Sharkman and the Ocean of Hope Foundation: Interview with Chief Adventure Officer Ridlon Kiphart by Willi Paul
Sharkman and the Ocean of Hope Foundation: Interview with Chief Adventure Officer Ridlon Kiphart by Willi Paul

The Ocean of Hope Foundation is the first massive scale, grass roots organization that works directly with volunteer teams to effect ocean conservation through education. Our actions create results both today and far in the future.

By extensively using volunteerism and having no marketing overhead, we break the mold of the traditional non-profit and put funds to use where they make the most difference. Donors can choose how they want to make a difference by selecting which project their funds go to and seeing the direct results.
The newest project is the Misool Conservation Centre in Raja Ampat Indonesia.

The Ocean of Hope Foundation also supports the community school on the island of Malake in Fiji. The 10,000 Classroom Project has passed through its pilot stage with great success and is set for a launch on January 1, 2011. We are gathering resources, talking with teachers and planning logistics for this project now.

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What are the underlying principles and values in the program?

Ocean of Hope is all about creating tomorrow's policy makers and Ocean stewards today. Because our planet's health is so threatened right now, we've been playing environmental triage. And while that's critically important, we also need to make sure that what we are doing today is changing outcomes 5, 10, 20 years from now or we'll find ourselves in the same leaky, sinking boat.

What are the systemic issues, local to global, in your way of success?

In the U.S., it's about creating Ocean stewards and future policy makers at a young age when children are forming their opinions. Trying to change the mind of a 60 year old anti environmentalist senator is a waste of time. In developing countries, it's about using education to instill a conservation ethic while simultaneously lifting people out of poverty.

What are a few similar organizations to yours?

None really. We're using a volunteer and community based model, linking donors with specific projects and then getting out of the way. I think Kiva is a real pioneer in this. It's very different than the centralized command and control structure of most NGOs.

How do you define your causes to meet the needs of the kids in your vision?

The Ocean is one vast, interconnected system that does everything from make our planet habitable to feed the majority of its human inhabitants. If you don't think you're connected to the Ocean on a daily basis, try going a day without breathing - it produces over half the oxygen we breathe. This is the first generation that is going to leave the planet and Ocean in a far worse condition than when they found it. Kids are direct stakeholders in this. It's what they are inheriting.

"We've found they don't need to be taught sustainability or environmental stewardship, they already get it. In fact, we don't even need to deliver an in depth conservation message. All we do is share the wonders of the natural world - in this case the Ocean - and they take it and run from there." Give some examples please?

When we were developing curricula for the 10,000 schools program, we looked at talking about things like ocean acidification and showing pictures of trashed reefs, finned sharks and polluted waters. What we did instead on a hunch was create an interactive, multimedia presentation showing the wonders of the Ocean. The kids LOVED it. They innately understand that this is a special resource that must be preserved. We didn't have to spell that out to them. They automatically get it and want to know what they can do to help.

Are children the best teachers of children?

Children learn very well from both their peers and adults. They seem to be naturally attracted to multi-media and learn well from interactive experiences. We need to make sure we are talking with them and not at them.

Give us an update on the 10, 000 Classrooms Program!?

10,000 Classrooms has successfully made it through its pilot stage. We are continuing to do small scale, local visits. We're lining up schools for Phase I which is going to be a nationwide, 8 metro area tour where we'll stay a week and visit 10 schools in each metro area. At the end of each week on Saturday, we'll have a SCUBA dive day in the pool at a local dive shop. We'll look to generate a lot of media attention both locally and nationally. We're looking for teachers to invite us into their classrooms.

Are capitalism and sustainability headed to a blow-out? Who loses?

GREAT question. I don't believe that capitalism and sustainability are inherently at odds. In fact, the greening of America could be the next big economic boom and America could lead the way in that technological revolution! Sustainability is great business and could create hundreds of thousands of jobs. The current problems are 1. entrenched special interests that are politically thwarting a green revolution and 2. a capitalistic system that doesn't take into account the true costs of environmental damage. Profits are typically privatized but environmental costs are typically born by the taxpaying public.

Thanks for this opportunity Willi to spread the word. We've got a lot of work to do and every bit helps! The Ocean needs us and it needs change.

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Bio - Ridlon Kiphart (aka Sharkman)

Adventure and travel junkie that is wildly passionate about living a life off the couch, showing others how to do it and bringing them along. Avid and visionary philanthropist that is making a global, systematic impact and a committed conservationist. Crazy entrepreneur with 1000 ideas. I believe that adventure is a way of being and thinking that ultimately manifests itself as a way of doing and living. It thrills us, enlightens us, strengthens us, inspires us, answers our curiosity and freaks us out sometimes but its never boring and always fun.

It is the most awake and aware life we can lead. This is applicable to our personal life, our family life, our community's life and our corporate life. You don't have to settle for less and you don't have to live a certain way because everybody else is doing it. I'm committed to showing people, organizations and corporations how to live an extraordinary life through adventure and having them join our tribe and come along.

Connections -

Ridlon Kiphart (aka Sharkman)
CAO - Chief Adventure Officer
Sharkman at Live-Adventurously dot com