Welcome to Remarkable People.

This week’s Remarkable People podcast features a woman who fell in love with the Monterey Bay while studying science at U.C. Santa Cruz.

On many dark, dank, and cold mornings, Julie Packard waded through the icy waters of the intertidal zone to study the plants and animals. She did this as research about the impact of humans on the Central California coast.

In the late seventies David Packard, half of the founding team of Hewlett-Packard Company, challenged his children to come up with a big project that would make a difference in the world.

Julie’s sister Nancy, Nancy’s husband, and a couple of friends came up with a concept for an aquarium. Eventually, this led to her father and mother investing $55 million to fund what is now the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Initial studies projected 350,000 visitors a year. Year one drew nearly 2.4 million people.

Since its opening day on October 20th, 1984, the Monterey Bay Aquarium has introduced over 60 million people to the incredible sea life off the Central California Coast, as well as the vast ocean beyond.

Julie is the executive director of the Monterey Bay Aquarium and an international leader in the field of ocean conservation. She is also a leading voice for science-based policy reform in support of a healthy ocean.

Can you guess what sea animal she’d like to come back as? Stay tuned, and you’ll soon find out.

Her philosophy is to learn something every day, work with great people, and motivate them to make the world a better place.

This is Guy Kawasaki and this is the Remarkable People podcast. And now here’s Julie Packard.

© Monterey Bay Aquarium, photo by Tom O’Neal

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FULL TRANSCRIPT of Guy Kawasaki’s Remarkable People Podcast

Julie Packard

Guy Kawasaki:

For me and I think many people, 367 Addison is the center of the universe. It’s like where time began. Did you live there?

Julie Packard:

No, I’m so sorry to say. That is Mecca, a shrine to the tech community for sure. But my three older siblings were born there, but by the time I came around, my dad had decided he wanted to move up into the hills. So he was born in Pueblo, Colorado, in a really rural town. I don’t know if any of the listeners have been Pueblo, but there’s not a whole lot going on. It’s right at the edge of the Prairie in Colorado, and he was just super outdoorsy and secretly wanted to be a farmer or rancher, I think, before he became an engineering genius.

And so they moved from Palo Alto up to Los Altos Hills in the ‘50s and then where I was born. So no, sadly, I didn’t live at Addison. I don’t have any stories. You’d have to interview my older siblings for that.

Wondering what 367 Addison is? Google Maps and Wikipedia

HP Garage is a private museum where the company Hewlett-Packard (HP) was founded.

Guy Kawasaki:

But still, you did grow up in the family that arguably started Silicon Valley. So what was that like?

Julie Packard:

Things were very different back then. First of all, just setting the scene. We moved up in the hills in Los Altos Hills, kind of above what’s now Foothill College, and back then, it was just apricot orchards and oak forests, and you’d look out over the valley. There was of course hardly any urbanization at all. And so it was very rural and a lot quieter back then of course, and growing up probably like most kids in the ‘50s, my dad worked all the time, no surprise, and my mother was very traditional and there were four of us in the family and for her it was about being supportive, raising your kids with manners and good values.

Julie Packard:

But we had a great place to grow up. My dad bought this apricot orchard, and we spent our summers in the orchard cutting the apricots to make dried apricots to sell. So my dad, as I said, loved vegetable gardening and growing stuff. He was a huge nature lover, but it had to be functional: hunting, fishing, growing things, cattle ranching. He loved driving tractors. He’d get out in a tractor and disk the orchard every spring and drive the tractor around and in the summer apricot’s would be harvested, and we’d sell them to the canneries. Back then, in Santa Clara Valley there were all these apricot and prune and cherry orchards. So they were canneries down there, and you’d sell the fresh fruit.

Julie Packard:

Then over time, of course, it was all urbanized, but we still continued to cut dried apricots, sun-dried, dried apricots, plums, the best. You can get them at the farmer’s market. Now that is an insider tip. Everyone in California, look for the Blenheims apricots, they’re the best.

Guy Kawasaki:

This is the farmer’s market on Sunday?

Julie Packard:

Yeah. Just any farmer’s market in the Bay area. You can find them. They’re the old school kind you used to grow in the “Valley of the Heart’s Delight,” which is what they called Santa Clara Valley because great fruit growing. So my dad worked a lot, and he was very imposing. He needed to maintain a little profile at the dinner table, and he’d always win every argument with you. I mean, many of us I’m sure grew up in families like that.

Julie Packard:

He just had such huge curiosity and just seemed to know everything about everything, and what he didn’t know he would read. He just had an incredible library of just the biggest array of subject matter from calculating, plumbing, pipes for his irrigation system to the future of the defense industry and Russia.

Guy Kawasaki:

Did he come home and say, today, we got an order for 10,000 oscilloscopes from Disney and nothing like that? We just invented reverse Polish notation calculators and nothing like that?

Julie Packard:

He would tell us about all of those things, and we thought they were like very exciting and remarkable. We knew all those things were a very big deal, for sure. For me personally, though, you have to understand, I came of age in the 60s, and that was a time when there was just a lot of unrest, a lot of protesting about the military-industrial complex, and HP was a big defense contractor.

Julie Packard:

And so I personally, I was trying to maintain a really low profile about kind of at the time my dad’s company, because of the political times, there was controversy around it. Now tech is sort of just revered as everyone’s in love with it, but then not so much.

Guy Kawasaki:

Other than Facebook.

Julie Packard:

Not so much. But I mean, generally speaking, those were very unsettled, interesting times. But my dad would share those things, and where they just blew us away, they were like so cool.

Guy Kawasaki:

Did it ever come to a point where you were philosophically opposed to say, “Dad, how can your company empower the military-industrial complex?”

Julie Packard:

Me personally?

Guy Kawasaki:

Yeah.

Julie Packard:

Well, absolutely. I was the youngest in the family, and definitely a bit of the black sheep. And how would I say it, between the times and being the youngest, I think and just being very independent. Sure. I had those thoughts, but you didn’t take my dad on about things. There was nothing. No good could come of it. Let’s just say that.

Guy Kawasaki:

Do you have any particular lessons you look back? I can tell you what I learned from my father. The three or four most important things. Do you have a small number of things you can say that my father…?

Julie Packard:

Yeah. Absolutely. My dad was incredibly humble. I mean, arrogance was considered in our family, the absolute worst quality. So we always were taught, and he modeled that we are very fortunate, and we needed to be humble about that. And not ever be arrogant in any way. Not just having to do with money, but just in general. The privileges that we had, of course, which he created for the family. That was a big family value – giving back – certainly because my parents establish their family foundation early on.

Julie Packard:

It was in the ‘60s – 1965. The Packard Foundation is now 50 years old. And so early on, they established a family foundation and began supporting at first community projects. And the company was always very, very supportive and giving back to the community.

In fact, my dad was an early supporter of the whole idea of corporate philanthropy, which, in my opinion, still has a long way to go. If he were alive, he’d still be out there proselytizing about that, that companies need to reinvest in their communities.

Julie Packard:

And so he believed that. And my mother actually ran the foundation early on as a volunteer and was very involved as a community volunteer. So that was modeled for us majorly, the idea of giving back and engaging in your community.

I thought she had a full-time job growing up, honestly, and she didn’t. She was a full-time volunteer, but I was gone all day, or I’d be in the parking lot in the car while she was volunteering on some board for the children’s hospital or something like this.

Guy Kawasaki:

So what did you learn from her?

Julie Packard:

Well, very similar values to my dad, really. She was quite proper. She was a city girl. She wasn’t an outdoorsy nature lover like my dad. She grew up in San Francisco and went to Catholic school and was very refined, and we needed to reflect well on our father at all times and have good manners and be presentable. Like any mother. I mean, I don’t know. That’s kind of mother job description 101 isn’t it? So those were two things. I think humility and giving back.

Julie Packard:

But the final thing I’d say about my dad, he would listen to anyone. I mean, his HP’s management by wandering around that he wrote about in his book, The HP Way, of course, is an epic philosophy and the management literature. And his door was truly always open and he liked talking to an employee at the lowest level in the company as much as, or even actually more than at a higher level to be honest.

Julie Packard:

He just loved getting in and talking to the team about what project they were working on. And he really did the whole idea of investing in people and giving them rein to do their best work, which was an HP philosophy. It’s also a philosophy of our family foundation is, invest in people in their ideas, and he really modeled that.

Guy Kawasaki:

Now let’s talk about the genesis of the aquarium. How did that come to be?

Julie Packard:

The aquarium was the brainchild of my sister and her husband and a couple of their colleagues. So here’s how the story happened.

The family foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, was founded in the mid-‘60s, and the four of us children were asked to be on the board, instructed to be on the board when we turned 21. So the foundation was funding a lot of different programs in different areas.

Julie Packard:

And my father kind of challenged the group, “Hey, let’s think of some big projects that we can do on our own rather than just funding other people’s ideas. And it was my older sister, Nancy, and as I said, her husband and a couple of their friends that were involved with teaching and research down at Stanford’s Marine lab, Hopkins Marine Station or Marine laboratories in Pacific Grove.

Julie Packard:

And Stanford had purchased this big old cannery right next door, the Hovden Cannery where the aquarium’s now located, and they didn’t really have plans for it. It was just to buffer zone all the development on Cannery Row. And they had the idea that this would be just a super cool thing to do with this old cannery and that in Monterey there was no place for all the tourists to learn anything about the Bay and yet that’s why they came there, and we’re all marine biologists.

Julie Packard:

The four of them were invertebrate zoologists, and I studied marine algae, so none of us were fish people or marine mammal people. But we had fallen in love with the ocean and marine biology because of Monterey Bay. And this Bay was just an inspiration. It’s an amazing place. Its amazing rich biodiversity. And so we put together a proposal to the foundation to do feasibility study if an aquarium was built on the site, could it be financially self-supporting based on admission fees and would there be enough attendance to support it? And that came out with a yes.

Julie Packard:

And so with that, we incorporated a new foundation, the Monterey Bay Aquarium Foundation, to plan, build, and operate this aquarium.

My parents put up the capital $55 million to build it. And the deal was that it would operate on its own. And we proceeded to put together a board of local community leaders and scientists from around. We have such an amazing scientific community here around the Bay. Science leaders and family members and hired architects and exhibit design consultants and a crazy array of specialized consulting help that you need to put together an esoteric kind of institution like an aquarium.

Julie Packard:

And set ourselves to planning this aquarium, and the concept remained the same from the start, which was to do a tour of Monterey Bay habitats and kind of have that be a theme, and a few ideas about the aquarium were different than other aquariums before.

One, first of all, most aquariums are rows and rows of fish tanks. Certainly, they were at the time and like that’s not what the ocean is like. Fish are just a little tiny part of what the ocean is like.

Julie Packard:

And so we wanted to really share the whole picture. Number one, we want to share it in a way where the plants and animals are represented as they would be in nature, meaning in communities, kelp forest, or rocky reef or sandy seafloor.

Of course, we have this amazing site with the real thing outdoors, which really no other aquarium has a site that fabulous. Most aquariums are in the dark. When you think about it, you’re on the dark because that actually makes the, from an exhibit design standpoint, that makes the tanks pop. They’re lit, the fish look great, the tanks look great, but like wow, we got the real thing out here, this wild ocean.

Julie Packard:

So we wanted a design that really drew your attention to the real thing outdoors and get people out on the decks and then could come inside and learn about what they had seen or the other way around. And then finally we really wanted to, well, two other things that were kind of important points about the concept. One was, we didn’t want people to be on a one-way path. We wanted it to be a free choice. You could experience it however you wanted in whatever order you wanted.

Julie Packard:

And then finally we wanted to really incorporate some of the new museum interpretive techniques that were happening at the science museums like the Exploratorium. And what we all know is interactive exhibits where people are engaged with the learning. And previously a lot of aquariums were really a tank with fish and a label. Here’s the name, here’s where it is from, here’s what it eats. Maybe another little fact or two. And we wanted just to make it a more interesting, engaging experience, have some more interactive kind of hands-on interpretation.

Julie Packard:

So those were some of the underlying concepts. And we naively thought we could remodel that old cannery. Wow. That talks about the or shows the sophistication level of the group like I said.

Now ask us about marine biology, and we can nail it. Anyway, we’re like, “We’re going to remodel this cool old building.” The building was built in 1916. It was, I believe, the largest cannery on Cannery Row.

Julie Packard:

But those canneries were just, I mean, it was such a boom and bust thing, and they’d make it, they were just canning, and harvesting and canning and just, tens of millions of tons of sardines, and they’d add onto their buildings and have a good year, and then things would go along, and I mean, they were just, you can still see, sadly not many, but you can still see some remnants in Cannery Row of some of those old buildings.

Julie Packard:

So we wanted to, we thought we could remodel the building. Of course, we were quickly disabused of that notion by the architects and engineers. But we were really happy with the concept the architects came up with, which really was preserving the facade on Cannery Row of that old building.

And we kept the old boilers, still a history exhibit when you go in the aquarium. It turns out Knut Hovden, who was the owner of the cannery, was known to be an incredible innovator and kind of like my dad, he invented a lot of new technology for sardine canning to make it go faster and to make the product better.

Julie Packard:

One of which was to, he had a seawater system, a seawater intake line that went into that building just like the aquarium does. So that was kind of a cool thing. And the idea was instead of having all the sardine boats like offload the sardines at the dock where they start rotting, and they’re not fresh, and then you have this giant pile of sardines hit the cannery, and it’s a big processing logistics problem.

Julie Packard:

He came up with the idea of these floating giant wooden boxes, they called sardine hoppers. They’re offshore and connected to a seawater intake pipe and then offload the sardines out there. They’d stay all fresh, and then they like suck them into the building as they needed them to can them. The building actually was registered on what’s called the Historic American Engineering Record that we had to document all of his canning technology.

Julie Packard:

So that’s a little backstory about the site of the aquarium which is amazing. And so that was the creation story and it was about seven years between the time of the idea and the feasibility study and then all the design. It took a really long time to get the permits.

That was a lot of drama because a city limit line between Monterey and Pacific Grove runs right through the aquarium site, which of course, just complicated matters. And we have the Coastal Commission and the Army Corps of Engineers and just a lot of agency engagement. But then we opened October 20th.

Guy Kawasaki:

Did anybody fight it?

Julie Packard:

Well, that would be a whole nother long story. We got engaged in some opposition that was really around local politics, around land use planning decisions that were coming down at the time. They didn’t have to do with the merits of the project. Everyone thought the project sounded great and what a gift to the community. Most public aquariums are on city property, or they were funded by the city, or they’re partially funded by the city, or they got an operating subsidy.

Julie Packard:

So we’re just, hello, we’re going to pay for this site, and we’re going to provide capital to build this building. We’re not asking for any operating subsidy. We’re asking you for the aquarium visitors to be part of the parking district, which is a gold mine for the city. And so we had opposition, but that’s another story. It was just local politics.

Guy Kawasaki:

Has it evolved from an aquarium to more cause orientation?

Julie Packard:

Absolutely. We are just celebrating 35 years this year, and we had a huge evolution in our mission, which is actually reflected in our mission statement. So when we began, the purpose statement for the Monterey Bay Aquarium was something like to expand public awareness, conduct research, and maybe had promote stewardship in there of Monterey Bay. And what happened over time, as we all know, is the ocean changed, and our understanding of what was happening in the ocean has undergone a transformation, not a big enough transformation in terms of public awareness.

Julie Packard:

But 30 years ago, everyone still thought the ocean was so vast that nothing could possibly affect it. And as our stories that we’re telling about the Bay and the ocean at large continued to evolve and stay up with the times, we realized that we really wanted and needed, it was really imperative for us to start talking more and more about the human impact stories of what was happening on the ocean and not just the happy natural history story about the cool fish and their weird habits, which is great. Obviously, that’s what gets people to come in the door and fall in love with the animals and gets their attention.

Julie Packard:

But we needed to add on a new species to the aquarium interpretation, which was humans, because the original aquarium we didn’t really have humans so much as part of the story. So we over time like kind of transformed all of our interpretation to have more human impact, human stories, more conservation stories, and then eventually decided to do an exhibit called “Fishing for Solutions: What’s the Catch?” that we did in the mid-‘90s right after we had opened our Open Sea Wing and taken our story offshore to connect with the broader ocean.

Julie Packard:

In “Fishing for Solutions” we thought, “Okay, the situation of the ocean is getting dire. We need to do an exhibit about global fisheries and all the problems.” And we did that exhibit, and in the course of it, we decided that we better get our restaurant menu, seafood item list in shape or would not look good. And from that whole effort, the Seafood Watch program was spawned, so to speak.

Julie Packard:

Seafood Watch began as just a consumer guide to enable people to know the sustainability of the seafood on their plates. And around that time, then we realized this was really a big deal. It really picked up. And with that, around that time, we decided to make a commitment to grow that program and also to launch a real conservation and science workgroup and big effort at the aquarium. And the seafood work is at the centerpiece of that.

Julie Packard:

But with that, we also changed our mission statement – which was a big milestone for us – to what it is today which is: the mission of the Monterey Bay Aquarium is to inspire conservation of the ocean.

And the idea behind that being that the end game, the end goal of the whole institution and everything we do is about ocean conservation. But that word “inspires” in there is really important because we’re a public institution, and our best asset for achieving that goal in the ocean is the aquarium itself. And so our challenge and the beauty of what we do is that we have this amazing institution that inspires people, that can inspire people through connections with living animals and discovering the ocean. The real thing.

Guy Kawasaki:

In a prior life, I was on the board of the Stanford Alumni Association, and we had many a meeting discussing the mission of the Stanford Alumni Association. It was pulling teeth. And so I’m just curious, was this something that your board, your trustees, you all got together and say, let’s do this or did you bring in McKinsey, and they charge you five million bucks to get that sentence? So how did that go down?

Julie Packard:

Like with most things, probably is the theme in your podcasts here for you’re talking to leaders is it really came down to leadership. It came down to me. I’m like front and center, all conservation all the time. I mean, that’s what motivates me. That’s my lens in life because of my life experience growing up.

And so our board when I sat in and our team too, I mean, I think that our team was, “Hey Julie, like you’re wanting us to do more and more of this conservation stuff and it’s gotten to where we need to really make it official, to do something more to kind of codify it more.”

Julie Packard:

And also because for the team, the main activities of the aquarium and we’ve got the public side, the aquarium, the visitor experience. We’ve got all of our K-12 education programs and then we have research, which again is mainly conducted by the MBARI – the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute. Still, we just really needed to restate what is the priority here. And so the Board got that. But some of the people were like absolute advocates helping me push that through.

Julie Packard:

A couple of them were business-oriented ones were a little concerned that okay, this is going to sound like we’re going to become an advocacy organization. It sounded like NRDC or some super lefty conservation environmental agitators. And of course, we’re not, and we didn’t intend to do that, but there was a little bit of concern about what does this mean or what are the optics of this, but in the end, the people around the table were…

Julie Packard:

You kind of can’t argue with, okay, the ocean that things are getting dire. We have this huge power to inform and engage and ignite the public, and from our team’s perspective, that is the end goal. What’s the outcome goal? Like everything we do, sure we’re a lot of the education programs. Sure, we’re improving STEM education and we’re concerned about, we’re doing a lot of things, but we just, we needed to provide focus.

Julie Packard:

One of my favorite things about the aquarium is the fact that we are viewed as nonpartisan. Like everyone loves bringing their kids to a zoo or an aquarium. It’s a happy thing. No matter you might be the most right-wing Republican known to humanity or super lefty, but you’re comfortable. We want the aquarium to be a comfortable place for everyone to come and have a great day. And so we need to continue to be that place that’s open to all, and I’m most excited about reaching the people that maybe haven’t thought about the ocean and the importance of engaging in the actions that we need to take to ensure that it’s healthy for the future, for the benefit of humanity.

Julie Packard:

The people that already are Sierra Club members, some kind of like, that’s fine, but they’re already there, and my goal is to get them to realize the ocean. If you care about saving nature, you need to talk about the ocean because the ocean is the biggest part of nature, and that’s where we be in land-dwelling species. The whole environmental movement is so much focused on land as it should, and as is understandable, but the ocean has got a profound influence on everything else.

Guy Kawasaki:

And no one has ever made the case, well, if you’re listing off the right kind of seafood and all that, you’re affecting jobs and not like we need coal because there are 50,000 coal miners?

Julie Packard:

Interestingly, the Seafood Watch program, which now is a global program, that’s our global fisheries and aquaculture program. We are super business-friendly, and we in the continuum of organizations working on this issue of overfishing, which is a serious problem and something that we know how to fix. I mean, that’s the reason to work on it. You might think, oh seafood, whatever, like what about plastic and climate change and all of that and we can talk about those things.

Julie Packard:

But the thing about fishing is it’s the most ancient relationship that humans have with the ocean. It’s the only place where we’re still extracting at least certainly the industrialized world, it’s still extracting wildlife on a market basis. We think it’s fine for people to be fishing, and we’re here to help transform the seafood and aquaculture business enterprise to one that can be more sustainable into the future.

Julie Packard:

We take heat from environmental groups and certainly, and we take heat from business. We used to take mostly heat from business early on, as you said, because they’re like, “Hey, you’re saying now that the Patagonian toothfish is on the Seafood Watch avoid list and we think that’s unfair.” The whole point is we’re like, “Okay, well, come meet with us. If you fix these two problems, the next time around, you’ll get a better rating.” So it’s been a huge driver. I mean, businesses really pay attention to it, what their rating is. It’s quite fascinating and become much more powerful than we thought.

Guy Kawasaki:

What would an environmentalist say against you?

Julie Packard:

Well, we are too friendly to fishing and that we should become-

Guy Kawasaki:

You’re not far enough.

Julie Packard:

That we should all become vegans, and we shouldn’t eat any seafood.

Guy Kawasaki:

And you don’t believe that?

Julie Packard:

Well, no, I think that would be great for nature. And I think it’s not, I just tend to go for more practical solutions, and I feel like there’s big money in the seafood enterprise. I mean, two points. One, it’s big business. It’s not going away anytime soon, so let’s work to make it better. It is jobs; it’s like millions of jobs and mainly in developing countries, and aquaculture is growing like gangbusters, and it provides jobs. It’s food security.

Julie Packard:

If we can do it right, it’s not going away. If we can do it right, let’s go for it. Let’s work to have that all happen in a better way. And as far as catching wild fish, fisheries are resilient, and as it turns out, if you lay off them when they’ve been overfished, they will recover. Now in the big scheme of things, is the ocean a lot more depauperate than it was 200 years ago? Yes, it is. And so for those who say, well, in the best of all worlds, humans would quit extracting any life out of the ocean. Sure. That would be wonderful.

Julie Packard:

I mean, something like, I don’t know, like over a billion people depend on seafood for their primary protein. There’s a big food security question here and the livelihoods of millions of people in coastal economies. And I guess on top of it you have countries where people are moving up in the middle class, and it is really increasing demand for beef and meat and that’s a whole nother, I think really worthy consideration to say, hey, if the world ate less animal protein, it would have really positive impacts on climate and a lot of other things. I don’t argue with those points of view. I think that’s all true. We’re just focusing on the seafood situation and making a lot of progress. It’s quite remarkable. There’s a lot more to do though.

Guy Kawasaki:

How do you audit or determine what’s on that Seafood Watch list? Do you depend on other researchers, or you do firsthand research?

Julie Packard:

Seafood Watch rating system is based on published available research. People get confused about it. It’s not a third party certified audited programs. So it’s not if you go into your Safeway and there’s a piece of fish there, it’s not going to say, okay, this fish is a piece of halibut, and we’ve… well, first of all, any fish caught in the U.S. is a good choice these days. It didn’t use to be, but if you want to really play it safe, buy something caught in a U.S. fishery because at least we have regulations, and even in our fisheries that were depleted, their recovery in some cases is going to take a long time.

Julie Packard:

But that piece of fish in the store that you’re buying and has a Seafood Watch rating of yellow or green, it means that we have evaluated against the set of criteria that I can talk about the sustainability of that particular fish, like how the Alaskan halibut fishery as an example. It doesn’t say that we know that that piece of halibut is a piece of halibut, and it doesn’t say that we know that, that piece of halibut came from Alaska because that would require that we are doing an audit program.

Julie Packard:

Now there is a program that does that, that’s called the Marine Stewardship Council, which is the next level. Seafood Watch is just a set of standards for businesses and fisheries to aspire to, and it’s an involuntary program. We rate all these fisheries whether you want us to or not. So it’s just they’re a transparent bunch of ratings about the sustainability of these different fisheries.

Julie Packard:

Marine Stewardship Council was an organization started by World Wildlife Fund and Unilever, I don’t know over 20 years ago that does provide third party certification, and they have their criteria, and if you’re MSC certified it means that your fishery has met the sustainability criteria. You’ve been inspected too, and you’re reporting back, and the third-party certifier is saying, yeah, you are, and you have to get recertified every five years. It’s complicated. So that’s maybe all you need to know about it for the moment. But I’m always happy to talk more about it. I think it’s fascinating, but I’m kind of a nerd on the topic. Because it’s making so much progress. It’s really exciting. I mean, there’s just a lot of good stuff going on.

Guy Kawasaki:

You seem excited and optimistic, whereas you read gigantic Pacific Island plastic patch, or what is the greatest threat to the ocean?

Julie Packard:

Well, the greatest threat to the ocean, no surprise, carbon pollution, climate change, climate crisis, whatever the current lingo is for it. I mean, clearly, it’s like the mother of all environmental issues and like any environmental issue you can think of. Twenty years ago, whatever we said the problem was now like, it’s just like an existential threat.

And when it comes to the ocean, obviously we read about sea-level rise, which of course mainly people are focusing on whether their home is going to be inundated, which is a serious problem to consider.

Julie Packard:

There’s a tremendous amount of coastal habitat that contains a huge amount of biodiversity that is changing, is going to continued to be altered, and just effects entire ecosystems that we can’t even imagine. But the big threat that people are just beginning to talk about, which is just insanely concerning is the whole ocean acidification thing, which is as CO2 goes in the ocean water, it makes it more acidic, and those changes are happening already, and as the water becomes more acidic it’s just going to cause, it already is causing changes in weather from animals big to small that have calcium in their cell walls and their shelves that can’t form but also just physiological systems that we don’t even, we’re just beginning to understand what those might be. So that’s going to have profound effect.

Julie Packard:

And then the ocean warming, which is already happening and of course we’re experiencing that right here in our part of the world in the central coast, scientists have documented species shifts where we see more southernly species living up here than we did 20 years ago, just in my lifetime, since I’ve been out in the tide pools doing research and collecting algae and looking at animals. So that’s happening. And so that climate change is a huge deal and sort of the mother of all issues.

Julie Packard:

I mean, whether it’s coral bleaching or impacts of warm water, the whole ocean food web. And the one thing about it that most people don’t know is the ocean is really, I’ve started to talk about the ocean as our best… healthy ocean is our best defense against damaging climate change. And the reason is the ocean has absorbed something like 90% of the heat generated from burning fossil fuels since the industrial revolution.

Julie Packard:

I mean, think about that. The ocean is like a giant modulator of heat in that atmosphere and the whole global system. Number one.

Then number two, all the plant life, the little microscopic plankton plants that live in the ocean are photosynthesizing and sucking up CO2, and the ocean absorbs something like 25% of the carbon emissions. And that’s huge too. And that all happens because of a living ocean.

Julie Packard:

I mean, all of that CO2 uptake by those tiny plants, if the ocean is dead, that’s not happening. And that’s pretty much they end up life on the planet. Not to be a downer, but it’s big. It’s really big. And of course also the ocean plants produce a lot of oxygen and a lot of that is consumed by life in the ocean, but it is a vast part of the system that makes life able to exist on earth.

Guy Kawasaki:

So if a random person is listening to this podcast and thinking, oh my God, I believe it, I buy it, everything you just said. What can one person, not in charge of a foundation, do?

Julie Packard:

I think, of course, I’m asked that a lot and over two million people that come to the Monterey Bay Aquarium every year, they definitely ask us that all the time, “Wow, okay. I love the ocean. I love these animals. I want my grandkids to see them, and I want us all to… I want humanity to survive and thrive. And as long as we can on this planet and what can I do?” And I answer that question in a couple of ways.

Julie Packard:

I mean, first of all, just get engaged in the process of political action in your community, in your state, in your nation. People need to get out and engage and get the right people in charge of these decisions because our environment is a common, but something that society needs to decide together for the benefit of everyone, what the rules are. The way we’ve been operating there’s a lot of, there’s just a huge amount of extracting of resources and damaging of ecosystem services that we all depend on.

Julie Packard:

And change happens. Start local. And that’s where the change begins. And in these days, certainly, in the US where I know, people are probably feeling rather deflated about how much leadership we can provide, and we feel like we’re losing ground, which we are in terms of a lot of the excellent environmental protections. The good news here in the US is a lot of great stuff’s happening at the state level. California, for example, the best thing anyone living in California right now can do is support our state or wherever your state is, support its leadership.

Julie Packard:

Because what’s happened here in California, whether it’s the progressive environmental policy, I mean, we’ve always led the way in environmental policies here and in our state, and it hasn’t exactly been at the cost of our economy by the way. I mean, tourism and the tech sector like huge and of course tourism depends on taking care of your environment, and all of that’s happened because voters care and they voted.

Julie Packard:

They put the right people in office, they supported huge public funding initiatives. I mean, we’ve had these like $5 billion land and water protection bond initiatives in California too. We’ve created the first and only integrated network of marine protected areas in California state waters. Like that was the first in the U.S. anywhere. We have an incredible network of protected lands, protected coastal lands.

Julie Packard:

People drive from San Francisco to LA, and they’re always kind of shocked. You have almost 40 million people living here in the state, and this looks so great. And Monterey Bay itself, the central coast, is totally reviving and thriving. We had, when the BBC came out, they were looking at doing a live broadcast about the ocean, “Big Blue Live,” and they picked all the places in the world, they picked Monterey Bay to do this live nature broadcast, which was fantastic.

Julie Packard:

I mean, we have like whales and white sharks and everything under the sun. So I say, get involved in your community and support policies, and that’s the best thing that you can do. And of course changes in your personal life. I would say the whole seafood movement and the improvement in sustainable seafood, it’s US consumers making the right choice that has driven a huge amount of business change and that really makes a difference.

And the same thing can happen with plastic too. I know everyone is very concerned about that. And over time if people start showing, okay, we really don’t need so much single-use plastic to make a difference.

Guy Kawasaki:

If I were going to go for a seafood dinner, is there anything I just should not eat? Because I’m not checking labels as the waiter brings out whatever.

Julie Packard:

You should be. You should be checking your Seafood Watch app. Now what you need to be looking for, along with-

Guy Kawasaki:

In a restaurant?

Julie Packard:

You go out to dinner with me, I pull up my app. Are you kidding? Grill the waiter. Actually, the best thing consumers can do, we’ve done so much public opinion polling about this whole seafood thing. Public says their best source of information about sustainable seafood is their waitperson or the person at the seafood counter. Well, it turns out the waitperson usually doesn’t know anything.

Julie Packard:

And the only reason, the only way they’re going to get to know something is by all of us asking questions. So that’s one of the key messages on our Seafood Watch pocket guide, ask questions. Ask questions, ask your waitperson, where did this fish come from? Is it sustainable, and how do you know? And they’ll tell you. Now, many, many restaurants these days and in coastal states, certainly in the West Coast states, definitely not in the inland states and probably less so on the East Coast coastal states. Restaurants will refer to, will use it as a sales point, and they’ll say, “Our seafood is sustainable per Monterey Bay Aquarium guidelines.”

Julie Packard:

But you’re safe with the things caught in the US pretty much are okay and local fish, local US fish. Like we’ve been really promoting all of our groundfish fisheries here in California are reopened after being declared a federal disaster and being closed for over a decade. Ask for the local fishes, if you’re in the U.S. and you’ll be good. Here that means like rockfish and lingcod and white sea bass.

Guy Kawasaki:

But isn’t it counterintuitive you’re saying, okay, so we want to preserve the ocean and preserve wildlife? So wouldn’t that say, well, don’t eat from local fisheries because they’re fishing right here and reducing our population right here?

Julie Packard:

Well, the important thing isn’t whether it’s right here, that important thing is, does it have good regulation? That’s the thing. And one thing I will say, because the whole eat local movement, which we are all aware of, certainly in our part of the world, here in Santa Cruz, California, okay, here’s the crazy thing. The United States imports 80% of the seafood we eat, and we export 90% of the seafood that we catch. It makes no sense.

Julie Packard:

So if you’re going to own a restaurant in the US, chances are the fish do not come from here. It came from another country because in the US market, which is where I think the third biggest market for seafood in the world now. So even though you and I might think, how often do we eat seafood? Americans eat a lot of seafood, and we were a big driver in the global seafood market. Biggest thing Americans eat, farmed shrimp, farmed salmon.

Julie Packard:

And so both of those products are really bad news in terms of the environment, and our team at the aquarium is working hard to improve standards, and so that’s another story because those are both farmed products.

One of the things that’s been really tough on all of our local fishing communities along the coast of the US is all this imported seafood because no one’s buying local seafood anymore. There’s not even a distribution system to be honest. It’s crazy. That’s starting to change. So the more people that they eat local is a really good thing for people to ask about.

Guy Kawasaki:

And what’s wrong with farmed?

Julie Packard:

Farmed can be fine. It’s just the way it’s happening now is bad news, and the main things are salmon farms use a lot of antibiotics. That’s a huge issue. They create a lot of fish waste in a really concentrated area can be equivalent to like a raw sewage outfall and the midsize city in one spot, and so that can create a dead zone in the area. The farmed salmon, they get diseases that people are concerned can spread to wild salmon in areas where wild salmon exist. In some areas, that’s not an issue if wild salmon don’t exist there. And a fish can escape and breed with a wild fish and pollute the gene pool.

Guy Kawasaki:

If there is another life, what would you want to come back as? What animal or plant?

Julie Packard:

[inaudible 00:47:25]. Yes. Well, if it includes plants, that’s a problem because I’m a botanist, but I’m going to stick with an animal. My favorite fish is this crazy fish. It’s called Mola mola, the Latin name. It’s an ocean sunfish. People would come to the aquarium. If you go to the big Open Sea exhibit, you’ll recognize it. It can grow to be the size of a Volkswagen bug. It looks like a big dinner plate with a fin sticking up off the top and the bottom.

Julie Packard:

It’s the world’s largest bony fish. I’m a huge fan for a lot of reasons. One, it has no commercial value. So like no one seems to care about this poor fish. We have myriad scientific research papers on tunas and sharks, the stuff we like to eat, and the scary stuff. This Mola which is like the coolest looking animal ever, like no data whatsoever. The aquarium we’re doing some tagging studies.

Julie Packard:

Nothing likes to eat it. It’s got really thick skin. It doesn’t taste good, which is, that’s who I want to be like, animals are going to leave me. No one is going to be after me if I’m a 2000 pound mola, right? I’m pretty safe. Even though I swim really slowly, I can’t keep up. I can’t get out of the way. I just grow big really fast.

Then the other thing is I eat jellyfish, jellies. So the future ocean, a lot of the scientists are saying that one – really doom and gloom scientists – are saying the future ocean will be a world of slime. So what that means is the oxygen levels in the ocean are declining over time. These layers of these auction minimum layers, they call them. Jellies, super low metabolism, and they can live in really funky conditions. So whatever happens in the ocean-

Guy Kawasaki:

You’ve lots to eat.

Julie Packard:

… I’ve got lots to eat, and I can swim to my preferred water temperature zone if the ocean temperature changes. So I’m thinking like that’s maybe the animal to be.

Guy Kawasaki:

What do you want your legacy to be?

Julie Packard:

I am super proud of all that the Monterey Bay Aquarium has accomplished, and our team has just taken it so far beyond anything wildly imaginable. I’m just really happy that I’ve had the opportunity so far – and continuing – to open people’s eyes to this what I like to call “the other part of the planet” that we’ve just now woken up to that makes humanity able to exist here on this beautiful earth. And if I have a spark, the engagement and dedication and motivation of a few people, whether they’re teachers or kids, future advocates that will carry on, that’s something that I’ll feel really good about.

Guy Kawasaki:

As I did my research on you, one of the most interesting things is, you are the antithesis of a trust fund baby, right? But you are the daughter of the person who created Silicon Valley, but you’re not a trust fund baby. Now how did that work out? I mean, you’re the exception.

Julie Packard:

I get asked that actually by people these days who have come on to a lot of success in raising children and they’re like, “Wow, you actually are-

Guy Kawasaki:

What happened to you?

Julie Packard:

… doing something productive. How did that happen?” I mean, all I can say about it, it’s really about what kind of parents we are, and it’s not what we say, it’s who we are and how we lead our lives. And that’s the most important thing. And my parents, they were all about being productive, contributing, working hard. Even though I grew up in the ‘50s and at that time the women, the girls, I have two sisters. We weren’t really expected.

Julie Packard:

My dad had a lot of expectations placed on my brother, big time expectations. The girls it was, you’ve got to do really well in school and work really hard and give back to society. The kind of paying job expectation was a little vague. It was important to find a good husband. Those were the times. Go to a good university.

Guy Kawasaki:

It was important to find a good-

Julie Packard:

Yeah. To our mother. Yes. Because those were the times. But my dad, if there was one message I got from him was, “Don’t be a slacker. Work hard all the time at what you were doing and be contributing in some way.” Maybe if one of us wanted to take some time off and have children, look after the kids for a while. But even so, and all of us in the family, whether we like go into a job every day or whatever we’re doing, everyone is doing some big projects to make the world a better place in some fashion. And that’s just because that’s what our parents did.

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