Recently, Eco-Youth had the amazing opportunity to have an email interview with Mindy Ramaker, the Creative Producer at Lonely Whale. We are so honored to work with such a hard working and determined organization. Lonely Whale has made outstanding strides in helping improve the conditions of the oceans and the environment.
“We live in a lonely, plastic world. But together we can change that.” -Lonely Whale
1. What is Lonely Whale? How was it founded? What issues does it address and what is its main goal(s)?
Actor-Activist Adrian Grenier and producer Lucy Sumner founded Lonely Whale in 2015 with the intent of bringing the ocean closer to everyone. The ocean – which covers 71% of the earth’s surface, containing 97% of the earth’s water and 99% of the planet’s living space – is at the heart of everything that we do. Today, Lonely Whale is a nonprofit that develops digital campaigns that reconnect us to each other by encouraging behavior change away from single-use plastic and toward a healthy, thriving ocean.
2. What is the story of “Blue 52”?
In 1992, off the coast of Whidbey Island in Puget Sound, the Navy picked up an unusual sound. It pulsed onto the graph pages at the frequency of 52 hertz. On paper, the vocalizations looked like they belonged to a blue whale. Except a blue whale’s call usually registers between 15 and 20 hertz. At 52 hertz, this call was off the charts! So far off that no other whale was known to communicate at that pitch. Because male whales often sing for companionship and this song was the only of its kind, it was theorized that 52 Blue was the world’s loneliest whale, calling out and never receiving a reply.
The legend of 52 Blue inspired us to answer that call, to work on behalf of the ocean, and empower others to do the same.
3. Recently Lonely Whale has created their new podcast 52 Hertz: The Lonely Whale Podcast. What’s the goal of this podcast? What typically happens during this podcast? Is there a specific audience you wish to target?
During a time of social distancing, social unrest, and increased eco-anxiety, the need for positive, solution-based stories that represent diverse topics and voices is greater than ever. We launched 52 Hertz to create community and connection during this time, and to give people an uplifting take on environmentalism.
Inspired by our namesake Lonely Whale, the podcast allows us to go back to our roots and listen to what our community has to say. Eco-activist and actor Petrice Jones hosts Season One, titled Against the Current. The 12-episode season focuses on the people, topics, and current events that are challenging the status quo. Against The Current showcases a diverse set of individuals from youth activists to industry professionals—all redefining what it means to be an “environmentalist.”
Some recent episodes include:
Wanjiku “Wawa” Gatheru, an environmental justice advocate calling for the movement to center the experience and expertise of frontline people of color
Youth activist Dyson Chee, an 18-year-old youth environmental policy activist from Oahu, Hawaii
Adrian Grenier, Lonely Whale’s co-founder, discussing eco-anxiety, the plastic crisis overwhelming our ocean, and how building community is the first step to healing ourselves and our Earth
4. As Eco-Youth primarily fights climate change, how does Lonely Whale target this topic? In your words, how does cleaning and caring for the ocean contribute to fighting climate change?
Covering about 70% of the Earth’s surface, the ocean has an intricately linked relationship with the climate crisis.
In addition to generating the majority of the oxygen we breathe, the ocean also captures excess carbon dioxide and helps regulate global temperatures.
Because of the increasing greenhouse gas emissions and resulting carbon dioxide, our ocean is not only becoming warmer and more acidic, but it is also de-oxygenating. Climate change weakens the ocean’s ability to provide food, store carbon, generate oxygen, regulate extreme weather, and serve as a nature-based solution to climate change.
By taking care of the ocean we help combat climate change.
5. With what degree of seriousness should people be approaching topics such as climate change, and how can people start changing their mindset towards this topic?
The issue of climate change is incredibly serious, but that doesn’t mean we have to approach it that way. At Lonely Whale we take information that may be overwhelming and dark, and come up with ways to make it understandable and empowering.
Our goal is to change the narrative and mindset towards the topic of climate change. We want people, especially young people, to understand there are things they can do every day to make a positive change for our planet and their futures.
A tip Steff McDermott, one of our young podcast guests, shares that speaks to changing mindsets is to “connect your passion to the environment.” You don’t have to work for an environmental organization to make a difference. You don’t have to become something you’re not, or go into a field you’re not interested in. Take what you are already good at, what you’re already interested in, and connect that to the environment. There are infinite fun, creative ways to help protect our ocean and our planet.
6. Should schools start instilling classes that cover topics like climate change, so that the youth can get a better grasp as to what is happening out in the world?
Absolutely! The next generation will be most impacted by the plastic pollution crisis. In fact, many young people will graduate or start their first jobs in 2025, the same year the ocean is expected to contain more plastic than fish! Our education system could help equip the next generation with the knowledge and language to craft solutions.
That knowledge should be available to everyone because climate change affects everyone. And as we champion environmental literacy in general education, it’s important to remember what Wawa Gatheru, talks about on the podcast: Environmental education needs to center BIPOC voices, especially frontline people of color who are impacted first and worst by climate change.
I also encourage young people to seek opportunities to learn about environmental issues outside of the classroom, such as the annual Ocean Heroes Bootcamp organized by Captain Planet Foundation, Lonely Whale and Point Break Foundation. The bootcamp empowers existing and emerging youth leaders, ages 11 to 18, to create their own campaigns to take action against ocean plastic pollution.
7. Your campaign #Stop[ped]Sucking was a huge success! What great things does Lonely Whale plan to do next?
Thank you so much! Lonely Whale spearheaded the global movement to eliminate the use of plastic straws after “Strawless in Seattle,” which resulted in the permanent removal of more than 2.5 million plastic straws in Seattle in just one month while ushering in policy change in cities across the U.S. “Strawless” is on track to remove an estimated 15 billion single-use straws from circulation.
Right now, we’re focused on our “Question How You Hydrate” campaign which includes the #HydrateLike social challenge and Museum of Plastic. This campaign has served as a catalyst for Facebook, the United Nations Headquarters, 2019 Global Citizen Festival and the San Francisco International Airport to ban single-use plastic water bottles. The campaign caught the attention of Pepsi and Coca-Cola to announce plans to switch from plastic bottles to aluminum cans for leading brands Aquafina and Dasani.
We’re also working with multinational corporations through NextWave Plastics, which brings together companies to develop the first global network of ocean-bound plastics supply chains. These companies, some of which are competitors, work together to turn off the tap on plastic pollution – keeping plastic in the economy and out of the ocean.
As the plastic pollution crisis continues to grow and evolve and the world continues to adapt to COVID-19, we are active participants in conversations and strategies that ensure the plastic industry doesn’t exploit the pandemic to increase plastic production.
8. Do you have any advice to people who want to fight climate change but don’t know where to start? What advice can you give for newer organizations, like Eco-Youth, that will help grow their platform and gain a bigger audience?
Have optimism. Even the smallest gestures can have a big impact, so we’d encourage you to start small and work on changing little things you do every day and make them more sustainable.
We also encourage youth to get involved in Ocean Heroes Bootcamp by joining the Ocean Heroes Network, a global community of youth working year-round towards clean seas and against plastic pollution. Ocean Heroes Bootcamp has trained more than 1,000 global youth how to develop and execute their campaigns with the ultimate goal of supporting 10,000 campaigns by the end of 2025. The unique campaigns created by Ocean Heroes support the achievement of UN SDG 14.1 by 2025.
We are a very small team at Lonely Whale, so for organizations looking to grow their impact, we really think partnering with creatives, scientists, brands, influencers and other organizations like yours are some the best way to create change around the world.
9. How can people help and support Lonely Whale from home without monetary donations? Where can people learn more about Lonely Whale?
You can support us by visiting www.lonelywhale.org or following @LonelyWhale.
Listeners interested in tuning out plastic and tuning in to Lonely Whale’s 52 Hertz podcast can check out the trailer, Season One and future episodes here.