In this episode, I talk with Noah Chesnin. Noah shares a breadth of knowledge on ocean conservation. He’s spent time volunteering or working in several aquariums throughout the country since as a teenager in the ‘90s. He talks about his passion for ocean issues, including making individual changes, group efforts, and policies. Listeners can learn about why we all need to be supporting the ocean ranging from aesthetic purposes to public health reasons. Noah, an appropriate name for someone passionate about ocean issues, will spend a lifetime to help us all breathe easier, enjoy a dip in the ocean, and help us consume healthy protein from the ocean.
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Noah Chesnin grew up in the Pacific Northwest. From an early age, he loved swimming in and exploring the varied coastal waters of the region. His parents, friends and mentors encouraged a love of marine science and also inspired a sense of public service. Building on those experiences – and with an exciting detour studying Medieval French Literature – he is devoting his career to advancing community-based approaches to marine conservation. Now living in New York, he works on ocean conservation policy issues and seeks to build diverse advocates for marine conservation.
To support Noah’s favorite charity, please contribute to Page 73. Page 73’s mission is to develop and produce the work of early-career playwrights who have shown a commitment to playwriting as a career but who have yet to receive a professional production in New York City.
JK: Welcome to the You Are A Philanthropist podcast. Today, we’re talking with Noah Chesnin. Noah is a nonprofit employee who has worked with Aquarium since the 1990s as both a volunteer and a nonprofit employee. Today, we’re going to talk with him about his career in nonprofits.
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JK: Noah, welcome to the show.
NC: Hi, Jenn. Thanks for having me.
JK: I’m thrilled to have you here today. We haven’t talked to a nonprofit employee, and this isn’t something nonprofit employees think a lot about, because when we’re doing our work, we’re thinking about the people who are giving a lot of money to nonprofits. I’m really happy that you’re here and telling us about how you became involved with ocean conservation.
NC: Yeah, I’m excited to be here as well. And my love for the ocean really started in high school and maybe even younger, going to the beach, going to the ocean and just the curiosity of exploring a tide pool and wanting to learn about the species that were present or how things changed from high to low tide, things like that. And in high school, I had the opportunity with support from my parents and other family members to volunteer at the Aquarium in the city where I grew up and then– at the Seattle Aquarium, we work in Seattle. And that experience really was very formative. There was a mentor, first off, but I always want to thank the people that really helped help me. And this woman, Sue Donahue Smith, who was the volunteer coordinator, was an incredibly important figure in my early development and interest in ocean issues.
NC: And I think coming into that experience, first I was like I was very nervous and probably socially awkward, as many teens are, but I was passionate about ocean issues and really interested to learn more. And the aquarium provided a place where I could learn about marine science, but then also share that passion with people, talking to people as they walked by a tank or giving a tour to a school or a family and their friends. And the experience at the aquarium not only helped expand my understanding of ocean issues, so in that sense it really enriched my understanding of the world, but also gave me the tools to talk to people I didn’t know, where I would normally be nervous about and interacting with someone that I didn’t know. When I put on the Seattle Aquarium High School– and it was just like a t shirt. When I put on the T-shirt, I felt more confident as a high school student felt like I had something to share and something to say, but also had the privilege to talk to people that might not listen to me if I was just out somewhere, and that we could have a conversation. And that was both– it was sort of a two-way dialogue where I would share information about the ocean and then learn as well, learn about their experience. And that experience in high school volunteering at the Seattle Aquarium really showed me how rewarding it is to volunteer, how it can connect issues that I cared about with issues that other people cared about and just sort of build a community in a way that seemed really, really meaningful to me, and that helped inform my own career. And now after working for environmental NGOs, non-governmental organizations that do conservation work, or working in the government for a bit, I’m actually now back in aquarium. In a different role than as working as a full-time paid employee, but having that opportunity to sometimes engage with visitors or other members of the public about those ocean issues and things–and in a sense of privilege to come full circle.
JK: That’s terrific. And I’m curious, was this a program designed for high school students, or were you part of a blended group of adults and high school students?
NC: The Seattle Aquarium at the time had a volunteer program for high school students that I was a part of that, and I think they also had adult volunteers, and there was a pretty rigorous training I remember. This is back before we used the internet as much as we do today, and there was a huge binder of photocopied materials. So they had a very solidified training program, and scientists from the aquarium came and talked to the students in the program. And then there was– so you learned about marine science, but you also had to learn about communication, how to talk to people about these issues for whether it’s different age groups or being sensitive to people with different learning abilities or that speak different languages and finding ways to communicate as much as learning about the technical details about like a seahorse or a seal or something like that.
JK: Is this something that other aquariums you can think of have established teenager programs?
NC: Yeah. It’s very common. I’m partially involved with the work that the aquarium I work with now does with teens, but it’s a primary focus for a lot of, I would say, almost all aquariums, trying to build that new cohort of ocean stewards. And it’s not just for people who think they want to devote their career to ocean issues. You could be a baker or want to be a baker or a ballet dancer or a writer, but you might be interested in ocean issues or science issues. And so the program is not always– it’s not really targeted necessarily. It’s like a career program, but it’s sort of a community and science communication type of program as well.
JK: Now, when you were doing this program in the 1990s, was this part of a community service program, or were your parents modeling behavior of giving back? How did you get involved with the aquarium?
NC: So I think there were many different ways that sort of encouraged me to volunteer. So first from the family perspective that was highly valued, I would say, that comes out of, I think, a long tradition of my family of this sense of public service as an important part of how we contribute to our community. And that could be working in government. Both my grandparents on my mom’s side worked in government at different times during their career. But also teaching on my dad’s side, my grandparents were involved in the teaching of their community and things like that. So it didn’t have to necessarily be like working for government. From my high school experience, my high school did require some number of hours of volunteer service, I think, over the four-year high school experience. And so maybe that was a partial reason to start. But I far exceeded the number of hours because, first off, I love the experience, but also because it was just an important part of learning. And so it was definitely encouraged by my parents that you can learn it in the schoolroom, you can learn in a book, but you can also learn through community service and participate in the activities of your community in campus–definitely valued by my parents. And so there were a lot of reasons why I volunteered to be a part of it.
JK: I love that you mentioned how putting on that t-shirt at the aquarium helped you build confidence. I’m wondering, was it difficult for you to to be having a passion for the ocean that in your teenage years when people are playing football and studying for exams? Was it abnormal to be focused on ocean issues?
NC: Well, I think, in my high school, I didn’t know as many people that were interested in ocean issues per se, but that was one of the other wonderful things about volunteering at the aquarium in the high school program and it was called The High School Naturals Program at the time. I think it’s changed its name. But you found a community of people, peers. I’m still in close touch with some of the other friends and co-volunteers that I met through that program. And this is now more than half my life ago, 20 odd years. And so you met other friends that were– other high school students that were interested in science that maybe you wouldn’t have met otherwise. So I think, for example, one friend, Katrina, she went to a whole– she lived in a different side of–not in Seattle, but outside the city, and went to a different high school. And I’m convinced we wouldn’t have met if it hadn’t been for the aquarium. And we still keep in touch. She has visited me and my partner here in New York before and stuff like that. So you build these lasting friendships as well as being able to contribute and help support the organization that we cared about.
JK: That’s terrific. I did a lot of volunteer service when I was a teenager, but I never thought about it as a lifelong career. I just thought about it as something I enjoyed at the time. How did it turn into a career for you?
NC: After high school, I went to college and studied medieval literature and art history. So I was always torn between ocean science and the humanities, our history. And as I was sort of thinking about different career options, I either wanted to be a museum curator or work on ocean conservation issues. And so, after college, I moved to Boston and worked for a really great conservation advocacy organization just to sort of try out what it felt like to work on ocean conservation issues as a job and to see if that was something that I wanted to pursue– additional education like go to graduate school for. And I really loved that work, but at the same time I missed that– I worked for ocean conservation policies. So I worked with government officials or talked to other stakeholders, people in fishing communities, or from other ocean-related businesses. But what I really missed was that connection to the public. And so, while I was in Boston, I also volunteered at the New England Aquarium. I had this sort of bifurcated sort of experience where, during the week, Monday through Friday, I worked on ocean policy issues primarily and loved the ideas, but missed the connection to people. And then every Sunday morning, I would go down to the New England Aquarium and volunteer to talk to the public and sort of think about the ways to communicate these issues to the broader public. And I did that work and volunteer work for about five years, thinking about how to sort of sustain that work and support the New England Aquarium. And what I really loved was how to find a way to do both, some of that policy work to help influence the sort of systemic change but also to build that public support and awareness by going in every Sunday morning.
NC: And the funny thing about this, actually, as I think about it– every Sunday I would leave the apartment in about the same time to make sure that I could walk about a mile to the T to take the 30, 40-minute train ride into Boston from the apartment in Somerville, an inner-city suburb of sort of metro Boston area. And so I would always leave the apartment more or less at the same time and listen to the radio because I didn’t have an iPod at the time. And the same song always came up, Sunday Kind Of Love. Every Sunday morning, the radio station would start that segment with Sunday Kind Of Love, which would sort of tee off the day of going to the Aquarium to volunteer. And I really liked, in a sense, that sort of ritual– a secular ritual, of course, sort of experiencing the start of the volunteer day with the same song, so.
JK: So, I hear you saying that volunteering really helped you hone in on what your skill set and passions are, for you, personally.
NC: Yes. Yeah, absolutely. It reminded me of what was meaningful to me, personally, while also supporting things I valued in the community where I was living at the time, whether that was a healthy ocean or young people learning about science, things like that, so.
JK: So, when you interfaced with the public, what are some things that they were curious about the ocean?
NC: I mean, it would vary. I mean, it could be they had seen something when they went to a beach and they had some questions or sitting in front of the exhibits– maybe this is not for a PG-13 audience, but I remember an experience sitting with the family at the Seattle Aquarium and a sea star did some broadcast spawning, as it’s referred to, releasing eggs and sperm into the water in front of a family. Trying to figure out how to navigate, explaining this to adults and also to kids. And the challenges of figuring out how to be respectful of people’s–there are family practices talking about different things. You had to adapt in a sense. Every day was different and you have to learn how to interact with people, but also share some common standard information that the organization is trying to share.
JK: When I think about the ocean, I think about how much I love swimming in it. And I don’t necessarily think about how important it is. Can you share with our listeners and myself about why it’s important to care for the ocean?
NC: Yeah. So there’s so many different reasons. If you think about the role the ocean plays in the world, it’s critical for regulating climate. So the ocean keeps the planet in the same type of climate. So as the ocean has been warming to in some places has the climate, it supports in abundance and diversity of life, whether that’s the biggest whale to the smallest phytoplankton, and they each are really important not only intrinsically like this idea that biodiversity is the range of species on the planet has value, whether it’s tied to some economic value or not. So, for example, if we take a breath and then another breath, we’re depending on the ocean as well as the small plants in the ocean, the phytoplankton contributes oxygen. Half of the oxygen we breathe comes from the ocean almost. It’s not just from the rain forests or the temperate forests. We rely on the ocean for oxygen. Obviously, many people like to eat salmon or fish of all sorts, we rely on the ocean for protein. But also for the new and innovative drugs, too. So some of the the the research done, emerging new types of drugs. Whether are some of the drugs that are being used to address COVID, rely, say, horseshoe crabs or even sharks as some of the sources of material have been used to study and the solutions for diseases. So, we rely on the ocean in so many different ways and making sure that there’s– In the ocean world, people refer to it as a healthy ocean. So there’s not just a– there could be sustainable uses of the ocean, but also that there’s protections that we try to conserve the ocean as well to make sure that the range of species are still present, that there’s ocean habitats and things like that. So that we can all breathe, that we can all eat, that we can all rely on the benefits that the ocean provides us.
JK: So, Noah, thank you for educating me about all the reasons why we should care about the ocean. One of the big things I think about when I think about the problems that the ocean has today is all the plastic floating in it and how that’s a part of our food system now. Can you tell us more about that?
NC: Plastics are one of the major issues facing the ocean as well. So the growth of especially single-use plastics over the last decades and the projections into the future are really staggering. Just the millions and millions of tons of plastic that are being created, infuse our daily lives. Whether we sort of think about it or not, it’s just ever-present. Plastic doesn’t break down. And while we try to recycle some of it, there has been a change in sort of global patterns around recycling. China used to be accepting a large percentage of our recycling plastic materials, and they don’t anymore. The challenge here is that a lot of plastic that enters the waste stream, often enters the ocean, like millions of tons of plastic enter the ocean every year and every day. I think that I can look up the statistics, but it’s like eight million tons of plastic enter the ocean every year. This is a problem because it breaks down into smaller pieces, into what are called microplastics, and it can be ingested by wildlife that can cause a whale to die or fish die. It can entangle wildlife, preventing them from being able to swim. So that’s bad from a wildlife perspective. From a human health perspective, the chemicals in plastics– and this is where research is still evolving, but it can enter into our bloodstream or into– we can eat plastics in Wildcat fish, for example, by accident, and that can cause human health impacts. And try to understand what that means for people. And it looks like it’s more of an issue for younger kids that as they’re growing, if they’re exposed to more plastics– we know that babies have a higher exposure when they’re born, even, that they’re exposed to some of these chemicals, and that could be problematic.
NC: Or thinking about how it impacts certain communities, especially under-resourced or from an environmental justice perspective, that where we’re making plastics, the pollution that’s coming from those production facilities is causing health impacts for the adjacent communities, often low-income or communities of color. So it might not be directly tied to the ocean, but all these sort of environmental issues associated with plastics. And so either on an individual that level, choosing not to take the straw when you eventually go back to a restaurant until the pandemic is over or advocating for what’s called producer responsibility, so that the businesses that make plastics are responsible for the life cycle, the full lifecycle, of the product, not just and producing it and assuming it’ll be thrown down. Yeah, there’s individual responses, business responses, and then even– and critically important, are the policy or systemic responses to help solve these problems.
JK: Wow, it’s hard to hear. It’s hard to take that one in.
NC: It is, but we can all do individual things to really make a difference. And that could be organizing as a sort of awareness tool, like going to your local beach and organizing a cleanup or even just on your block because where I am in New York, I don’t live directly next to the ocean, but the drains on my street connect to the stormwater system that drains into the harbor. So if
NC: If I pick up a piece of trash on my block before it enters the drain, that means I’m preventing it from going to the harbor and then to the ocean. So we can have that small impact in some sense, right? That’s not going to solve millions of tons of plastic but it can also build awareness and help build a movement to support change as well.
JK: So what you’re saying is that even though it sounds terrible, there’s still hope.
NC: There’s still hope but we have to work. It doesn’t just happen. And to pull it back a little bit to the aquarium world, I think that’s one of the things that I find really appealing. I think we are talking about how I got into this field. I was interested in ocean issues and I’m interested in the policy issues a lot but I think the most important opportunity is how we build a community around solutions and how we can do things together. And I think one of the real opportunities of an aquarium or even as a small community-based group of volunteers, is that by doing stuff together, we can have a bigger impact. And so as I think about my work at the aquarium, it’s not often like, “what can I do?” It’s more like “How can I work with other people?” Maybe that means I don’t have to take credit for it or shouldn’t take credit for it because other people are really either responsible or they’re the ones– I couldn’t do it alone. But as a public face and institution, aquariums reach so many people and we have the capacity to have as many people engaged as possible. But so could a school or so could a church or synagogue. We have all these ways of organizing where we are in groups that could do things like this.
JK: Well, like I said earlier, I don’t think a lot about the ocean and I didn’t realize the impact that I myself could be making to improve the situation with the ocean. One thing I also need to be educated on, Noah, is why is there mercury in our food system through some fish such as tuna?
NC: That’s a complicated story but from what I understand and I haven’t worked on this as much, but I think partly when we produce energy, especially coal or other fossil fuel-based sources, the process of burning the fuel releases pollution including toxins and including heavy metal toxins like mercury. And then they get absorbed sometimes, not always. They can be absorbed and make their way into the dirt but they could also make their way into the ocean from what I understand.
NC: And so when you eat tuna, tuna, it’s a fish but it’s at the very top of the food chain. So when you read into it, it’s sort of like eating the predator of the ocean at the highest or the keystone species. So that tuna has eaten lots and lots of other prey; smaller fish, and that the smaller fish have eaten– at the bottom of the food chain, sort of plankton, and that aggregates the pollution basically into the fatty tissue of a tuna. And so that’s how the plankton maybe absorb zooplankton, the little baby fish or invertebrates of fish that are absorbing some of the toxins in the ocean in a very small amount and then eating and then aggregating the pollution as you go higher up the food chain to the point where you get a tuna that’s eaten a lot of small fish that have eaten a lot of plankton and therefore aggregate.
JK: Okay. And I’m also curious, there are some fish we shouldn’t eat because it’s not sustainable. What does that mean?
NC: Sustainable. This is very complicated. So health issues is part of it. I think thinking about if I were to eat tuna too much to other species of fish that have heavy metal toxins that will have an impact on my own health or my family’s health. So that’s a part of the sustainability factor. From an ecological perspective or a biologic perspective, thinking about, if I eat this fish, will there still be fish left in the water, in the ocean? Because fish are not just food for us, they play an important role ecologically. And so making sure that you’re eating fish where the populations are still abundant, where the way that you catch the fish doesn’t impact the habitat– so you can catch a fish on a single reel and a line, one line with one book, or you could catch fish with a net and drag that net along the bottom, impacting the habitat.
NC: So there’s different types of impacts from the different ways we catch fish and that has an impact on the sustainability. And then I think there’s also the social sustainability. How does the dollar that I spend on a piece of fish make its way back to the community? And does that directly benefit the fishermen? Or are there a lot of middlemen along the way that are taking a piece of that dollar away from the community that’s fishing for it and depending on it?
NC: So, yeah. There’s a lot of different ways to think about sustainability. It’s pretty complicated. There also are other– the Monterey Bay Seafood Watch program, for example, is a common way you can sort of look into the sustainability, and have a sort of red, green, yellow guide especially. So green means go. Yellow is maybe not the worst, but not– there’s ways to improve the sustainability for that fish source, or seafood. And then red would be, you should try not to eat that as often for either environmental, or human health, or maybe social reasons, social equity reasons.
JK: Well, Noah, you really inspired me because I guess when I take my kids to the New England Aquarium, I’m going to stop talking about how cute the animals are, and I’m going to start talking–
JK: Well, that’s important too, I know.
NC: Yeah. To make that connection, that sort of empathetic connection.
JK: Exactly. Exactly, Noah, I need to as a mother, as all things I’m teaching them, include about how we can take care of the ocean animals, too. So I want to thank you for really inspiring me, and I hope, our listeners too, about what we can do ourselves, as well as together. As you mentioned, we can be working with other groups of people that we know to improve the ocean.
JK: What is the greatest thing you enjoy about working with aquariums?
NC: I think for me, it’s– and I sort of touched on this a little bit. It’s the possibility to work with people from different backgrounds, from different perspectives and learn, while also helping try to achieve conservation. And what I love about the aquarium is that, as a really important civic institution in our city, it provides a chance to work with– I could work with the library or the museum or with schools. So even though I love marine science, marine policy, it pushes me to work with different partners that come at it from different perspectives– come at sort of these issues from different perspectives. And then I think, as we talked a little bit about at the beginning, the chance to both inspire but also be inspired by the next generation of Ocean Stewards to work with high school students and people earlier in their career or their learning love of the ocean. That keeps inspiring me too. And so, as I think about the palsy work I do, I often try to think about how can I work with high school students or other community leaders and try to build something like a campaign– or whether it’s plastics or something, where it’s not just my idea. It’s what we can produce and build together. And so, that always involves challenges. It’s never seamless, but it’s more rewarding because we do it together.
JK: Great. Noah, I’m going to take a break. And when we come back, we’re going to talk about the advice you have for people who want to get involved in nonprofits.
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JK: Okay. Noah, we’re back. And I want to talk about your advice for empowering the next generation or the current generation and getting involved with either an aquarium or nonprofits in general.
NC: The most important thing is to think about what are your values, what do you hope to achieve, and as a member of your community, what are the skills you have, and what are the responsibilities you have to support those obligations and responsibilities, and how you can best support. I suppose I think about it, in my own terms, both as someone who works for a nonprofit, but also someone who is a member of the community and wants to support other organizations. And one of the things I’ve learned through my experience working for nonprofits is that it’s really important– there’s a balance between– as a volunteer or as a– when I donate money, thinking about not just dropping in and then leaving, but having some sort of sustained commitment and that could be– for me, personally– you might not be surprised if you don’t make the big bucks working for an aquarium. But committing to volunteer for a certain amount of time, committing to make a small donation regularly for a certain amount of time I see it from my own vantage point at the aquarium that having that commitment from the supporters or the donors about a certain term of support is really important and more than just a year, maybe five years or something like that.
NC: On the flip side, as an aquarium staff if I have a donor that was just going to be giving me support financially or something for 50 years or for the full career maybe, that also wouldn’t necessarily be good and I think that’s because in the sense of the entrepreneurial or competitive element of having to fight to get support makes it so that you really stay relevant. You listen to the communities you work with to adapt to the problems as they’re changing and having to compete for other funding sources and not just sort of rest on your laurels and make sure that that you are basically not innovating. And so it’s a balance of having a sustained commitment but not sustaining for too long almost I think. So as I think about advice, I would say if you’re interested in an issue, you’re probably interested in many. So I commit to one issue or commit to a couple organizations for a certain amount of time and then move to another organization in 5 years or 10 years or something like that.
JK: It’s funny because when I think of fundraisers, I know sometimes they get a bad rap. People are maybe annoyed that they’re getting a lot of mailings at home or in email boxes. But like you said, I think it’s really important to be relevant and reminding people about the importance of giving. And we’ve talked in this podcast before about giving any amount. And so I know your advice today has been really helpful to our listeners because you’ve both identified the little ways that they can give, either through picking up trash to make sure it doesn’t get into the drains or basically the food we eat, choosing the right fish. And you’ve outlined why the ocean is so important for public health, for enjoyment. I can’t even imagine if I hopped in the ocean and there were bottles washing up on shore while I’m swimming. I mean, that sounds awful.
NC: Ultimately, it also comes down to what do we value. What is it that we want to leave for our kids or our families in the future? What are the special places and memories? And things change, of course, but there’s this sense of meaning, at least for me personally in the ocean. I can think of family memories going to the beach with my grandparents or with my parents. I can think of a time spent with friends in certain places, whether that’s in Ipswich in Massachusetts, or in Coney Island or in Oregon or Washington state. In a sense, it’s more than just a set, a stage for these special meaningful experiences, but a part of the character. They’re one of the characters in that play in a sense. And I think the act of working to support conservation and doing it in a way that’s about community building also is about building meaning that you form relationships with people. So becoming friends with Katrina as a high school volunteer, that’s something that’s enriched my life since high school, right? We’re still friends. We are in touch but I didn’t realize that when I was thinking about why I started to volunteer. So there’s so much you can plan for and so much that you come to realize why it’s important and that aspect of building community I think this is really, really critical.
JK; So when I think about all the work you’ve done for our ocean and the volunteer work you’ve done, the non-profit work that you’ve done, I think you also have a master’s degree. What’s your master’s degree in?
NC: I went to grad school for a master’s in environmental management which is a mix of science and communication and policy work. So it really lends itself to the type of work I get to do at the aquarium.
JK: So I’m curious, after 30 years of studying, enjoying the ocean and working on policy and teaching the next generation about the importance of helping our oceans. I’m wondering if you consider all your time as also a philanthropist on instead of just the people who are donating to the aquariums that you’ve been working for?
NC: I think of it as a career in public service whether working for the government or working for nonprofits. But I think there are ways anybody through their career whether it’s for a private organization or a nonprofit or in public government office can infuse that work with a public purpose, a purpose about giving back, in addition to or as well as to support profit and financial gain. So I definitely think of my career as serving a public role and that’s my hope. I think I have to constantly think, okay, is this work actually benefiting other people or is it just for me too? Because there’s a piece of it, of course, that it’s I like learning about this so I want to do that for my own personal gain. But I have to make sure that there’s a service component as well.
JK: Noah, I love that service is a key component to your life and I’m sure there are other childhood experiences you can think of that pointed you in that direction for a career. Can you tell me a little bit more about your family growing up and maybe how they influenced your commitment to better improving our world and serving our world?
NC: Yeah. Well, first, I think my parents they both had and my dad still has a career in public service. He works for the tribal government outside of Seattle. My mom used to and also worked for a city and county government. Learning about their work always involved talking about the communities they were serving, the social, and even environmental challenges they were trying to address. So that was just learning about what they did during the day over the dinner table or stuff like that. I think the other aspect was just trying– in a sense, the funny thing was trying to carve out my own niche. Wanting to find something that I personally was passionate about but also like nobody else was doing in a sense. And I think that in part, we’ve– wanting– wanting to have something that was meaningful to me but also would be different from what my parents did. Or what my grandparents did. And then, but still on the same public service bend. And I think my siblings have pursued that as well. That we each have very different interests. And different professions, but there is this common goal of being active in our communities, and being– supportive of– sort of a public service-type of role.
JK: I’m just curious, do you feel like it brought you closer together to your family by all having– a desire to serve the world in some capacity?
NC: I think so, yeah. I think it was also– a chance for us to learn more about each other, right? So, what are the– we’ve talked a lot today about my ocean passions, but learning about my sister’s passion for– health, and community health, especially. Or my brother’s interest in– traditional, different forms of art, dance. And I think we’re– we’re ways to sort of expand each of our horizons. So it brought us closer together, but also, we got to learn about other things than what we may have initially thought were interests.
JK: I love that. No, I’ve learned so much from you today, about how I can make a difference with oceans. And the key takeaway for me is what I can do, and what I can teach my children. Go to zoos, and aquariums several times a year. And we enjoy it. And I think teaching our children that we need to take care of these animals is a way for us to remind them about the importance of caring for our world. Because if we didn’t care for our world, it would– be really ugly. And both from an aesthetic point of view, but also, you mentioned a public health point of view. So I really want to thank you for educating our listeners today.
NC: Well, I appreciate the opportunity. It helps me think about the purpose of my work. And you get sort of wound up in the day- to-day, and– how big your email box gets, or how many phone calls you have. But to sit back and think about these bigger questions with you, it’s really important. Because these are the reasons why I do the work. The meaning behind it. And it’s important to think about that. And your questions will help me challenge my own– my own thinking about why I would– why I do what I do. So that’s really– I appreciate that sort of– questions and proddings, and to really challenge myself.
JK: Well, I’m really touched that this podcast today– helped you, because that means just more energy put into ocean conservation is going to benefit all of us.
JK: And I know there are other charities you support in other areas, and I just want our listeners today, who felt compelled– to donate to a charity would consider their local aquarium or– is there another organization you would recommend?
NC: So, definitely support your local aquarium. Or local ocean conservation organization. And you can live in the center of the country and still have ocean conservation I know there’s a Colorado, for example, there’s an inland ocean coalition. There’s many different organizations working on some issues, whether you’re on the coast because I’ve spent so much of my professional time on ocean issues. Lately, I’ve been, with my partner, we’ve been thinking about ways to support arts organizations, especially during the pandemic, where– for example, theaters have been closed here in New York City. And there’s an organization called Page Seventy-Three, which provides development support and whether that’s financial resources or even connections for emerging playwrights. So playwrights will be able to have a professional production and professional staging of their work in New York City. So early career, playwrights were trying to make it in the big city. And Page Seventy-Three has had a lot of success helping support emerging artists. But they also don’t take credit for it. They helped launch careers and their successes in the career that the artist has, whether they take credit for it or not. So if you’re interested in supporting artists during the pandemic, that’s one organization that we’ve tried to make small financial contributions to every month as a way to support artists, especially during this really challenging time.
JK: I love that you have a variety of passions. You mentioned you studied medieval history, and you thought about being a museum curator. And so you’re able to both have multiple passions that you like to get involved with.
NC: Yeah. And I’m sure many people do. If we turn the table, and I ask you questions, there are many things that you’re passionate about and working to support in different ways as well.
JK: You’re absolutely right. One of my greatest passions is the volunteer work I do with my local food pantry. But recently, I just got involved with a socially responsible business called Arbonne, and I started studying nutrition, and I’m going to be a certified health coach soon because I realized how obesity is a growing issue in our world. And that’s my newest passion. It’s so great that we can evolve. I’m sure the ocean issues have evolved since you started in the ’90s. I think there’s room for every type of passion that we have. And I’m thrilled that I can make a small contribution. And I don’t need to feel overwhelmed because I know that other people are joining me and both large and small contributions. And neither of us can give such large contributions. But we both felt compelled to get into non-profits and give time, which is really an important way to get involved. People have many different passions, and finance is one of them or science. And so just having a passion for the world on any level, I think, is really important.
NC: Yeah. Exactly. Having your sense of passion your what you find meaningful and then building a community or finding a community that ensures that supporting. You can help support that work. That’s what’s I think really inspiring about you, Jenn, is your ability to build that community, whether through this podcast or through the community in which you live, and to sort of find holes and find ways to support people’s exploration of this work because it is really important. And it can seem daunting or it can seem broad or intimidating, but helping break it down through conversations like these or others, just sort of bite-sized pieces to sort of help people chart their own course. I think that’s really cool.
JK: That’s so nice of you to say. And when I had the idea to change the definition of philanthropy, I had no idea that meant I was going to start a podcast. And certainly, that first podcast was very nerve-wracking. But I just felt like it was the right thing to do is to remind us about the difference that we can make in our everyday lives. And it does push me to do things outside my comfort zone, which is so important because if we stay in our comfort zones, it’s going to hinder what we’re all able to accomplish together.
NC: I agree. Yeah. And so it’s really wonderful to see how you’re pushing yourself and willing to have that discomfort, but also really growing into a new role, too, so that’s really to be applauded.
JK: That’s so kind of you to say. Yeah, I’ve failed many times.
NC: As we all have.
JK: And just getting back up again, I think, is the key takeaway is what did I learn having that growth mindset, thinking about how I can be a better person, how I can learn more about an issue by educating myself. There’s so much room for growth and there needs to be a lot of forgiveness of both ourselves as well as from other people. I think forgiveness and moving forward together is a key component to making the world a better place.
NC: Yeah, absolutely.
JK: Thank you so much for talking, Noah. I learned a lot and I want our listeners to take away so much about what they can do. And I just want to plug that charity you are enjoying giving to, Page 73. And the website address for our listeners is page73.org
NC: Thanks so much.
NC: Jenn, I appreciate the chance to talk today.
JK: Thank you. Bye-bye.
Commercial 4: This year, I lost weight through a nutrition program called Arbonne International, Arbonne uses products that are good for your body and eliminate 2000 toxins. They have nutrition and skincare products to help your body feel the best. More importantly, why I’m talking with you about this today is because they’re a Certified B Corp, which means they put people, planet, and purpose over profit. They donate and created a foundation called the Flourish Foundation that gives to children’s mental health programs all over the world. If you’d like to hear more about Arbonne and how it can help you feel your best self and you can feel good about supporting, go to jennkelinphilia.com. That’s J-E-N-N-K-L-E-I-N-P-H-I-L-I-A dot com.
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