Other than the obvious reasons, of course.

By Interview by Lauren Paige Kennedy; Produced by Lauren Phillips
October 11, 2017
Morgan Maassen

Jack Johnson, Singer/songwriter and conservationist

The voice behind hits such as “Upside Down” and “Better Together”—and, most recently, All The Light Above It Too—has a history of promoting environmental causes, and now Jack Johnson has joined forces with Coastal Living to name the 2017 Ocean Heroes.

Johnson sat down with Coastal Living to talk about his music, his concerts, and why everyone should fall in love with the ocean.

Coastal Living: What does your music mean to you?

Jack Johnson: I love making music. I love getting to do this as a job. But I’ve always tried to keep it just a hobby, because it kind of works. Surfing to me is everything, and sailing, and diving—the ocean is really my first love. I love being in the ocean. Music, growing up, was always something I’d do when the waves were flat. With songwriting, it’s the same way. I don’t try to put too much importance on it because it’s when I’m actually living, when I’m actually having conversations with people, when I’m out taking things in—you have to breathe in to be able to breathe something out that’s worth it. I’ve tried to always keep music just as my hobby, never make it so important that it’s taking me away from doing real things.

CL: You invite local nonprofits to your concerts to champion their causes—what is your goal for that effort?

JJ: A lot of people come for the music, and they might not agree with all the politics. They might just like a certain song, and I want everyone to feel welcome. But I also want this to be a place where younger fans, especially, might go away having become a member of one non-profit group that really connected with them. They’re going to keep that relationship after we leave the town.

CL: You recently took part in making Smog of the Sea, which came out this year and which explores the levels of microplastics in the ocean. What was your goal with this film?

JJ: It has a depressing aspect, as any time you take an issue like this on, but we also wanted it to feel uplifting. I’ve found over the years that the best way to motivate people is to let them know the reality, but to also keep some amount of hope, some amount of a reason to act on it. If it’s completely overwhelming you feel like, what’s the point.

CL: Many of your conservation efforts involve youth education—why is it so important to teach children to care about the environment?

JJ: We tend to protect what we love, whether that’s family or ocean or the mountains, so it’s really important to touch on that environmental education. When we do environmental education in the schools, it’s about introducing kids to [organic] food at a young age. We try to give kids the opportunity to have those significant moments at a young age, and then later in life, if they love something, then they’ll protect it.

CL: Where can people who want to help reduce plastic pollution start?

JJ: We work a lot on individual action, trying to change the frame of mind of how the young person might approach the world and what they want. I think starting with those little things, the ones we use the most, like plastic bottles, plastic bags, and straws—it’s a good place to start. It’s just the first step, but once that conversation starts it makes you aware of how much more plastic there is in everything we purchase.

CL: Are you optimistic or pessimistic about our ability to protect the environment in time?

JJ: I’m an optimist because I’m getting to meet young people in every town that have non-profit groups. I see the next generation and how ambitious they are, and it makes me an optimist. You can’t help it when you see all these optimistic people every day who want to make change in the world.

CL: Any last advice for Coastal Living readers?

JJ: If there’s one thing you can do for your kids, it would be to take them out and enjoy nature. Make sure that you enjoy it. We need to try to help people fall in love with nature, because then they’ll protect it. All too often people are going to the beach to do beach cleanups now, and that’s a great place to have conversations about [the environment]—and I think it’s a good thing that it does start these conversations—but it’s more important to take your kids to the beach and go explore tide pools and see the starfish. Just go around and enjoy the nature in those tide pools. Let their little minds wander. I think that’s the most important thing parents can do.

Responses edited for clarity and conciseness