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Interview with Susan Rockefeller

Jude Jacob Kayton July 30, 2020

Susan Rockefeller is a documentary filmmaker, artist, activist and founder of Musings. She is Chairwoman of Oceana’s Ocean Council and a board member of Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, as well as a sustainability advisor to globally renowned businesses and financial institutions.

How did your childhood spent in nature shape your focus in life and social mission? 

I spent a lot of time on the East End of Long Island with my family and siblings. Those times formed memories that have stayed with me and continue to provide a foundation for wanting to protect the places I love. I believe we protect what is most precious to us and for me, it is family, art and nature—all part of my upbringing.

What makes you so passionate about sustainability? 

When you understand how interconnected we are to all living things and that this phenomenal tapestry of life is a gift for us to behold, you recognize that we have a responsibility to the generations that will come after us.

Living sustainably and making sure we protect our vital ecosystem will create less climate and economic chaos—I imagine a world with more equity and fairness. Until we create economic and social policies that care for the potential of all human beings, along with an eco-economic understanding of healthy systems thinking, we will not have a sustainable world. I love the diversity of nature and I love diversity of culture and want a healthy, vibrant world in which to live the rest of my life and for generations to come.


Tell us about your experiencesliving with the Inuit. How did this change/transform you and your world view? 

It profoundly changed my way of understanding empathy towards the land and all living things. The Inuit way of life utilized all parts of whatever animal they hunted—for food, for clothing, for art—and they respected the natural world in a way that continues to inform me about the way I live my life now. The land, rivers and ocean were the table upon which they received their food, and gratitude was present in their relationship to all living things. I feel incredibly grateful for this experience that has impacted much of my life.

What inspires you most? 

Family, art and nature. 

Tell us about Musings magazine and the different NGOs & companies you partner with. 

Musings is the digital magazine I always wanted to come into my inbox. I created a bi-monthly newsletter with inspirational profiles on responsible innovation and ideas from entrepreneurs, artists, scientists and advocates working to make our world a better place for all. Partners who help include Parsons School of Design, Food System 6, Manna Tree Partners, We Are Family Foundation and Made Safe.

What’s most exciting about these environmental/sustainable partnerships?

They point us towards responsible manufacturing, green chemistry for beauty and home care, youth activists/leaders, innovators, designers and artists shaping new ways of thinking and living in more sustainable ways.

Tell us about your work as a conservationist.

I am focused now more than ever on healthy soils and healthy seas through my work with Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, and Oceana. We need a bountiful ocean to ensure security for the over one billion people that rely on fish for their major source of protein. We also need to reimagine our agricultural system to be more regenerative with people/eaters relying on protective foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes and grains. We can draw down carbon and work towards better human and planetary health. It is a win-win for humans and all living things.

Tell us about your work as a filmmaker and your focus on ocean health and trauma. 

As a filmmaker, I believe in storytelling and film as a way to move people towards empathy.

I have made films on ocean health, the food revolution and music as an instrument of healing trauma. My films can be found on  susanrockefeller.com  and  louverturefilms.com. I love the power of film to inspire action and instill compassion.

How did you become a filmmaker? 

I love storytelling and photography, so film became a natural outgrowth for me to use writing and the moving image to tell stories that resonate and capture truth in a way that activates the human heart towards action.

Tell us about jewelry design. How does this fit in with sustainability? 

I started making jewelry to create inspired messaging through pieces that could spark conversations about plastic pollution and our climate crisis. I have designed five collections—my most recent (with Atelier Swarovski) is called  The Beautiful Earth Collection  and focuses on the beauty of bamboo and the panda bear. We worked with the The Nature Conservancy to support their efforts in China with national parks and corridors for the panda to roam more freely and be protected as a charismatic species or umbrella species. When they are protected, other species benefit as well.

Why do you believe that entrepreneurs and consumers hold the power to shift demand and create the change we need to ensure a safe and healthy planet for all? 

Consumers have the power of their own pocketbook to make choices that matter, but I also firmly believe that business leaders need to work together to limit the damage created by consumption and manufacturing. Entrepreneurs can design new products and services, and disrupt current practices towards a new, circular paradigm that is more sustainable.

How do you better educate brands and consumers about sustainability? 

This is happening on all levels through the United Nations’ sustainability goals; B Corporations; and CSR and ESG initiatives in the business community. With the Covid-19 pandemic, there is a reckoning happening with regard to planetary boundaries and a rethinking about values that protect human and planetary health.

What can the FRÉ community do to create a safer and healthier planet? 

Use safe ingredients in your product formulations. Continue to support athletes and self-care that is about exercise and time to pause and ‘smell the roses.’ Your  I AM LOVE oil is amazing and does just this. We all need reminders to savor the beauty of the natural world and our own breath that gives us life.

I AM LOVE reminds me to take this time to breathe in and inhale the scent of remembrance—rubbing the oil onto my neck and hands and breathing in to relax and take in the beauty and miracle of being alive.

When more of us do this, we will experience a transformation of spirit and love and hopefully that will translate to a more empathic society.

As individuals, how can we help protect our planet? What are your top tips?

Take care of yourself and live in gratitude. I recommend reading  The Way of Gratitude: A New Spirituality for Today by Galen Guengerich. Simply practice gratitude and understand your connection to this precious life you have been given.

What’s your daily skincare routine? 

I wash with water every morning, use  I AM LOVE oil and an SPF tinted moisturizer.

What is your dream skincare product? 

I love oils these days and serums with Vitamin C—would love your suggestions! 

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us? 

We need caring people on this crowded planet. We need to reboot empathy for ourselves and all living things. I am now simply living each day to do less harm to this precious Earth. When we recognize our interconnectedness to each other, we move away from consumption and towards gratitude and creativity. Spend more time in nature, observe the beauty of nature, and find and align yourself with people who share common dreams. And love is everything!

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