Healthy Oceans Blog

Q&A with Bill Mott

Through more than 14 years of global coordination and increased social media buzz around World Oceans DayThe Ocean Project has been able to grow awareness around the day from zero events in the U.S. and few elsewhere to close to 1,000 events in dozens of countries worldwide. Additionally, their dedication and hard work toward the cause helped ensure official recognition of World Oceans Day by the United Nations in 2008, and the U.S. Presidential proclamations of National Oceans Month each year since. Bill Mott, Director of The Ocean Project discusses his motivations in the environmental field, vision for the future, and more.

Tell us about your background and what sparked your passion for environmental work. 
Growing up, we would visit our grandparents at the beach or lake during the summers. We also moved around a fair amount when I was young, but no matter where we lived, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to play outdoors a lot.

I was raised in a pretty progressive and politically active household and remember being brought along to peace marches when we lived in Washington, D.C. and Baltimore and being involved in Cesar Chavez-led grape boycotts and protests in solidarity with the farm workers when we lived in Tucson, Arizona. There was no shortage of causes and politicians to leaflet and to knock on doors for. That sense of civic participation instilled in me from early on has stayed with me as has the drive to try to leave this world a better place. My children are real motivators for me these days.

What is The Ocean Project’s mission?
The Ocean Project advances ocean conservation in partnership with aquariums, zoos, museums (ZAMs), and other visitor-serving organizations around the world. Since 2002, The Ocean Project has also been the global leader for coordinating and growing World Oceans Day.

Describe The Ocean Project’s long and short term goals. 
We collaborate with our partners to accelerate individual and societal actions on the issues facing our oceans. We are all about using our base of national opinion research and strategic insights from decades of work to support innovative and effective visitor engagement, building a stronger constituency for the ocean and resulting in real conservation impact. Into the future, we will be focusing on the specific issues of plastic pollution, ocean acidification, marine protected areas, and threatened and endangered species.

Can you discuss The Ocean Project’s involvement in World Oceans Day?
World Oceans Day provides a unique opportunity to celebrate our ocean, raise awareness and promote personal and community action in fun and positive ways. We facilitate, coordinate, and promote hundreds of events at partner sites around the world; we engage youth networks, aquariums, zoos, conservation organizations, schools, divers, surfers, sailors, businesses, agencies, and more.

It serves as an annual global rallying point and network to engage citizens to make healthy ocean choices year round, continuing to build connections and engage people throughout the year in various campaigns and initiatives.

What is this year’s theme for World Oceans Day and World Oceans Month and how can people get involved?
This year, people all over our blue planet are celebrating with the theme “Healthy Oceans, Healthy Planet.” Organizations and individuals around the world are promoting prevention of plastic ocean pollution with events in their communities, special announcements, and everything in between. For many ways to get involved and find out more, visit: www.WorldOceansDay.org

What do you love most about the ocean?
I love almost everything about the ocean. It puts us in our place and reminds me that we are part of something much bigger than ourselves. Even though I don’t see or smell the ocean every day, just thinking about it inspires me.

Do you have a favorite beach, coastline, or patch of ocean? Will you share why you are drawn to it?
Each beach and coastline has its own unique characteristics. I love to jump in and enjoy the waves whenever I can. I also enjoy walking, running, and biking along a spectacular coastline, and I still love exploring tide pools, too!

What are your favorite pastimes?
Playing and exploring with my kids, mountain biking, hiking, cross-country skiing, trail running, going to the coast – pretty much anything outdoors.

In your opinion, what is the greatest threat to our oceans?
Thinking short term, including economic drivers, and a real lack of mindfulness and of long-term planning and intentional living and doing. Climate change, sea level rise, ocean acidification, and all other issues stem from this fundamental challenge with human society.

It would be a pretty amazing world if we all lived our lives according to the traditional Iroquois way of life where leaders make decisions always keeping in mind the well-being of the seventh generation. That type of long-range thinking and planning would go a long way toward creating a more peaceful and sustainable world today and generations from now.

In that same vein could, you touch on the biggest challenges we face in restoring and protecting our oceans, coasts and Great Lakes?
It’s all connected and if each person lived their lives more intentionally, thinking through our connections to the ocean no matter where we live, I think we would have much more sustainable and healthier communities, and a healthier ocean.

What motivates you as a leader in the environmental world?
Engaging with young people always reinvigorates me. I also like to make connections for conservation in a variety of ways, much behind the scenes, and networking in the best sense of that word.

Open mic! Is there any parting wisdom you would like to leave us with? 
I like to joke a lot so leaving any “parting wisdom” may be a challenge.

An inspiration in my life has been Thich Nhat Hanh, a Zen master and peace and human rights activist, who teaches the “art of mindful living.” It’s about being deeply aware in the present moment – something simple in concept but extremely difficult in practice. I am far from being proficient in this art of being mindful as a regular part of daily life but it is something that I strive toward. He has written many good books but Peace is Every Step is a great intro for anyone interested.