Executive director, Seacology
Since 1999, Duane Silverstein has been the executive director of Seacology, an international non-governmental organization with the sole focus of preserving islands – their fragile habitats, vanishing species and historic cultures – throughout the globe. For 18 years prior to heading Seacology, he was the executive director of the Goldman Fund, one of California’s largest philanthropic foundations. Duane was instrumental in creating and heading the Goldman Environmental Prize, which has been dubbed the “Nobel Prize of the Environment” by National Geographic and news media around the globe. Over his career he has visited 199 islands in 77 nations.
Silverstein has met with presidents of the United States, Secretaries-general of the United Nations, kings, heads of state, and indigenous chiefs throughout the world on behalf of the environment. His work has been covered in media such as Time Magazine, The San Francisco Chronicle, and The New York Times. Articles he has written have appeared in over a dozen international publications. In 2009 he was selected by a public vote as a national All-Star Among Us to be honored by Major League Baseball at the All-Star Game in St. Louis. In 2010 Silverstein was given the esteemed Jefferson Award for Public Service. In giving Silverstein a 2010 Coastal Hero Award, Sunset Magazine called him a “superhero of the deep.” In early 2012, he was invited to give the closing speech on the state of the Earth’s islands for the prestigious TEDx conference in South Africa’s Cape Town. In January 2015 His Serene Highness Prince Albert II honored Silverstein on behalf of Seacology for outstanding innovation in a ceremony in Monaco. Widely considered one of the world’s foremost experts on islands, he is a National Fellow of The Explorers Club and a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. In 2018, he accepted the United Nations Momentum For Change climate action award on behalf of Seacology. Under his leadership, Seacology was named one of the top 15 US nonprofit organizations to work for.
Silverstein attended both Stony Brook and Columbia Universities, later receiving a Masters in Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley.
As Shakespeare wrote: Cowards die many times before their deaths. The valiant never taste of death but once.
What do you love most about Your City?
I live in a small town just north of Berkeley, CA in the middle of the San Francisco Bay Area. I have all the advantages of a university town and a vibrant cosmopolitan city. At the same time my town is a bit like the Cheers bar. The shopkeepers and restaurant staff know my name. Additionally I can walk to over 30 restaurants and rarely have to use my car.
Favorite breakfast meal & restaurant?
My daily breakfast is oatmeal with cinnamon and nuts. I like all the Indian, Chinese, Vietnamese and Korean restaurants on Solano Ave.
What are you doing at:
6:00 AM – With a bit of luck I am still sleeping. Because I run an NGO with projects in over 60 nations by 7:00 AM I am checking emails from throughout the world that have arrived overnight.
10:00 AM – I am usually on the phone, returning emails or meeting with someone.
12:00 PM – Favorite Lunch spot/meal?
My house. After running a large philanthropic foundation for almost 20 years I made the unusual move of becoming director of a then start-up conservation NGO. In exchange for accepting the job offer I had one condition. The organization had to locate its office within walking distance of my house. So if I don’t have a business meeting I am eating lunch at home.
7:00 PM – I am usually watching a video to improve my Spanish. I started learning Spanish several years ago and I am pleased to say I am now fluent.
11:00 PM – Reading. I love to read books in English or Spanish.
What drink do you need to get through the day and at the end (and how many)?
Decaf coffee in the morning and lots of water after that.
Most used App/Favorite Instagram Account?
My favorite app is tripadvisor. I travel frequently to remote islands and tripadvisor helps me plan my trips.
My favorite Instagram account is @seacology_photos
What should everyone try at least once?
Snorkeling. I am now an avid scuba diver. The first time I snorkeled the beauty of the coral reefs and fish changed my life and influenced my career.
Where do you enjoy getting lost?
On any island anywhere at any time. Islands are not only beautiful but the people are extremely friendly.