Often the problems we see in the world appear just too enormous to solve. This week on Impact Everywhere, John Hocevar of Greenpeace provides his insights on how to look at the full picture of a problem and to find momentum in the small wins rather than despairing at the monstrosity of the issue. John has served as the director for Greenpeace’s ocean campaigns for 16 years now, and his wins include establishing the largest marine reserve in the world, persuading Japan to drop plans to hunt humpback whales, and setting ever-higher standards for sustainable seafood. In today’s conversation, we dive deep and ask John all about the inner workings of a Greenpeace campaign, the intersectionality of environmental and social justice issues, and how he stays optimistic as the oceans continue to die at an ever-accelerating rate. John is a true environmentalist with incredible insights into what it takes to drive true change. So stay tuned as we unpack the formula to successful campaigning, finding the right allies, and the importance of celebrating the process you’ve made for your cause. Check out the full podcast at one of the below links:

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Key Points From This Episode

Why the full picture is important and not just “saving the oceans”

You can’t expect to save the planet without looking at the intersectionality of issues. For example, addressing human rights issues and slavery on fishing boats is just as to marine welfare as a campaign to “save the dolphins.”

Look at the opportunities before you in terms of how they can help you become who you want to be, rather than looking for reasons to turn things down

John took a pretty large detour from his marine biology work when he was asked to help get an organization called Students for a Free Tibet off the ground. It ended up being a 10 year detour from what his intended career path was, but it gave him the connections and experiences that made him desirable for an organization like Greenpeace.

Hobby activism is not always harmful, but match your words with actions

With all of the current change taking place for racial justice as a result of the Black Lives Matter movements, many verbally say that they support a movement without actually taking action. This is not the worst thing in the world, but take action to support the organizations that have a real plan for the furthering the movement.

The importance of paying attention to what your tax dollars are funding

John was approached by Students for a Free Tibet to help their cause to prevent the World Bank from funding a “resettlement project” to move 60,000 ethnic Chinese into Tibet. Population is a component of genocide, and this benefited the Chinese government’s strategy to eliminate Tibetan culture. The World Bank is funded by tax dollars, so consider what your money is unwillingly supporting.

How to make your voice heard as a small organization

When you can’t get in contact with people directly necessary to make change, connect with other people or organizations already interested in a facet of the problem you’re trying to address. In John’s case, they found organizations already focused on Tibet. Calling an group as large as the World Bank doesn’t really work, so their strategy was hanging a banner on the front of the World Bank, stating that they fund genocide. In the end, they were successful in cancelling the plans.

The formula for successful campaigning:

  1. Experimenting until you find the right pressure point
  2. Empowering those sympathetic to the cause with a variety of tools
  3. Don’t be afraid to try a vast array of things


“You really don’t have to look too deeply to see that intersectionality isn’t just a millennial trendy thing to say.” — @JohnHocevar [0:02:31]

“You can’t save the planet if you don’t deal with the people that are a big part of what’s going on on this planet.” — @JohnHocevar[0:02:37]

“We can’t have a healthy ocean if we don’t have justice.” — @JohnHocevar[0:02:44]

“If you can’t ask questions and you’re afraid to say the wrong thing, then it’s a lot harder to get to where you need to as an individual.” — @JohnHocevar[0:05:49]

“One of the mistakes that we make as activists is in looking back and saying, “The world is worse, so everything that we’ve done was a failure and we need to work differently”.” — @JohnHocevar[0:15:40]

Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode:

Benjamin Von Wong
John Hocevar
John Hocevar on Twitter
Impact Everywhere Episode 3: The Intersection of Art and Movements with Will Mezner
Impact Everywhere Episode 12: How To Become A More Effective Altruist ft. Anya Marchenko
Students for a Free Tibet
Singularity University
Gary Bolles

Coming Up Next

Tune in next week to hear from Gary Bolles, chair for the future of work for Singularity University, a global learning and innovation community. He will be providing his insights on how to best prepare yourself and your company for the future despite these uncertain times. Be sure to subscribe here so you don’t miss it, and leave a rating here if you’re enjoying Impact Everywhere so far.