My Greenpeace tenure began as their Alaska Field Representative in Anchorage, after I had been volunteering on wolf and marine mammal issues for a local group. My only caveat was that I would continue to work on wolves, which they agreed. I was thrilled to work on issues that I loved and for an organization that, at the time, closely shared my personal philosophy about wildlife.
For about three years, I worked out of my home office on about 12 issues including fisheries/marine mammal conflicts, offshore energy, native marine mammal take, and predator control. I really didn't have a routine as it changed constantly depending on the issue or environmental crisis. In truth, my greatest challenge was to not add on more issues. Over a decade, I moved into an office and built a staff of five incredible women and their dogs!
I developed great relationships with state and federal agencies, native groups, fishermen, colleagues and the public. We had our differences at times, but we also had respect for our differing positions. As one native friend said, we chose to respect our differences while working together on issues that we agreed upon.
The producer tracked me down through Earth Island Institute's International Marine Mammal Project, which my project Oceans Public Trust Initiative, OPTI, is under. He left a voicemail that they were making a film about the 1988 whale rescue and wanted to talk with me. I called him back.
We had a great conversation and discussed the event. He said that Drew Barrymore would be playing me. I said OMG, I can't think of a better person, as she is so down to earth and a great actor! I was so excited about telling this amazing story to new generations.
Drew Barrymore playing Cindy Lowry in Big Miracle (Universal Pictures)
The experience has been wonderful. The director, producers, film crew, and especially Drew have been so inclusive and respectful of my work. I was honored to be a consultant and instill the movie with my passion for those amazing whales. There were times when I had to remind myself which decade I was in as all the sets looked exactly like 1988.
When Drew and I met, it was an immediate bond. We walked across a restaurant, took each other's hands and started smiling, saying how happy we were to meet. She said "I'm going to be playing you" and I said "I know, it's so amazing." We are kindred spirits - we both love dogs and are passionate about the issues we care about.
I spent time at her home in California, and she with me in my favorite Alaskan places. We became good friends. I was on the set the first few days of her filming and it was just like watching myself 20 years ago, she had the nuances down to even my pacing around the office and how I related to the whales.
I'm thrilled with the movie. It's a wonderful retelling of the whale rescue. It was an amazing experience, and I'm still bonded to those whales. The public acceptance to the movie's message about people with diverse backgrounds working together has strengthened my resolve to work for environmental causes through OPTI (www.oceanmiracle.org).
My attention is on offshore development, including oil, gas and wind energy. There is too much development in the oceans without a common-sense plan. One of the first US wind projects is proposed for Nantucket Sound, which will have devastating effects on whales, marine life, and protected values. Like the movie's message, I'm hoping people can set aside differences and look at the big picture of where we're trying to develop energy projects.
Big Miracle is in UK cinemas on 10 February. Watch the trailer below:
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