Free the Ocean Interviews

Interview with Susan Rockefeller

Susan and her husband David Rockefeller

I was honored to recently interview Susan Rockefeller – an activist, creative, and leading businesswoman, a true force. Her insightful and intelligent answers truly inspired me. I believe they will do the same for you…

1. “Musings are ideas that inspire imagination and action for a better world.” I love this quote. Can you share what your inspiration was behind Musings magazine?

I wanted to highlight and share hope and inspiration about our common future. My intention was for people to read Musings and be inspired by the innovative, passionate entrepreneurs, scientists, artists and others, all working to make a difference in our world. I also wanted to create a beautiful design of something that would land in people’s email inbox twice monthly as an exciting addition to their digital intake of information. I believe that we need imagination and inspiration to come together as one. Musings is one way for me to make a difference and create a ripple effect of information and inspiration to the thousands who read it.    

2. As a big ocean and environmental activist, what do you think are the most pressing issues for the health of our planet?

Drawing down carbon. We need to find ways across all sectors to use less carbon dioxide and fossil fuels. I work on what I call ‘healthy soils and healthy seas.’ My interest is in keeping our oceans bountiful and reducing ocean acidification due to global warming. If the oceans continue to become more acidic, the basic building blocks of the ocean—the pteropods and krill which have calcium shells—won’t be able to reproduce. This means we will witness a total collapse of our ocean ecosystem. I sit on the board of Oceana to support the work of the best and brightest ocean advocates and scientists to enforce fishing regulations, minimize by-catch, protect fish habitat and fight offshore drilling. 

It is important to also consider the chemicals put into soil which, when used in industrial agriculture, run off into our waterways, causing eutrophication of our oceans and estuaries. We need to reimagine our agricultural systems and work towards a more regenerative system of building soil fertility and biomass, retaining water absorption and building micronutrients that can keep our agriculture and soil ecosystem intact. We need to move from fossil fuels to clean energy. We all need to make choices on a personal level. We need to hold government and corporations accountable.

3. Why is awareness and education of these issues so important?

If people are not educated to understand what is at risk, they will continue to do the status quo. It is so important for them to understand human and planetary health, and how our actions can make a difference and empower us to contribute in a meaningful way towards a more sustainable future. We must mobilize on every level, with governments, industry and NGOs. The UN Sustainable Development Goals should be implemented in all school and college curriculum so that we all understand how our choices can create positive impact. Educate young leaders with an ecological and planetary conscience so the environment is considered in decision making at all levels.

4. What is the most shocking fact you’ve heard about plastic pollution?

That it will continue to rise exponentially…
A million plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute.
Worldwide, about 2 million plastic bags are used every minute.
Plastic is killing more than 1.1 million seabirds and animals every year.
The average person eats 70,000 micro-plastics each year.
This will only get worse. And what upsets me most is that if we don’t stop the production of plastic from the source, we will experience (in our lifetime) a mass extinction of marine mammals.

“This will only get worse. And what upsets me most is that if we don’t stop the production of plastic from the source, we will experience (in our lifetime) a mass extinction of marine mammals.”

5. What are some of the ways you try to be a part of the solution, not the pollution, in your everyday life?

I eat 95 percent plant-based. I have my own bees and want to help with the pollination crisis. I am traveling less and using video conferencing more. I refuse as much single-use plastic as possible. I work with Oceana and Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture to help protect our oceans and a vision towards a sustainable farming and food culture.

I would suggest anyone reading this to understand that personal choices are political. You can vote with your fork three times a day. You can refuse single-use plastic. You can join an NGO and give your time, treasure or talent and you can use your social media network to educate others.

6. Do you believe in the power of nature to help heal? How do you stay connected to nature?

I strongly believe in the power of nature to heal. I also believe in the power of love to heal. My husband and I have a mantra to ‘Protect What is Precious.’ The three pillars are family, art and nature. Family can build a strong foundation of love, art is a universal language and the highest form of human experience, and nature is what gives us our life. If we don’t take care of nature, we will suffer. It is full of magic and wonder, and leads one to gratitude and humility for being part of this remarkable planet we call home.

7. What is one of your favorite memories of the ocean?

Being with my brother and sister out on the east end of Long Island, playing in the sand, building sand castles and swimming in ocean waves. Then coming out of the ocean and being wrapped in towels before having a beach picnic with my parents. Memories of the freedom of sun, sand and ocean waves. I always felt so happy by the ocean and continue to feel this way. I still spend time on the east end of Long Island and love it there.

8. Who is someone you look up to or admire in the environmental activism space?

Kris Tompkins who is an American conservationist and the former CEO of Patagonia. She is the widow of businessman and outdoor adventurer, Douglas Tompkins. Together, they worked to create large wilderness conservation parks in Argentina and Chile. Kris works tirelessly to keep these wild places wild and revert them to their original state.