By Cait Rohan | May 31, 2016 | People
Lonely Whale Foundation's Dune Ives and Adrian Grenier attend Social Good Celebration at the #DellLounge in Austin earlier this year.
Adrian Grenier is best known for his role as big-spending actor Vincent Chase, the main character from the hit HBO show and movie Entourage. But in real life, Grenier says that Chase’s excesses actually inspired him to help save the environment with initiatives like the documentary 52: The Search for the Loneliest Whale and the Lonely Whale Foundation, an organization sparked by the film that seeks to build education, connection, and awareness for the world’s oceans.
To further its earth-saving efforts, the Lonely Whale Foundation launched in-school curriculum this month. The foundation chose The Academy for Global Citizenship, a public charter school in Chicago, for its launch.
We recently caught up with Grenier to get some background on what inspired him to get involved with and evolve the organization, why Chicago is the right place to launch this educational program, and how his Entourage character sparked his decision to give back.
How did you get involved with the Lonely Whale Foundation?
ADRIAN GRENIER: My friend and former producing partner Lucy Sumner reached out to me about assisting on a documentary film she was producing, 52: The Search for the Loneliest Whale. After hearing the story of 52, Lucy couldn’t stop thinking about this lonely whale. So she called me. The story pulled me under in the same way. I joined the film team in the fall of 2015, just before launching our Kickstarter campaign, which was wildly successful.
Recognizing the power of 52’s story, Lucy and I decided to launch the Lonely Whale Foundation to support and inspire our new community and raise awareness for ocean health.
Can you talk to us about the documentary?
AG: 52: The Search for the Loneliest Whale explores the story of a mysterious “lonely whale,” a whale that travels the oceans without his pod. He has been calling out at 52Hz to no response for 30 years. In unraveling the history of the Lonely Whale and his experience in our oceans, we, by consequence, explore our own human experiences and what it means to feel lonely.
Just as loneliness and the quest for connection are the central focuses of the film, they are also central in our foundation’s work. That is why I was so thrilled to have Dune Ives, who formerly ran Paul Allen’s Vulcan Philanthropy, join the Lonely Whale Foundation as our executive director. With a background in psychology, Dune’s environmental work has shown that in order to inspire environmental action we must first create empathy for our natural world—be it an elephant or a whale—and learn to collaborate with each other so our actions are more impactful. With her leadership, the Lonely Whale Foundation has charted a course to further understand our ocean through a better understanding of one another.
The Lonely Whale Foundation partners with The Academy for Global Citizenship to teach children about caring for our oceans.
The organization is partnering with a public charter school in Chicago. What was the idea there? Talk to us about the advantages of making children aware of environmental issues such as this so early on?
AG: The Academy for Global Citizenship was founded by one of my dearest friends, Sarah Elizabeth Ippel, who has incorporated empathy and environmentalism in the very core of the school’s innovative curriculum. AGC’s goal is to empower global citizens, using the whale as their mascot. Like humans, whales are global citizens, traversing the globe through our oceans and communicating with one another in different sonar frequencies (languages). So when we were looking for a partner to launch our education program, AGC was the perfect fit. The Lonely Whale Foundation and AGC’s ethos have been central in creating our empathy-driven, science-based, and bilingual marine curriculum.
The teachers at AGC recently launched the kindergarten curriculum and Dune and our team were able to see the first lesson in action. Their take-away was powerful: these kindergarteners will graduate high school in 2028, two years before we aim to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and clean up our oceans.
This is the generation that will inherit what remains from our ability to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goal for Ocean Health. It’s crucial that we provide these students the tools and inspiration they need to protect our marine environments now so they are prepared to protect the ocean when they become independent adults. These students are our future leaders.
Why choose Chicago for this program?
AG: Our decision to launch in Chicago was driven by our desire to reach and connect with non-coastal students. We are building a curriculum that addresses the oceans' presence in a student's everyday environment—regardless of location. The teachers and students at AGC will help us to see what is possible and how the education approach will need to change to inspire empathy for marine life among non-coastal students.
What is one simple way that humans can help the earth and animals every day?
AG: I truly believe that for every man, woman, and child on the planet there are an equal number of ways we can make a positive impact on our environment. Most solutions are right in front of us and things we can take action on right away that will make a difference.
For example, recently I’ve stopped using plastic straws. Did you know that we waste 500 million straws every day? While this might seem like an inconsequential action when there are so many other ocean health concerns, it’s important to look at plastic’s overall impact. There is an estimated 12 million metric tons of plastic in our seas so by starting with a small, single-use plastic we see almost every day, we can start to shift our culture to one of conscious consumerism.
You could choose to only eat sustainably caught seafood (Monterey Bay Aquarium has a helpful site), talk with your local elected official about the amount of plastic used throughout the city, and use public transportation or carpool to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Every action matters and the important thing is to talk with your friends, your family, business leaders, and politicians about what matters to you and how they can help you make a positive difference.
Students at AGC after one of the lessons.
How could your iconic character, Vincent, "Vince," Chase, have changed his lifestyle to benefit the environment?
AG: Playing Vince on Entourage taught me a lot about our society’s view on consumerism. As a culture we tend to glorify mass consumption, celebrating purchasing power. So after eight seasons on set, I decided to commit my personal work and celebrity to doing for conscious consumption what Vince did for conspicuous consumption.
What’s next for you?
AG: I’m very excited for the future of the Lonely Whale Foundation thanks to its incredible team led by executive director, Dune Ives. She has marked a course to lead us all to have a dialogue about ocean health that inspires hope and results in developing empathy for marine life and, importantly, for each other. You’ll see great things from us and our partners this year, including a special surprise I have in store that will be announced on World Ocean Day, June 8.
I’m optimistic about the shift in global consciousness that we need to make to improve the state of our ocean and our communities. But, I need your help and encourage everyone to join #TeamLonelyWhale and let us know how you are making a difference!
The Lonely Whale Foundation has teamed up with Bucketfeet to inspire and support their marine-based education program. With your help, Lonely Whale can empower the next generation of environmental leaders.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY SARAH KERVER/GETTY IMAGES FOR DELL (IVES, GREENER); BY JIM VONDRUSKA (AGC)
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