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Morgan: [00:00:14] hi everybody. Thanks for being here and welcome to Ocean Solutions, a NOISE Lab podcast. I'm Dr. Morgan Reed Raven, a biogeochemist and a professor at the university of California at Santa Barbara. In this podcast, we're talking with inspirational individuals who are working on some of the largest issues of our time.
At the intersection of climate, ocean conservation and human wellbeing. Last episode, we talked with Juan Carlos Villaseñor-Derbez about COBI, an innovative conservation organization working with fishing cooperatives in Mexico to manage marine protected areas. And this week, our guest is Arlo Hemphill, senior oceans campaigner with Greenpeace USA. Greenpeace works toward a lot of the same. goals that COBI does, but often through a very different approach. In fact Greenpeace is also quite actively involved in the same deep sea fishery, labor abuse issues that we discussed in our very first episode.
But today I was specifically looking to talk to an expert about deep sea mining. And that's because this issue is incredibly timely right now. But largely invisible behind the, you know, everything else going on. The United nations is in the midst of negotiations that will likely permit the creation of a whole new mining industry.
The Greenpeace says cannot be done sustainably. Full stop. So, what is this? Let's find out.
Hi, Arlo. Thank you for meeting with me this morning.
Arlo Hemphill: [00:02:10] Great. It's great to be here. Thanks so much for inviting me.
Morgan: [00:02:13] Yeah, so to get us started, could you describe what you consider the big central issue or issues that motivates your work on deep sea mining?
Arlo Hemphill: [00:02:23] we are concerned about the full range of potential impacts of an industry that is not off the ground yet, but once. fully legal and fully financed could massively ramp up, in a very short amount of time because of potential financial interest in it. these interests range from complete ecosystem destruction to noise impacts on marine mammals to, disturbing, deep sea sediments that are a storehouse of carbon where this carbon has been accumulating and, locked away for centuries to millennia and then research, collating that carbon into, the ocean and atmospheric systems that's contributing to climate change.
and the areas of interest, to deep sea mining are also in some of the most unknown and wildest locations in the ocean. Places that we should be treasuring first before other places, because of just how pristine and unknown they are. And so, that's why we don't want to see this industry get, even get a foothold.
Morgan: [00:03:23] Wow. Okay.
so what exactly is deep sea mining ?
What are we talking about here?
Arlo Hemphill: [00:03:30] deep sea mining is basically the ocean equivalent of land mining, although there's different kinds. there's some kinds that will look. Exactly like land mining with big underwater bulldozer look looking type of equipment and heavy machinery that chip away at rocks and smash and pummel. And, basically everything that you do in like open pit mining on land, they'll have the equivalent in the sea.
There's another form of mining that is being. developed actually it's out in the lead because it's a sort of an easier process to get ahold of, which there are places in the abyssal, plain, where. The bar, the bottom, the seabed just looks like kind of flat mud for miles and miles and miles. And it's littered with these kind of grapefruit size rocks, that form just, on the, on the seabed, on the surface and there, the process looks a lot more like, a giant form of vacuum cleaning.
Well, they will kind of create these giant conveyor belt type systems and literally suck these rocks up into kind of shoots and ladders and onto the ship. And then, and then re drop, the sediments back into the ocean after they've retrieved, the rocks are called manganese nodules.
Morgan: [00:04:46] Got it. So in this particular story, we're going down thousands of meters to the. abyssal plain. And we're going after nodules because they, why.
Arlo Hemphill: [00:05:00] So these, nodules are, rich in what is called energy metals. And these are the metals that are most used by the tech industry and by, renewable energy batteries. so everything from the batteries. That, that store, electricity created from wind farms to the batteries in a Tesla, electric vehicle.
And these are, lithium nickel, manganese and cobalt are the ones that , that everybody's excited about getting from, the bottom of the sea.
Morgan: [00:05:31] Got it. So we've gone down thousands of meters with a. Vacuum cleaner of some sort. that's going to go around and pick up these large, heavy metal, rich nodules that are sitting on top of the sediments. And then we put those nodules on a really large ship, presumably and dump all the mud back down to the bottom.
Am I picturing this right?
Arlo Hemphill: [00:05:53] That's right. It looked like a big barge that just accumulates the nodules and then the sediment will be just dumped back in the ocean. They are looking at different ways of doing this, from the most destructive would be just dumping it right at the surface to, kind of like trying to, pipe it down further so that, so that the plume that's created from the sediment isn't as impactful, but regardless of how, they do it, there is going to be a plume of sediment that trails off of these separations and with the manganese nodules, that's the number one concern.
Morgan: [00:06:25] So why is this plume such a concern?
Arlo Hemphill: [00:06:30] One is like direct the sediment itself a highly biodiverse ecosystem. It's not the kind of biodiversity that gets on the public on nature programs, excited. It's more like things in the mud, nematodes and worms and. and things like this, but extremely rich and extremely unknown, but then there's potential to, to suffocate other ecosystems.
So these areas, even though you're in the abyssal plain, you might be adjacent to a seamount, with rich deep sea coral reefs going up the slopes and this, the sediment plumes will travel for miles and miles and miles. So it could impact a completely other ecosystem. That's sort of down current from, from where they're operating.
and then there's just the impact of things that are in the water column. Like how will this, how will this impact whales? How will this impact, especially like plankton feeders that are going through the water column with their mouth open. so we don't even, we don't know the answer to those things.
Morgan: [00:07:22] And so you could swim through one of these plumes and end up with a mouth full of mud.
Arlo Hemphill: [00:07:26] Yeah.
Morgan: [00:07:28] Yeah. That doesn't sound ideal. and I imagine too, that you mentioned these going for miles and miles. I imagine these materials are really fine. You could go for a really long distance before any of that material would settle back out.
Arlo Hemphill: [00:07:41] Right and then, then the last thing that I mentioned at the beginning, but I didn't mention it again. Here is these sediments store, massive, massive amounts of carbon.
Morgan: [00:07:49] Yeah.
Arlo Hemphill: [00:07:50] so basically what happens is everything that lives in the water column from small plankton to whales.
some of it dies by being eaten by other things, but others, others will live their lifetime. And then kind of, when, when they die kind of settled to the bottom and basically what they're doing is they're absorbing carbon into their bodies as, as, as a living organism and then as they die and settled to the bottom, that carbon is being inserted in these sediments.
And these sediments just build up. for millennia and we're worried about all that carbon that's locked away. that's not part of the system would have the potential of being rereleased and then contribute both to ocean acidification in the ocean and to climate change when it enters the atmosphere.
Morgan: [00:08:33] I understand. So these sediments are thousands of years of accumulation of carbon from above, and maybe just a few centimeters of depth. And then as soon as we disrupt them in one scoop, we've potentially really amplified that cycle and sent things back up into the atmosphere much faster than any of the processes that pull it out.
Arlo Hemphill: [00:08:54] Right. Yeah. It's very much equivalent to like what you're seeing in the Arctic with the melting of, of the Tundra and how that's releasing methane, et cetera.
Morgan: [00:09:03] Right? So these are for the nodules. And you mentioned that there were a couple of different major categories of mining. What are those other types?
Arlo Hemphill: [00:09:12] Right. So the three types that are going after, but the energy minerals are the manganese nodules, which are on the Bissell plane. There's these things called Pharaoh manganese crusts, which are basically sort of surface level rock deposits that line, the sides of, of sea mounts. and sea mounts are just underwater mountains.
and then the third is, called massive sulfites. And these, these are the equivalent of ore deposits on land.
these are directly associated and built around hydrothermal vents. so, so when you have, or own land that, that was maybe on the ocean floor, millions of years ago, And it's extinct. These massive sulfides are more recent they're in the process of being created, in association with hydrothermal vents.
So they're, you know, hydrothermal vents are one of them unknown and unique ecosystems on the planet. scientists. have an idea that this is, this is possibly where life first showed up was around these, around these events. Also around these vents, you have organisms that are only there and nowhere else, in the world, they're adapted to the vents that the vets are like islands.
So if you're familiar with the concept of Island by geography and how different islands have endemics because the populations are isolated from each other, the same thing around these places and, and the mechanisms that they're looking at to retrieve these massive soft sides are the ones that are most similar to like pit mining on land.
And so you're talking about complete annihilation of the ecosystems.
Morgan: [00:10:40] Are they really talking about like drilling into the rock at the sea floor as well?
Arlo Hemphill: [00:10:45] Yeah, there there's machinery that you can go online, because a project was being developed in the waters of Papua New Guinea. it fortunately went bankrupt. but they had gone as far as developing the machines, test machines and these look like out of a science fiction movie, like something that you would see like at the base in avatar, just huge, huge machinery with like massive crushing pieces that, you know, better built for drilling into or, and smashing rocks,
Morgan: [00:11:14] it seems like this would be incredibly, technically challenging to pull off at these enormous steps, even just communications and controlling these different machines seems like it would be really challenging. And I can't imagine they'd have a soft touch.
Arlo Hemphill: [00:11:28] Yeah, no, they definitely would not have a soft touch. So basically technologically you're looking at everything that you would have to build for a landmine. But then it all has to be waterproof then. be able to be sort of remote controlled from a, from the deck of a ship rather than, somebody driving it around.
Morgan: [00:11:46] So in this case, we're talking about complete obliteration of these small and highly unique ecosystems. And presumably all of these other problems as well in terms of maybe stirring up materials and disrupting ecosystems that are more far field.
Arlo Hemphill: [00:12:01] right. Exactly.
Morgan: [00:12:03] Wow. Are there any types of deep sea mining that can be done sustainably?
Arlo Hemphill: [00:12:09] at Greenpeace, we feel that the answer is, no. there's definitely, mining companies that are trying to make it more sustainable. none of these companies want to have a bad image. most companies tried even the worst offenders in the world. Try to have a green image. You always see. from the oil companies, you know, they're supporting tiger conservation at Exxon and things like that because they want a good, green public image.
So along with that, they are genuinely looking at ways to have less impact, but we feel the value of these ecosystems, as they are, as carbon sinks, as unknown sources of future medicines and, and home to types of creatures that we know nothing about in terms of their life cycle and reproduction.
Yeah. And everything that, there's no way that, that you can be free of impact. And so we should never let the industry start.
Morgan: [00:13:02] So when you say letting the industry start, I believe this hasn't happened yet in part because of technology. but it sounds like there's more to it than that.
Arlo Hemphill: [00:13:13] It's the biggest reason is international law. so, so most of the areas where, where, where they're looking at these deposits and, or have the manganese nodules, on the surface of the seabed are in international waters, that consists about two thirds of the ocean and almost half of our entire planet.
and that part of, the ocean is governed by the United nations convention on the law of the sea. the convention was very clear in distinguishing governor of, of the water column, and the seabed being a distinct entity that they call the area. And so they've given governance of the area to a UN body that was created, through the law of the sea called the international it's it's based in Kingston, Jamaica, and it operates, like a smaller version of the United nations.
It looks exactly like the United nations countries of the world come and gather in that U shape room. And the procedures go very much like, like they do, New York at the United nations. the role of the international seabed authority is to create a complete set of agreed, regulations and principles around deep sea mining.
that's where they're negotiating and by international law, until they agree on this complete set, which has a whole, it's called the mining code until the mining code is agreed by all countries and everybody's comfortable with it. deep sea mining is prohibited, in international waters.
They've been working on it for decades, but the last couple of years, there has been a new administration, a new secretary general in, the seabed authority. Who's very motivated to complete , the mining code. so there has been rapid, acceleration in getting the mining code done. And now it is mostly complete. There's a few major parts where there's disagreement, but, The seabed authority itself had a stated goal of finishing the mining code July, 2020, because of COVID.
the meetings weren't able to happen in person this year, and that has postpone this possibility of a near term mining code. But we're still looking at the potential of the mining code being agreed upon in 2021 or shortly, or certainly after, probably not more than two years after that.
Morgan: [00:15:35] And is it these environmental issues that are the sticking points and the negotiation?
Arlo Hemphill: [00:15:39] the environmental issues are one of them, but they're not the major issue. the biggest issues it has to do with access and benefit sharing.
So the law of the sea, designates the seabed as, the common heritage of all humankind. by international law, it belongs to everyone equally. And well, countries interpret this differently. some countries, usually the wealthier countries, interpret it as no.
That means anybody. with the, with the resources can go out there and take whatever they want, because it belongs to all of us. Other people usually, poor countries without the same resources, view it as, anything that's taken from the seabed belongs to everybody so that if a mining company is out there, mining.
the profits, not necessarily the minerals themselves, but the profits will have to be big, figure out a way to share those across the nations of the world so that everybody kind of, benefits and then there's sort of things that are in between where, countries who are in between are like, well, we're going to keep our profits, but we're going to, fund training. And shared data with, with all countries.
Morgan: [00:16:47] where then are these minerals coming from today? If not from the deep sea. Yeah.
Arlo Hemphill: [00:16:52] so this is the problem with the energy minerals, and it really just creates this, this big sort of dilemma with, we're trying to get these minerals, and. use them in this technology to have a carbon neutral future. That's the whole purpose of the green it, the lithium ion batteries, the electric cars is we all envision a, a future with less carbon, but we need these, these minerals, in order to create that, and these minerals have the potential to.
Just wreak havoc on ocean ecosystems. But right now, the problem is that these minerals are relatively rare on land and they're often coming from places with, very problematic, human rights violations or, or from war zones. So one of the biggest places , where you're sourcing nickel and cobalt is from West African nations that are using child slave labor in the mines.
obviously companies creating tech do not want that, as part of their own. So people are trying to find other ways to source these, minerals without sourcing them from these hugely problematic, regions, other regions. it's more because of war, like Afghanistan is a nation that's very rich in these minerals.
No one wants to invest in mining and in Afghanistan for obvious security reasons. now there are other places like, , Canada and South America , then also have the posits of these minerals. and they have not been, either fully exploited or they, you know, Bland mining also has its range of problems.
Morgan: [00:18:21] Got it. So are these minerals, do you think that they're going to be central to our green tech longterm or is there a chance that they might be replaced by new generations of technology that kind of obviates this problem entirely?
Arlo Hemphill: [00:18:35] It would be great. if, that were possible right now, this is the way the technology she is moving. I know that there's been some, companies, Tesla is one that, that jumps to my mind that has sort of, played with the recipe , of their batteries to lessen the, amount of, like the cobalt, which is so problematic and replace that with using more nickel.
which is less problematic. and so there is work in that realm as well, but right now with the world, trying to move too away from fossil fuels as an energy source and move to renewables, these metals are absolutely central to, to the development of that technology.
Morgan: [00:19:13] Well, and I suppose certainly on the timescales at which we need to decarbonize, we're going to be dependent on them. Well, so it seems like the message here then is a really complicated one where this drive for green tech is pushing this work, but it's potentially really counterproductive for environmental wellbeing or damaging in its own way.
So how do you approach trying to message this? How do you. Thread this needle on, we understand the importance of green tech and why we're here, but we need to balance human rights and cobalt mines, and go and nematode populations in the Pacific and CO2 concentration. Yeah. And the atmosphere. How do you approach this?
Arlo Hemphill: [00:19:52] Right. Well, there there's a lot of columns of work . But with the sourcing, Greenpeace has partnered with amnesty international to create a list of principles for the development of lithium ion batteries. what we're doing with that document. And the reason we partnered with amnesty is because Greenpeace kinda took the deep sea mining side of it a bit. And the expertise around that issue and amnesty international took. the side of it with the child labor and the human rights violations on terrestrial mining.
and so we kind of joined our expertise to create one document that would focus specifically on the batteries. and basically we're saying no deep sea mining ever. And we're talking about, you know, mining on land , is a centuries to millennia. old industry.
we're saying let's look at improving those practices and, and getting rid of those practices and providing more accountability , to that industry. so that we don't have to go to the sea and wreck that too.
And then we're also talking about the need for more tech recycling. We're using these minerals and then we're throwing away our iPhones when it's time to get the new model. and the industry has been terrible about reclaiming these minerals. , for reuse, we don't think that recycling alone is going to be, it'd be able to fill the whole need, but it could contribute to the amount of these minerals that we source from, wild places.
Morgan: [00:21:13] Okay. So we have for best practices, then increased recycling, better oversight management, and decision making around land mining. Are there any other best practices that you guys are advocating for?
Arlo Hemphill: [00:21:26] Well, within that we put local communities and marginalized people. First, the number one thing with, with terrestrial mining is, the needs and interests of. indigenous , and traditional communities that are often located in the vicinity of their mines.
So we put more emphasis on then even like say some of the pollution issues that happened , around mining is that we want to make sure that yeah, mining is happening on land, that it is, at the will of these people. and, and that they benefit from it and that they're not being abused by
some industry coming in and, you know, stealing their land and abusing their people. but those are the big ones I suppose, that we're looking at. but then we have, we have many lines of work that we're trying to achieve this to try to stop deep sea mining from happening.
one of those is we're going to corporations directly, the corporations, most likely to, use these minerals and we're asking them to make commitments to, to never source from deep sea mining.
Morgan: [00:22:23] Are most of these companies, are we talking about a couple of big tech players in this field ?
Arlo Hemphill: [00:22:29] So, this work is just getting started. so I don't have specific examples, of companies that we're moving yet because we're literally launching this. but our target is where we will accept commitments from, from anyone. so, a smaller company, that's not a household name. If they want to come forward and say, , we're going to promise to never use deep sea minerals in our products.
We will applaud them and we'll put out a press was released with them and, you know, say thumbs up. But our target is going to be the large international, fully known, tech and, renewable, companies. So like immediately, , we are going to be going after Apple. We'll be going after Tesla, groups like this is who we want to see on the commitments from. that's for two reasons. One is , the share of the market they have , is a greater impact. But secondly, somebody like Apple making a commitment like that influences a lot of other players. and so that's, that's kind of like the, the market angle that we're taking. Then we work within, international law itself.
We have people, who, who attended the international, sea bed authority, meetings, attend other relevant UN bodies, . And then as a, as a group of allied organizations, we're asking for a minimum of a 10 year moratorium, be clamped down on this, industry, beyond just not developing the mining code, to allow science to catch up.
cause right now the industry and the financing is way out in front of our knowledge of deep sea ecosystems. So , although Greenpeace wants no deep sea mining ever. We're joining the call for the moratorium as a first step towards achieving that.
Morgan: [00:24:08] So I'd like to hear a little bit more about this process of working with the UN. how does Greenpeace work with the UN how do you get to go to these meetings?
Arlo Hemphill: [00:24:17] So we have official observer status at the United nations. Any organization can apply for observer status. it's a kind of bureaucratic process of application , and then, there's rules and protocols. We have to follow. We could lose that, observer status if we, you know, Didn't play nicely inside.
but basically , when there's like these treaty meetings or the international seabed authority is meeting, we can go and we participate. Yeah. We're not down there. Like where the countries are. they have observers kind of off to the side. And, there's a, there's like a large gallery where you can sit and watch, but then there's also seats that look very much like the country seats that have a microphone and everything, because the way it works is, You know, basically the negotiations are divided up into sections that run throughout the day.
And so in every section, the countries would all have an opportunity to speak. If they have something to say about a particular area, the text that's being negotiated, and once countries are done, the observers can speak. The only difference is Greenpeace can say what they want and they can influence the countries and try to get them countries to agree with us. But in the end, just because we say it, it doesn't count in the same way that a council of a country.
So then when we're there at these meetings, we're also talking to the national delegates, between sessions, every single time Greenpeace, because we're such a large organization, we usually send a delegation of about 15 people. each of us will be from a different country.
and so like my role when I'm there, I will go and I'll talk to the U S delegation on breaks or if they say something good or problematic, I'll go congratulate them or tell them we don't agree. And then, and then my colleague from Germany is doing the same thing with the German delegation colleague from Indonesia, with the Indonesian delegation.
We also usually hold it. A side event. And, many of these meetings are structured where there's negotiations in the morning negotiations, in the afternoon. And then there's a lunch break in between where you have the option of like grabbing a bag lunch and going and hearing a talk.
and, we usually. Schedule at least one of those kinds of events. And sometimes we'll bring in scientists to talk about a key topic of in negotiations. Other times we'll take a sort of different Greenpeace tactic and like bring in , like last year we brought Javier Bardem, and, and had, you know, his kind of, celebrity draw, just talk passionately about why he cares about the ocean and he wants this treated and move, move forward as, as strong as possible.
Now beyond all that we. we also do stuff outside of the UN, inside the UN we act very much like the other organizations we're in suits and ties. And like I said, we have to follow the rules. If we did something crazy and really Greenpeace-y inside, we could have our observer status revoked and then we'd never be able to go to the UN again, but we don't have those same limitations out on the streets of New York city.
So there we might, you know, set up, ice sculptures making fun of an individual or do some kind of a demonstration, or just the type of Greenpeace activism. Like you've seen us dangling off of bridges and, and, and buildings. anything outside of the UN in New York city, like is fair game for those types of tactics, but not within the U S.
Morgan: [00:27:29] I see, so this Greenpeace-y stuff. how did those kinds of actions distinguish Greenpeace from some of the other observers? For example, at the UN.
Arlo Hemphill: [00:27:39] Yeah. So Greenpeace was founded around the principles of nonviolent direct action. It was actually some of our founders were Quakers. And, the idea of witnessing, bearing witness to atrocities happening is a Quaker tradition that permeated into the Greenpeace organization. And then just the whole history of nonviolent direct action from people like Gandhi and Martin Luther King jr.
is at the very core of what Greenpeace does. , we work within the UN with very close friends and allies from groups like Pew, charitable trust, natural resources, defense council, conservation, international.
They don't employ those same kind of tactics. They're much more about, program-based conservation and. the lobbying and the report writing aspects that we also participate in. And then when we want to do something to get the media's attention, that's, sort of crazier.
, they usually give us a thumbs up behind closed doors and a wink and, and, and say, you're on your own. You can't do that in the name of our Alliance, but, but go forward and wheelchair from the sidelines.
Morgan: [00:28:41] Greenpeace has ships, right? For direct action. How many ships do you have?
Arlo Hemphill: [00:28:47] We have three large ships, that the whole organization, shares and then some of our country offices, we have, we have offices in 40 different countries. Some of the country office we'll have smaller vessels. So like Germany is one that comes to mind that has a pretty large boat.
It's not as big as our main ships, but it's bigger than any other of the country offices have. And then at minimum countries will have like the ribs, which are the sort of inflatable, Jacques Cousteau looking type of little boats.
Morgan: [00:29:15] Cool. So what are these ships doing most of the time?
Arlo Hemphill: [00:29:19] they are usually campaigning. And when there's not a campaign, we use them for training. it really depends on what the campaigns are that need, that need shifts. So this is usually figured out a year in advance. you know, the different country offices submit their ideas and then it's between them and what's called the ship unit that's based. in the Netherlands to figure out the availability of ships, if a ship is available in that place and that time, and also. Are the tactics cool. Like is the country office like proposing something that's just maybe to, you know, out there or potentially, dangerous or, you know, so illegal that we would have the ship, destroyed or, taken from us.
you might be, you might be protesting tuna industry in the Mediterranean one month and then needed in the Arctic the next month. And so the ship will have to go and route, and we always take advantage of that time in route. that's usually when we do training.
Morgan: [00:30:14] Got it. okay. So it seems like the real power that Greenpeace and these large international organizations have is the ability to work on these really huge global campaigns where you're kind of outside any national jurisdiction. You're in something that's really very much the realm of the United nations.
How do you see this? like global top down approach contrasting other types of activism, for example, at the local level.
Arlo Hemphill: [00:30:41] so Greenpeace does both. So we do work at the top down types of, of issues of global international policy. And we also work at the grass roots level, with, smaller grassroots organizations and, and even, communities, but it really depends on the issue. so with something, say like the destruction of rainforest in Indonesia, because of Palm oil, we might be on the ground or empowering people on the ground that, you know, the, the effected communities nearby.
something like this that requires, agreement among global governments within UN bodies. there's less of that because we need to be influencing those countries and we will either be doing that directly, with direct engagement of the governments or, or using.
Some of our actions to influence the public. all those kinds of mechanisms like grass roots work is not really the appropriate, response when you're trying for a UN treaty. Um, it's much more these higher level mechanisms. And then also just having access to the UN
Morgan: [00:31:46] It seems like that's quite an investment to get observer status, to go to New York city, to send 15 people from 15 countries and be there in the first place.
Arlo Hemphill: [00:31:55] So even though a small, less resourced organization could apply and get the observer status, they might not have the financial resources to fly. campaigners there three times a year when these meetings are taking place, put them up in a hotel in Manhattan for, for two weeks at a time and, and all those other expenses.
So we are lucky in that sense that we are able to lend those resources to this cause, and we'll often bring. People with us, if there's an important voice that we know, for example, last year we brought the leader of, of a youth environmental movement from Iceland and he joined the green peace, delegation at the UN UN with us.
So there's a particularly like important voice that we don't feel like we're the best ones to say it. We will bring people like that. with us.
Morgan: [00:32:45] Very cool has Greenpeace's approach typically. Collaborating with local or grassroots organizations changed in the last few decades.
Arlo Hemphill: [00:32:54] Yes. it's. It's we've always worked with, local and grass, grassroots organizations, but as any big organization does, we've had, we've made mistakes along the way. we always try to learn from those mistakes, not repeating and, and do better. So there's, there was criticism of things that happened quite some time ago, where for instance, Greenpeace would, come in in a big way to an issue stir the pot.
Create a bunch of, a bunch of trouble and then leave. And the local organization was left with this big mess that Greenpeace created. And, those kinds of mistakes in our past has basically put Greenpeace on the path of pursuing a much more environmental justice, social justice focused mission.
where you talked to us back in the seventies, we were all about. no nukes and save the whales. Now, our focus is shifted much more onto the impact of environmental concerns on human communities. And we put those communities, marginalized people, traditional communities, and indigenous people first in our work.
and that is, ever. Increasing, from the point of, both how we operate within a campaign, but also the campaigns themselves are, are now are now, are now shifting in that direction. For instance, our primary fishery campaign right now is no longer about seafood sustainability, which it was five years ago now.
We are looking specifically at labor abuses and, and slavery at sea within distance water, fishing fleets. And that is our number one fishery priority is the impact on these, workers, not the impact on the tuna.
Morgan: [00:34:35] Well, and as we learned in a previous episode, these things do go together.
Arlo Hemphill: [00:34:40] Yes, they, they often go together.
Morgan: [00:34:42] when you're not at the United nations, what is your day to day life like in this job?
Arlo Hemphill: [00:34:49] Okay. So it's been very different under COVID. My job mostly consists of , zoom conferences for
Morgan: [00:34:55] you and me both.
Arlo Hemphill: [00:34:59] But before COVID, it's very variable. So the campaigner role in Greenpeace is the person in the organization that moves an issue forward. so you work with the comms people to develop the media strategy, the digital people to decide what's gonna be thrown on the website with the sort of, key influencer people.
These are the people who work directly with celebrities and, and kind of bring their influence in. So you work with that department to say like, Hey, is there a celebrity that wants to come out on the ship tour with us, and lend their support, to the visuals, people who are the people they're kind of creating our, the videos that you watch and capturing, any actions that we do, so that we can show it to the world.
so the campaigner. Does all of that. and then like last year I spent five years at sea I five years. Last year I spent,
Morgan: [00:35:49] That is truly incredible.
Arlo Hemphill: [00:35:52] I spent five weeks at sea. Well, um, and then, and then, and then there's a lot, you know, I go to all these UN meetings that we're talking about. So that takes a big chunk of the year. As I said, like the treaty meetings, they meet several times a year and it's two weeks at a stretch. The international seabed authority is two to three, two to three weeks at a stretch.
And then there's planning meetings in between, in between. So, you know, when I say, I go to see for two and a half weeks at a time, there was six months lead up of that, of planning, everything that we did on the ship.
Morgan: [00:36:26] How did you start doing any of this? How did you get into this role at Greenpeace?
Arlo Hemphill: [00:36:30] So, my background is in marine biology and I thought that I was going to be, the typical, marine biology track, work in academia, study some organism that, really nerdy passionate about. and shortly after undergraduate, I got a really cool internship with the Smithsonian, and was able to go down and spend, half a year in the Amazon in Ecuador.
Morgan: [00:36:58] Wow.
Arlo Hemphill: [00:36:59] And, and that was an amazing pure science job. It wasn't environmental work. I was doing forest dynamics, work, but what that opportunity opened for me was the opportunity to meet. A wide range of people in the environmental science field. And that included people from conservation international, which is a very strong science-based, but conservation organization.
and so from the Smithsonian, I ended up, at conservation international with my first paid, work in the environment. And I really didn't know before that point. That this whole sector existed, that you could do environmental work as a career. I thought of it probably in high school an undergraduate.
I thought of it more as, Oh, if anybody who's doing something for Greenpeace they're volunteering. I didn't, I didn't understand it as a work sector. That it is. and once my eyes were open to how that, that there was this possibility of doing this for your entire life, I kind of just felt like that, that this was my place and not just the kind of traditional academic, sector science.
But most of , my career, I have been in more an organization , like conservation international play, within the lines, you know, more than the at least. And I started working with Greenpeace. in a coalition in the early two thousands and got to know some of the people who worked here, we got along great.
And I started this, see the internal culture and, and really started appealing to me. And, I was always, yeah, impressed by their work because they bring a level of energy and creativity that you don't see in sort of a more stiff, student tie, type of organizations and. Uh, about few years before I started, I was working as an independent consultant out of a home office and a friend at Greenpeace offered me the chance to sail across the Atlantic ocean from Netherlands to, New York city to act as an onboard researcher and collect data on microplastics. And I was able to bring my homework with me. And do my regular job. and then just for a couple hours each day, do this plastic work. So then I met the people on the ships, which is another completely different culture than the people who are in the offices just completely fell in love with their, with their passion, for the work.
and so then shortly after that, I job opened up and I was like, yeah, I think I would like to throw my ring in the hat and they, they accepted me.
Morgan: [00:39:26] Amazing. So roughly how many people does greenpeace employ in the United States?
Arlo Hemphill: [00:39:32] Probably 150 to 200 people. I would say we have. Large offices in Washington, DC, and Oakland, but then we have small or offices in Chicago, New York city, LA Angeles. you know, and I think Portland, but the, the two main ones is, are Washington, DC and Oakland, a very, very large amount of people.
Morgan: [00:39:53] got it. And most of them have some biology background or is it really a range?
Arlo Hemphill: [00:39:57] No. there's actually very , few biologists in any of these large organizations. There's always some, because there are specific roles, like staff scientist type roles that operate within all of these, types of organizations, but then you have basically the same needs as any like a large corporation has.
So you need to have your accountants, you need to have your communications, people to work with the press. You need to have more kind of tech savvy people who are managing the website or doing digital campaigns. you have. lawyers, a lot of what I've described to you about this UN engagement.
the expertise you need for that is not so much, marine biology, but international law. and so you have a lot of lawyers on the staff of Greenpeace , and these other organizations
Morgan: [00:40:42] gotcha. So, how did you originally decide to become a marine biologist? If we pull all the way back?
Arlo Hemphill: [00:40:51] Okay. so I grew up spending summers at, in ocean city, Maryland, and my family has, runs a business there and, we would go down for the summer and, and then when I was old enough, I would, you know, work in our stores and it was just always my favorite time of the year. I loved fishing and crabbing and surfing and.
Just, it was the thing that made me happiest. I was also a child asthmatic and when I would go to the beach for the summer, my asthma would disappear because of the salt air. and so I knew, as a senior in high school, that that's what I wanted to do. And I looked for, for schools that had marine biology programs.
Morgan: [00:41:26] I'm actually impressed. You found Marine biology as an undergrad major.
Arlo Hemphill: [00:41:30] Yeah, it was actually, it wasn't a full major. It was a specialization.
Morgan: [00:41:33] How cool. Cool. So on the topic of advice, if someone is listening to this and is really excited to do the type of work that you do with a major international advocacy organization, is there additional advice that you would give them?
Arlo Hemphill: [00:41:49] Yeah. The two, the two pieces of advice I would have is look for schools that have specific when you're, when you're, when you're still in college or pursuing a graduate degree. Look for schools that have like a center. Based on the, on the field that you're interested in, in working. So,
look for somebody who has like, a center for ocean conservation within the academic setting, because. They're already connected into the community and doors are gonna open to you through your professors.
If, if that type of center exists in the university, the other thing is start, interning or volunteering for organizations that you're interested in early on. no one likes the idea of working for free. and I know not everybody's capable of doing it. I mean, does this reality that we have bills, but if you can figure out a way to volunteer for a few hours in the day, First it provides you experience that you need and how to work in these organizations. but the more important thing is the relationships that it builds. And oftentimes what will happen. Somebody will come in as a volunteer or, or an intern. And then a few months down the line, the road of a position opens up and Hey, we already know you and we like you. why don't we give the job to you?
Morgan: [00:43:00] The networking piece is huge.
Arlo Hemphill: [00:43:02] right. So it's really, I feel that your relationships are, are way more important than your resume. you need to like start meeting people and building relationships with people in the field that you want to work in. And I feel like almost all the jobs that have had.
Have been sequential in that, like, I knew people or with connect or they considered me because they already knew me from this. Um, and that's what got me the initial interview because, you know, they worked in a coalition with me and when I was in a different job, so these things build on each other and it's really so much about the relationships.
Morgan: [00:43:39] . Well, thank you so much for talking with us today. This has been incredibly interesting. Everything from the issues with mining itself, to what it's like to work at Greenpeace. So thank you so much for your time.
Arlo Hemphill: [00:43:50] Sure. Thanks for having me. It's been fun.
Thanks for joining me today. And thanks as always to Eleanor Durand and to Dust on the Radio for our theme song. One way trip to Mars.
In our next episode, we dig into a burning question, blowing through all of our minds as the West is consumed by flames and the Atlantic produces hurricane Zeta. What is going on and what happens next? Enter researchers like Dr. Danielle Touma, a climate researcher who works to model changes in extreme weather.
We'll get some answers next week.