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CERC Certificate Alum Pursues His Passion For Protecting Oceans

Mike Misner is a communications consultant for the Blue Ocean Institute.

Mike Misner earned a Certificate in Conservation and Environmental Sustainability at the Center for Environmental Research and Conservation (CERC) in 2006. He is a communications consultant at the Blue Ocean Institute, which was founded in 2003 by Dr. Carl Safina, a conservation pioneer and MacArthur fellow. Mike also writes about marine conservation and clean energy on his blog, Eco Ocean and on Twitter: @EcoOceanBlog. In addition, he markets wind power directly to electricity customers in New York City.

1) What is your current job and what are your responsibilities?

I’m fortunate enough to be help Blue Ocean Institute inspire marine conservation using a variety of communications channels including social media. I am a communications consultant working with the great people over there.

I also market wind power directly to New York City electricity customers. It’s a face to face green conversation with the array of people walking the streets of New York. It’s a bit of a wild ride, some of the things people say, but it gives me an interesting perspective on what messages work and what motivates people to take action (or not!) over climate change.

My blog, Eco Ocean, about marine conservation and clean energy, does not pay in the traditional sense. My reward is the joy of writing about my passions, and possibly, hopefully, motivating someone to take action or be inspired by my prose. If I could be so lucky.

2) How did you become interested in protecting oceans?

It started with a fascination in all things ocean at a young age. I mean who doesn’t love being barefoot on the sand and bouncing in the waves? Then I grew up to realize the oceans are in trouble. I used to think the oceans were so vast and powerful that people couldn’t make a dent in them but unfortunately, that’s just not true. My feeling is this: The oceans give me, and everyone, so much — they provide life on this planet – I’d like to give something back.

3) What do you think is the most important ocean issue?

The oceans are in trouble, no doubt, and so many of the issues are important. But climate change stands out as the real kicker, the big Kahuna – it impacts everything. That’s why my blog is about clean energy too. Any conservationist has to be talking about solutions to climate change as well as whatever they’re looking to save. No matter how many marine reserves are set aside or sustainable fishing practices enabled, stuffing the atmosphere with excess carbon impacts the oceans everywhere.

4) Describe your career background. How did you find your current job?

My background is mostly in corporate communications, marketing, and journalism at publishing and financial services companies. But more recently, I turned my professional background toward a focus on the environment and sustainability, when moonlighting and volunteering at green NGOs was just not enough, and when the urgency became greater and greater. These days, I am trying to meld my professional background with my personal desire for a healthy planet.

5) How did you hear about CERC’s certificate program in conservation and sustainability and what motivated you to apply to it?

I heard about it when mulling graduate school, and thought this may be the additional tipping point to put me in a good position professionally to do exactly what I’ve been talking about – make my passion for nature my profession. The move from financial services and publishing businesses to sustainability has not exactly been as linear or as smooth as I had hoped. Some people say you create your own luck. I’m still trying, but I’m farther along than I was four, two, and one year ago, so that’s very positive.

6) What was your favorite class in the CERC certificate program and why?

I enjoyed Diversity and Conservation, a class that connected human health to a healthy environment. Asking people to protect nature because it’s so wonderful and beautiful only goes so far. Many people need to see more than that. They need to hear benefits to them, including the human health and economic benefits of conserving and protecting nature. This class helped me better understand and articulate these concepts.

I also enjoyed Forest Management and Conservation, a field class where we went out and measured trees and the canopy of a local, old growth deciduous forest. Maybe it was because I like being outside so much, but also the class really illustrated the beautiful common sense logic of so much of nature.

7) What did you find most useful about the CERC certificate program?

The program beefed up my knowledge and background in environmental sciences and sustainability. It helped me see the bigger picture around many issues, and it helped energize me with kindred spirits sitting around me in the classes.

8) What advice do you have for people who want to break into the field of sustainability?

Keep trying and don’t doubt yourself. I have yet to really have a big transformative success in sustainability myself to be honest, but I’m happy that I am many steps closer. Being around and doing what I care about is very satisfying. I’m going in the right direction and that’s sometimes all we can ask.

Lily Shen is a student in CERC’s Certificate Program in Conservation and Environmental Sustainability.

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