What are his personal Mission and Motivations?
Don has designed his life around a set of core principles and goals, motivated by an intense desire to make a difference. (for more detail, click on "who is he" from the menu at left). He became a full-time conservation innovator in 1975 and has never looked back. Since that time, he has explored many aspects of science, conservationism, interspecies dynamics, and the interplay of complex systems. Along the way he has made some history.
Although extremely pragmatic and not religious in a conventional sense, Don admits that species and habitat conservation is, to him, a quest which defines and gives personal meaning to his life. A quote: "Many people feel a deep connection to nature , but deny these feelings of 'religious naturism' unless they are couched in terms of one of the mainstream religions. That's a shame, because these profound feelings of connection can form the basis of a satisfying life, and a rich new definition for personal success. In my worldview, saving wild nature is a sacrament. Saving an entire species is a rare privilege, and preventing the destruction of an entire ecosystem is the truest wealth a person can know". Despite such corny sentiments, or perhaps because of them, he tells some pretty irreverent jokes.
White does not fit into stereotypical categories. He has been a long-time booster of space exploration and colonization, while working to save endangered species. He is an ardent advocate of reducing human populations and he chose not to have children, yet he has been a lifelong teacher. A pioneer in interspecies communication and cognition, he insists that this work always be tied to real-time conservation goals. Aghast at the depredations of the fishing industry, he has nevertheless worked with its members to break barriers and achieve real gains for the environment. And in a business where the typical campaigner lasts two years, he has stayed on the cutting edge for a quarter century.
White was drawn into conservation simply because it needed to be done. A 1974 lecture by Dr. Roger Payne on the then-imminent extinction of most whale species convinced him to radically change careers, from an oil-industry geophysicist to environmental activist. His first expedition was initially virtually a suicide mission. Quickly, he emerged as a leader of the whale-saving movement, a founder of Greenpeace, Earthtrust, and many other organizations and programs.
As he entered its highest levels, White was struck by how much the conservation movement could be improved upon. It utilized protest and other "reactive" tactics, but rarely a cogent longterm strategy. Moreover, he found that the same forces which create environmental destruction in the world at large are actively at work within the environmental community and its organizations. He set about trying to change that. He remains a staunch advocate of the movement policing itself.
White's wry, sometimes ironic sense of humor has served him well in dealing with sometimes-impossible situations. Of Greenpeace he says "you never forget your first cult". White demands integrity and offers it to others, building nontraditional alliances as he "thinks outside the box". He has never been in the "mainstream" of the movement and never expects to be, preferring to anticipate problems and solutions rather than "riding along with the posse".
White's work as a Geologist, thinking in terms of millions of years, have given him a sobering perspective on what is at stake today. "Just as all other considerations are rendered moot if you wake up in a burning house, those of us alive today have been born into a situation in which we must rush to save the basic things we value most, before they are lost immediately and forever. This terrible reality also confers a strange gravity to our actions: even the least of us can save entire species from extinction."
What are his current life Goals?
Don plans to continue directing EarthTrust while increasingly consulting with the institutions he feels have the best chance of totally rebuilding the conservation movement to be more effective, smarter, and less reactive.
He plans to eventually seek the directorship of a granting foundation which shares his interest in advancing new models for conservation and training new leaders for the movement. He does not plan to retire, but he looks forward to having the time to complete the writing of a number of books.
What is his personal Mission?
DJ White, has, from the beginning, defined his own mission rather than following the lead of others. He then finds people to work with who can understand and agree with that mission.
The fact that he HAS a personal mission speaks volumes. He lives his life with a perspective on its entirety, and has launched stepwise projects which have been expected to take 3 decades to complete. He is among the longest-term conservation strategists.
By 1980, his initial Goals were to end pelagic driftnetting, create an independent dolphin-safe tuna standard to end the huge kills of dolphins off the ETP, to establish Greenpeace as an international movement, to end pirate whaling on endangered species, to end dolphin drive-kills in Japan and Taiwan, and to explore the possibility of dolphin self-awareness. He had substantially accomplished all these goals by 1996 (reality check at page bottom**) Since that time, he has analyzed the needs of the conservation movement and dedicated himself to making the biggest impact with his life that he can.
White has brought many new tools and methods to the conservation arena, some of which are so new that they are not yet widely understood or used. Don is working to see the methods he has developed become more widely available, and widely used, for conservation and environmental issues. His general term for his unique style of issue analysis and solution is "stable state/phase shift" campaigning. You can find out more about what goes into this, and specific applications Don has planned, by clicking on the "vision" button.
(1) The campaigns led by White at Greenpeace and then Earthtrust created and focused the power behind the successful U.N. Driftnet ban resolutions, these active campaigns began in 1982 and culminated at the U.N. in 1991; (2) White's creation and negotiation of the "Flipper Seal of Approval" standard catalyzed the Heinz dolphin-save tuna decision of 1990 and has since that time drastically affected the status U.S. labeling laws, keeping private dolphin-safety labels legal to date; (3) Greenpeace is perhaps the best-known environmental group in the world, based in no small part on White's decade of leadership and the issues he popularized with his campaigns; (4) The large-scale selling of "pirate" whale meat for high prices in Asia was effectively ended and documented - by White's market DNA initiatives from 1993-98, which have become the standard tests for a nation's compliance; (5) Under White, Earthtrust ended all Taiwan drive-kills in 1990-91 by getting national laws changed. Drive kills in Japan have not ended, although campaigned heavily by Earthtrust and White; (6) White's research lab, with Dr. Ken Marten and Suchi Psarakos, scientifically demonstrated dolphin self-awareness in 1991.