I emailed Kanye West and asked him to help me save the ocean.

Washington, DC

January 5, 2012

Kayne West posted a slew of tweets (see screenshot below) and then his email address and asked for ideas, so I sent him this letter below. I received the auto-reply “Thank you for reaching out! Your email will be reviewed in a timely maner.” Then friends started offering to actually put me in touch with Kanye, and once engaging him became even a distant possibility I realized I needed to think more seriously about the best way to engage the black community in ocean conservation, and who the best spokespeople would be. So, stay tuned…



You tweeted: “We need scientists and top world designers to directly affect governments.”

I couldn’t agree more.

I’m a black girl from Brooklyn with a PhD in marine biology, and my dream is an ocean as abundant and productive and beautiful as it used to be, so that the 1 billion people around the world who depend on fish for their nutrition and livelihoods will be okay, and we can all enjoy its cornucopic splendor.

I checked out your twitter feed and saw the context: ”DONDA is a design company which will galvanize amazing thinkers and put them in a creative space to bounce there dreams and ideas…”

And I saw your twitpic of the 7 screens, and the guy swimming, and thought you must understand how powerful, and inspiring, and life-giving the oceans are — whether it’s watching waves break under surfers in Cali, or gazing at that heart-melting Caribbean turquoise sea, or catching a beautiful fish in New England, or getting down at a southern fish fry, or SCUBA diving with the awesomeness that is sharks.

So here’s my idea: I am an ocean policy advisor for the Federal Government (at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration). This spring we are going to release the Nation’s first ever plan to get all 26 agencies that have jurisdiction over the ocean to work together to holistically manage our marine resources (the National Ocean Policy Implementation Plan).  This is historic. This is a huge opportunity to get things right.  But without big names standing up and saying they support ocean science and conservation, and making sure this thing (initiated by an Executive Order from President Obama) actually gets implemented, it will flounder.  Wanna join that team?

Or, more fun, I am transitioning from my government job into a position as “ocean envoy” at a foundation — jetting around the world finding the best ideas in ocean conservation and making them happen.  SCUBA diving, helicopters, submarines, coral reefs, and all that Zissou stuff, financed by Ted Waitt (billionaire founder of Gateway computers). Come check it out, fall deeply in love with the ocean, and help me save it.

You’re right that wealthy, influential people have a responsibility to do something with their power. Occupy Wall Street is important, and there are many other worthy issues in the world, but how dope would it be to break all the stereotypes and show that young people, cultural icons, and black Americans understand how fundamental ocean health is to human well-being?

Saving the ocean is actually really simple: create large marine protected areas, limit fishing to a sustainable level, minimize pollution, and try to prevent climate change from getting out of control.  But for the oceans, it’s out of sight, out of mind, and popular culture does not hold politicians’ feet to the fire to take the totally doable steps necessary.  People are so disconnected from nature that we’re killing the planet, our life source, and thereby diminishing – unnecessarily – the possibilities for humanity.

I know about ocean science and policy.  You know music, film, and design.  I’ve got the nerd connections.  You’ve got all the other ones.

I have an idea and you have an idea… interested?


The tweets: