again, only on a screen as opposed to live in person, but I don’t need to see it in person to feel utterly heartbroken. Understanding what we have done in such a short time to the reefs is tremendously disturbing. It is even more upsetting knowing that my children will never experience what my generation was lucky enough to experience. Not just the healthy reefs but everything that goes along them. A healthy ocean.

What concerns or scares you the most about climate change?

To be honest, seeing that the necessary precautions are not being taken to stop human made climate change is a crime against humanity. It scares me the most that our legal system does not consider it as such. This should give us all pause. Observing the rapidly accelerating wholesale destruction of life on earth every day, everywhere, purely for profit, is truly terrifying.

Why do you, personally, care about coral reefs?

Because I am a parent of young children who knows that without the reefs, the ocean will die and a dead ocean means a dead planet.

Why is protecting and restoring coral reefs relevant to your brand?

When people wear our jewelry they are standing for something, standing on the right side of history. The sale of these pieces don’t just support CRF™, they start conversations and spread awareness. This may sound extreme but we truly believe that it is not ethical or moral for us to be in business in 2019, if we are not actively creating positive change for the earth.

In the words of Jane Goodall, “What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”

Consumers are so often demonized by environmentalists for their purchasing choices. We literally cannot function in the modern world without consuming something that is destroying us. Instead of the onus being on the consumer, most of whom are struggling through their daily lives with way more immediate physical needs on their mind, the onus should be on businesses to lead the charge. If corporations and businesses like us, both big and small,

are not on the front lines of the battle for the earth’s biodiversity, then consumers are left with little choice. We want to give people the choice to make a big difference with something as small as buying pair of earrings for mother’s day.

Why should the average person care about coral reefs?

Because the average person needs life on earth to thrive. They need oxygen, clean water, and food. With the reefs gone the average person won’t be around to care about anything.

In your opinion, what are some of the most powerful tools at our disposal that we can apply to the mission to save coral reefs?

Education is key. Creating a groundswell of public opinion that is so strong it makes it impossible for legislators not to support coral reefs, would make all of the difference. If everyone, everywhere understood how vital the reefs are to all life on earth and how interconnected our precious ecosystems are, it would be much harder to destroy them.

What do you think are some of the easiest ways that the average person can join the mission to save coral reefs from extinction?

All of the obvious things. Try to consume less plastic, less fossil fuels, eat less meat and to use the correct sunscreen. Parents need to embrace uncomfortable conversations with their children about what coral reefs are, and why they are dying.

Do you think there is hope for our coral reefs? Why?

Yes, of course! There is always hope. I am enormously inspired and consoled by the tremendous upswell of young people all around the world speaking truth to power. Uncomfortable and unpopular policies are necessary to reverse the damage that we have caused. Action is impossible without hope and only action can engineer change. In our small way, Xtinctio tries to raise awareness and “convert” as many people as possible, which has a knock on effect of providing more support for organizations like the Coral Restoration Foundation™.

Thanks to organizations such as CRF™, people are understanding more and more, that the Earth is so fragile and that if every single one of us takes small steps in the right direction, the reefs could not just survive but thrive.

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