This Week in 2007 is a weekly column looking back on Lindsay Lohan, the first iPhone, George W. Bush, and everything else we loved about the year 2007.
Pop culture fans consider 2007 the year of Britney Spears, while politicos see it as the year of impending economic doom. They are both wrong. According to the United Nations, 2007 is the official Year of the Dolphin. The international coalition's Environment Convention Programme on Migratory Species dedicated 2007 to the marine mammal to raise awareness of the animal's plight.
They were riffing off their successful 2004 initiative, the International Year of the Rice, during which they publicized the "role that rice can play in providing food security and eradicating poverty." Ten years ago this week, the UN announced that they had turned to what seems like the best celebrity they could find to save dolphins: Backstreet Boy Nick Carter.
The boybander was far from his "I Want It That Way" height. His attempted solo career went nowhere, and Backstreet Boys' 2005 single, "Just Want You to Know," peaked at 70 on the Billboard Hot 100, but E!'s series House of Carters, which chronicled Nick and his younger brother Aaron's turbulent time living together, had kept him relevant. Saturday Night Live even parodied Nick and Aaron's fights over girls and attempts to perform hip-hop. Nick was just reality TV famous, but as President Donald Trump has proven, reality TV fame can be just as valuable as old-fashioned celebrity.
Controversial stars also seem to love dolphins more than goody-goody movie stars. Dolphins saved Axl Rose in the 1993 Guns N' Roses video "Estranged," and during recent concerts, he has sang in front of CGI animation of dolphins. Anti-vaxxer Jenny McCarthy loves to swim with the sea mammal. Dolphins are the sea animal of divisive celebrities.
In other words, Nick was the perfect candidate for the role of Special Ambassador of the Year of the Dolphin. Plus, he seems to care about dolphins' rights.
"Everyone loves dolphins," he said in a May 18, 2007 press release announcing his role. "Yet, we are still driving them to extinction. They face numerous threats such as being caught in fishing nets, disoriented by noise of boats and sonars and poisoned by more and more waste in the oceans. Global warming is threatening for most dolphins as well."
He promised to release educational videos and record a new song, "Believe," for the animals. (The song does not appear to have been released; Nick did not return Broadly's request for comment.)
At a June 2007 award ceremony for his role as the Special Ambassador of the Year of the Dolphin, Nick seemed to acknowledge the strangeness of his UN status, saying, "You may wonder how I became involved in this organization." His answer: "I grew up in Florida."
He spent his days "boating, sailing, surfing, snorkeling, and diving," and years later, while surfing in California, he came across a pod of dolphins. "They played with us for a little while," Nick gushed. "I will never forget the joy it brought me. I still think of it often, to this day."
Nick assumed dolphins lived lush lives. "I'm sure, like me, you thought dolphins were safe," he explained. But he learned that actions "such as polluting, dumping, over-fishing, not recycling—they're all contributing to climate change" and killing dolphins. And he's right; recent studies have shown warmer water can suppress dolphins' immune system, leading to death from otherwise survivable viruses. Nick wanted humans to change to save his favorite animal.
The Backstreet Boy seems to have stopped discussing dolphins in recent years, but his Year of the Dolphin goes beyond mere press stunt. Last year, he performed a charity concert for the Cancer Foundation of the Florida Keys. Nick cares. And is all his dolphin talk makes you want to see Nick at sea, Refinery 29 reports that you can attend the sixth annual Backstreet Boy Cruise.