Encourage your kids to join programs like beach clean-ups or environmental clubs. Both of my daughters spent a semester at the Island School in the Bahamas where they participated in unique ocean research and lived sustainably off of wind and solar power.
As part of my series about what we must do to inspire the next generation about sustainability and the environment, I had the pleasure of interviewing Linda Cabot. Linda is a visual artist who credits both a love of nature and a lifetime of sailing for her love affair with the ocean. She founded Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Programs to inspire and support the next generation of environmental leaders. She believes in the power of the arts to raise awareness about ocean conservation. She serves on the Board of Women Working for Oceans and is a trustee of the New England Aquarium. Linda is also devoted to educational reform and values quality education for all children. She is a Trustee for Life of the Neighborhood House Charter School and a founding board member of Horizons, a summer enrichment program for underserved youth. She is co-chair of the education cornerstone committee and a trustee at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.
Thank you so much for doing this with us, Linda! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?
As a little girl I loved animals, flowers, trees — really anything that was outdoors and wild. Simply put, I was just fascinated by the natural world. I grew up in Massachusetts and also spent time in Maine on a small island where I learned to love and admire the ocean. Growing up, I mucked around in rowboats and small day sailors, and I felt most alive being out on the ocean. The ocean was always a spiritual home for me — so much so that I started painting and drawing seascapes and found my calling as an artist. I suppose it was my way of expressing the awe I felt about the sea and about nature in general.
Was there an “aha moment” or a specific trigger that made you decide you wanted to become a scientist or environmental leader? Can you share that story with us?
For me, there was never an “aha moment” but rather a series of progressions that led me to environmental education and activism. It all stems from loving nature and believing that the next generation deserves support and guidance in building a better world.
I love reading and think of books as best friends. When my girls were small, I read books about the sea to them. We learned about whales, lobsters, jellyfish, and ocean ecosystems.
I also started reading about how fisheries were declining, how oils spills destroyed ecosystems, how vital coastal habitats were being threatened by development, and how plastic pollution was overrunning the ocean. I kept reading, and the news of the destruction and manmade harm kept getting worse and worse, year after year. Jacques Cousteau famously said, “People protect what they love,” and I wanted to protect the ocean for my love of the earth and also for the health and well-being of future generations.
Is there a lesson you can take out of your own story that can exemplify what can inspire a young person to become an environmental leader?
My simple message or mantra is: “Now is the time.” I waited until midlife to take a stand for what I believed in. There is no longer time to hesitate. The climate crisis needs solutions immediately if we are to save the planet from irreversible harm — harm that has devastating consequences for humankind. There is a sense of urgency like never before. One lesson from my story is that you can find a way to be an environmental leader no matter what your background.
Can you tell our readers about the initiatives that you or your company are taking to address climate change or sustainability? Can you give an example for each?
The environmental nonprofit that I founded, Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Programs, is unique in that we focus our efforts on educating young people about ocean issues like climate change while also giving them a platform to express their individual voices — a platform where they can create and share their own personal visions for the future. Our mission is to generate awareness and understanding so that young people can be both informed and empowered, and we do this by facilitating art-making and creative communication. Students in our programs learn about critical ocean conservation issues and then decide how they want to creatively respond to this learning. We know that when students actively create something, they learn in a more meaningful and long-lasting way than by simply reading and memorizing information. This type of experiential learning — where students can actively respond with their deepest emotions, allowing for both a powerful and inspired learning experience — is the cornerstone of our work.
In particular, our flagship initiative — the global Ocean Awareness Contest Program — has invited youth to explore and learn about issues impacting our blue planet through visual art, writing, music, and film since 2012. For the past few years, the program has focused specifically on climate change, educating and engaging thousands of students worldwide on the biggest issue facing society today.
I am proud of the global community of more than 12,000 young people from around the world who have participated in Bow Seat’s programs, and the inspiring collection of student work that they have created to give a voice to our oceans and to advocate for environmental action.
Can you share 3 lifestyle tweaks/things that the general public can do to be more sustainable or help address the climate change challenge?
1. Eat less red meat or meat in general.
2. Use your consumer power to support companies that act responsibly and consider the environment as an important stakeholder.
3. VOTE for representatives who understand the importance of taking care of our natural world and protecting our planet.
Ok, thank you for all that. Here is the main question of our interview: The youth led climate strikes of September 2019 showed an impressive degree of activism and initiative by young people on behalf of climate change. This was great, and there is still plenty that needs to be done. In your opinion what are 5 things parents should do to inspire the next generation to become engaged in sustainability and the environmental movement? Please give a story or an example for each.
1. As parents, we can be good role models for our children. It’s important to share our environmental passion with them — it’s infectious! Make sustainability a family lifestyle and priority.
2. Come up with family rules like no plastic bags or single-use plastic bottles. I get a big kick out of seeing my oldest daughter walking in the house juggling an armful of purchases because she refused the plastic bags!
3. Talk to your children about what’s going on in the world at dinnertime and ask them what’s on their minds. Also, share, share, and share — share articles, videos, and photos with your kids. Our family has a group text, and I am always sharing interesting environmental news with them.
4. Encourage your kids to join programs like beach clean-ups or environmental clubs. Both of my daughters spent a semester at the Island School in the Bahamas where they participated in unique ocean research and lived sustainably off of wind and solar power.
5. Supply them with paintbrushes, pencils, guitars, or cameras and encourage them to create art! I made an environmental documentary and had my young daughters write and narrate segments of the film. Witnessing how effective and powerful environmental learning through art-making was for them led me to start Bow Seat.
How would you articulate how a business can become more profitable by being more sustainable and more environmentally conscious? Can you share a story or example?
First, it is very much on-trend now — so many great companies are committing to important sustainability goals. Young consumers are expecting this, and studies show that their purchases are influenced by companies’ social actions. Businesses now are paving the way for and generating creative solutions and practices in ways our current federal government is not. This is both remarkable and inspiring, knowing that the private sector is stepping up and realizing the significant role of sustainability not only for its own success, but for the general well-being of the planet.
A couple of years ago, I launched Linda Cabot Design, a textile company with products inspired by my paintings — it’s an extension of my belief that art is an effective way to spread empathy for the earth. I knew that I wanted to be a responsible producer, and even though it’s not always easy to be, I’ve learned a lot about the many different ways that companies can demonstrate their commitment to fair practices and sustainability in all aspects of their work. For Linda Cabot Design, it affects how we source our materials, our eco-friendly digital printing process, commitment to small-batch production, and hiring of local artisans. Businesses should make it easy for consumers to make good choices.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My husband and two daughters have always encouraged me and celebrated my environmental work. Their love and support give me the energy to keep doing what I need to do!
You are a person of great influence and doing some great things for the world! If you could inspire a movement that would bring the greatest amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
This is not a new or original idea, but we as a society need a new form of capitalism — one that is innovative, creative, and powerful, but also equitable and responsible. I believe that there is an exciting era ahead where innovation and creativity will establish new societal and political structures that allow for a sustainable future.
Do you have a favorite life lesson quote? Can you tell us how that was relevant to you in your own life?
Freud said some crazy stuff, but one particularly meaningful thing he said that has guided and inspired me is, “Love and work are the cornerstones of our humanness.” This beautiful quote is a simple reminder about what’s really important in life.
What is the best way for people to follow you on social media?
· Website: www.bowseat.org
· Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/fromthebowseat
· Twitter: https://twitter.com/fromthebowseat
Thank you for all of these great insights!