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Purpose-Driven Entrepreneurship and Rebuilding Reefs with Gator Halpern.

This week on Taste For Tenacity, we chat with Gator Halpern. Gator Halpern is the Co-founder and President of Coral Vita, a mission-driven company working to restore our world’s dying coral reefs. We talk about the importance of doing work that has an impact and solving big problems.

Transcription

0:03

What is going on everybody? My name is Ben Trela and this is Taste for Tenacity. This week on the show I am joined by Gator Halpern. Gator is the co-founder and president of Coral Vita, a mission-driven company working to restore our world’s dying coral reefs. He is a lifelong entrepreneur that is passionate about starting projects that can help create a better harmony between society and nature. Gator’s work has earned him a number of awards, including being named a United Nations Young Champion of the earth. That is an awesome name for an award, The Forbes 30 under 30 Social Entrepreneur, and an Echoing Green fellow. He lives and works in the Bahamas, where Coral Vita operates the world’s first commercial land-based coral farm for reef restoration. That is a mouthful, Gator. Welcome to the show.

1:02

Thanks for having me, Ben. Yeah, it’s great to be here.

1:06

Alright,so excited to dive into our conversation. So let’s kind of roll things back. What did you do after high school? Did you finish high school? What was going through your mind around that time?

1:19

I had a great high school experience. I come from a really loving, caring family that supported me throughout my education and was actually in high school that I started becoming really passionate about environmental issues. I was privileged to go on a few trips around the world and start seeing how beautiful nature is when you get into you know, the jungles of Mexico or wherever I might have been heading and also was able to witness how quickly our society is kind of shaping the world around us from a bit of a high level. And so, since high school, I’ve always been really passionate about environmental issues. In high school, I started the green club at my high school and knew as I was going into college that I wanted to study environmental science and be a part of the solution to what I felt and still feel like is the biggest issue that our generation faces moving forward with climate change and all of the ramifications of the climate crisis that we’re in. So it all kind of came together and started in high school. I grew up in San Diego, California, and was on the beach and in the waves as much as I could growing up. And so my current company which works in the ocean is kind of coming back to that initial love of nature, initial love of the ocean and be at all really started farming during some awesome high school years.

3:04

Definitely. Okay, so you’re in high school, you start seeing sort of the natural beauty that’s around us. You went on several trips. You said you wound up in the jungle. What kind of places did you go that you got to see?

3:17

Well, the one that I was mentioning before was really a formative experience I took I think it was my junior year of high school. The buddy of mine and his dad, we went down to the rain forest on basically Mexico under is a border in the Chiapas, and we actually were able to have this experience living with an indigenous community in the jungle there and the village is called Naha, and the Lacandon rain forest. And it was an eye opening experience where these Mayan descendants had actually retreated to the deepest, densest part of the rain forest to escape the conquistadors. And, in fact, they weren’t really found by Western civilization until I believe it was the 1920s, early 1900s. So they still live life in much the same way that you know, indigenous natives would have hundreds if not thousands of years ago in the jungle down there. And so being able to see that kind of peaceful way of life that are really an incredibly close connection that some natives have with nature, how they live directly off the land and the resources around them. But then, on that same trip, I was also able to see driving in from the capital of that Southern Mexican state to the rain forest, how much slash and burn farming was going on, how much deforestation was happening to increase mostly cattle pastures and Rain Forest that t his community lives off of is shrinking and shrinking, and it’s becoming much more difficult for them to sustain their natural way of life. And so that single trip was kind of the aha moment of just how quickly we’re shaping the earth and how that is going to increasingly become an issue and already is a huge issue in the world we live in. So that was definitely quite an experience that kind of set me off on the path of environmental activism that I’ve been on since then.

5:41

Okay, so you got to see really the harmonious side of human life where you can really live in harmony with your surroundings and with your environment. And you saw that right next to this very almost destructive form of life that was sort of taking away that natural beauty in that natural and environment that have been there for thousands and millions of years.

6:04

Exactly. Yeah, it was pretty eye opening experience, like I said, and I’ve been lucky since then to travel. I lived in the Amazon for a while at subsistence farming communities, have been to, you know, Favelas, the kind of township informal communities in Brazil working, in South Africa. So it kind of set me off on this kind of short career, which, if you’re ready to go in the next phase of my life in college, I was really focused on doing different environmental projects with communities, mostly in developing countries around the world. So that’s kind of the next step of my path. Bring me towards where I am today.

6:49

Yeah, definitely. So you had this awesome experience in high school, college runs around and you already know in your mind, okay, environmental activism is something that’s important to you. And so you dive into Environmental Science. Was that study what you were expecting it to be or what really drove you toward the environmental projects that you wound up taking on college?

7:11

Right. So I always knew that I wanted to do this environmental work. I was really interested in climate change science, in this enormous issue that I think is shaping the future of our civilization and especially is coming to ahead of in our lifetimes, a very interesting time to be alive. And so studying, you know, in school environmental science, and then linking it with these research projects that I was doing, allowed me to both travel all around the world and experience different cultures, but also kind of dig into some of these research issues that are important when we think about kind of the high-level land use and how we’re accessing and using resources around the world and how that’s shaping different communities and in turn shaping our global environment. So I’ll take a step back briefly though to say that I’m also kind of just entrepreneurial-minded guy where I’m dreaming up my own projects or my own companies. And part of it stems from just the kind of inherent fear that I’ve always had of a desk job and spending, whether 40, 50 hours a week behind a computer screen as a cog in some larger institution where you’re kind of living the normal American lifestyle of two weeks vacation a year. Never sat well with me. My parents told me to get a job in high school. And so I walked up the hill from the high school to the middle school and started handing out flyers to tutor kids outside of school to like the parents with the kids and kind of started my own little tutoring business. By the end of that year, I had maybe 10 kids. I tutor an hour a week and make enough money for me to get by with my hobbies in high school. Yeah, and I think it was that mindset that really carried on into these research projects. And that in college, you know, in the summers, I would have had to get a job, go home, start work and make some money. Yeah. But I feared you know, the normal kind of environmental, consulting type of gig that I was getting groomed for in school, potentially. And so instead was searching for The ability to do my own thing to research and get a grant and go travel somewhere I wanted to spend some time and look at an issue i thought was intriguing. And so it really came from that kind of entrepreneurial mindset of making my own project or my own job, my own activity. And that was definitely one of the motivating factors that led me on this path of paying around the world. I spent a summer in the Andes, a summer in the Amazon, spent time in South Africa and in Brazil, putting together these different research projects, which would kind of take the place of what would have been a more traditional job trajectory.

10:51

And that’s interesting too because you had created this really strong connection to your environment and needing to be in it both, you know, growing up, and surfing and having that lifestyle and then going on those sorts of first excursions throughout your high school career. You really forged this overall connection with your environment. And so in college, it makes sense that you then took the theory that you were learning in school and found a way to see it in the real world and in really expose the two to each other and see how the two could connect and play.

11:26

Yeah, definitely. And I can’t recommend more highly to all your listeners, the power of experiencing different cultures and spending some time whether it’s, you know, even in a different part of the US but especially when you get to foreign countries speaking different languages and just the way people think, and act, and form communities can be strikingly different. So to give you a different perspective on how you know, a lifestyle can be in the world. But then you can also see the kind of root commonalities behind any people around the world and how we’re all really quite similar in the core values that most people have. And so, really, if it’s possible, I highly recommend taking some time, some years even and going out and experiencing different cultures that really is definitely shaped my mindset on what I’m able to do in life and what I really want to do in life.

12:39

Okay, you’re in college, you’re experiencing all these crazy cool things during the summer as you’re working on these research projects, kind of walk us through what was on your mind as you wound down your college career and we’re getting ready to take that next step in your journey.

12:56

Yes, so when I was finishing college, I really was trying to figure out the next step. And as you’ve heard, I’m a big fan of traveling and (inaudible) things. And so I was trying to figure out the best way to both enjoy myself and see more of the world travel around. And I was thinking about maybe all you know, go ski bum and work on a ski resort in South America for a bit or I could you know, backpack through different parts of the world and work in hostels. I really wasn’t concerned at all about you know, settling on a career job trajectory quite yet. I’m very fortunate to have graduated college without too many debts and responsibilities that I had to immediately go right into the kind of traditional American workforce. But I was able to get out in the world a bit more and enjoy myself spend some time before in my mindset at the time I, you know, I have a whole lifetime to settle down and have a career trajectory. And so I actually ended up backpacking from Panama up through the Yucatan, so taking buses around Central America with a few friends of mine, and, and taking kind of a big long trip. But I guess at the same time, in the back of my mind, I knew that I was still super passionate about these environmental issues that I feel like it’s incredibly urgent for our generation really, to make a difference and start, start changing the way our society is interacting with and using nature in some ways. And so while I was in that kind of phase of traveling also went down to visit my brother in Europe and I went down to Brazil that after college as well to the Rio Plus 20 Conference, which was a big climate change movement that was happening, a big conference down in Brazil. And so I was bouncing around the world at the same time thinking of how I can become someone making a change in this movement. What’s the next step? And I felt like in order to really pursue the types of projects I was interested in, it would be beneficial to get a master’s degree in Environmental Science or it was actually an Environmental Management go back to school and get a little more time and credentials in the science behind environment, environmental movement, and also kind of use it as a launchpad to my next step. So I only have one year of traveling around in between college and going back to grad school. And I went to the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies for a two-year master’s program, after that gap year in college.

16:34

Yeah. So what was it like going from that really kind of free spirited lifestyle of getting to backpack and kind of bum around and see so many new places in that year to going to a somewhat more regimented schedule with going back to school? What was that transition like?

16:50

It was interesting. Yeah, I actually asked to defer from the Yale School of Forestry because I’ve wanted to continue to traveling around. I was thoroughly enjoying myself in Central and South America before coming back to school, and they told me actually I’d have to apply again. And I was thinking, you know, I was you know, really privileged to have gotten into such a prestigious awesome school. And I was thinking if I continued just traveling around and ski bumming potentially my application wouldn’t be as high as the following year. And yeah, I decided to, to head back to school, head up to Connecticut. And really, the transition at that point wasn’t too difficult. I think the transition to the northeastern weather was probably the toughest part for me being pretty soft when it comes to the northeastern winters. I definitely early enjoyed my time at Yale and it, it definitely was a big stepping stone to launch me towards what I’m doing these days.

18:11

Okay, so then once you’re in grad school, you’re at Yale, a totally different environment than you had been for a while. So what was that experience like and what was going through your head as you wrapped up your grad school and we’re trying to figure out what your next step was.

18:28

So I started my time at Yale, on a similar path of environmental science that I was in college doing this kind of like research projects. And I actually spent the summer between my two years at Yale in Brazil researching urban development and how actually the World Cup in the Olympics were shaping urban development in Rio de Janeiro during that time period. I was at this crossroad where I could continue doing those types of research projects, you know, writing academic papers and potentially pursuing a PhD in the field or the other option in my mind at the time was, I could always go back to school, get a PhD if I need to, at some point or if I really want to, but there was the kind of entrepreneurial mind in the back of my head saying that, you know, really, I think I can make much more impact and potentially have a much more fun lifestyle by starting my own kind of mission driven company doing something I really care about, and give that a shot for a year or two and see, see how far it takes me because really sky’s the limit in this world. And we can create and manifest some amazing things around us. So I kind of wanted to, to see where I could take that path. And so it was halfway through my two year masters program at Yale, where I shifted away from that kind of more academic science research lifestyle had been living and went towards business planning and my second year at Yale. I really didn’t take many of any environmental classes. It was more at the business school, writing business plans and financial models and the business plan, the original business plan for the company I have now called Vita was actually more or less my masters’ thesis ideal. So then

20:52

So then what really got that idea to come to life for you? How did you come up with Coral Vita specifically as the next adventure you want to do in Barca?

21:06

So a huge part of that was my co-founder, Sam Teicher who was also a master student at Yale at the time. And we were both interested in solving these huge global issues that we’re studying in school and felt that potentially kind of market driven commercial path was the way that we might be able to make the most impact. And we were brainstorming different business ideas. Actually, on my phone, I have a list of like 100 different business ideas, which are environmental and some of which are you know, dumb gag GIFs but at the time, we were throwing around different ideas and Sam started talking about reef restoration. because he actually had some experienced before he came back to Yale for his master’s degree. He lived in Mauritius, which is a tiny island in the Indian Ocean, okay and was working at an NGO there doing some environmental work and one of the projects that he helped start up while in Mauritius was a reef restoration project. Please tell me about that experience and I had never heard of refrigeration before I learned to scuba dive. Scuba dove all over America. Environmental Science about how reefs are dying faster than just about any other ecosystem in the world. And thought that, you know, maybe we can really scale up reef restoration and make a company that can make a big impact in sustaining them for decades to come. And so, with just kind of a back porch conversation between me and Sam, drinking a beer hanging out talking about reefs. We then kind of dived into whether or not we could make it into something real and build a company out of it and things really snowballed from there.

23:18

Awesome. So now you’re doing it right, you finished school? Did you immediately start building Coral Vita from when you guys kind of came up with that coral idea, or did you kind of wait to get more pieces in place?

23:33

So we were really fortunate that the university actually the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute, as it was known at the time, supported us as we were graduating with a small grant. And basically, that was a grant to have Sam and I survive over the course of that summer. Rather than get a more traditional job and start making money. So we got that small grant which we pay for our housing and meals and lives for that summer, during which we really fleshed out the whole business model and started approaching different investors and philanthropists to see if it really had legs. And if we could get some support and some funding to turn it into a real company. And we made a lot of progress over the kind of three months summer we were in that program at the entrepreneurial Institute and found a couple of partnerships with some leading Marine Science Institute whose methods and techniques we utilize in our work. And we found the first investor that put in a chunk of cash and really made us believe that we can make it happen. It still wasn’t up and running by any means. It took years after that, actually, I think it was two years-ish post-grad school where Sam and I were piecing together a few grants here and there we went to an incubator program in Washington DC. And we spent our time basically, schmoozing. open-minded focus possible done to conservation events and conferences and galas, and pretty much anything that was a place where you could meet either investors or philanthropists or people that just really loved the ocean. And we would pitch them our idea we talked to them about for Vita what we’re doing about this new innovative method we used to restore reefs. And eventually, after a couple of years, we finally cobbled together enough support to have kind of an initial seed funding round they call it which, at that point, it became real. You know, before those two years, we were living partially in our parent’s house on friends couches, making very little money, basically only having enough to travel around to these events and live our frugal lifestyle. Until we reach that kind of level, where we had enough funding and support to make it happen, at which point, things kind of became much more real. As I was saying, we started taking small salaries and were able to take through where we were going to go and where we’re going to start restoring reefs.

27:04

So what was that two year period like where you didn’t really have anything quote unquote coming in the door? What was it like trying to build something that you couldn’t see the fruits of yet?

27:15

It was definitely a long road. And still is a long road you know, there’s a lot of ups and downs that come with starting your own company and entrepreneurship. But it was also a lot of fun you know, there were no time restraints as much as you know, a traditional job or lifestyle path and so you know, I did a lot of work while road tripping around the United States kind of my friend driving in the front seat and me hotspot and my phone. You’re doing conference calls from the middle of Nebraska sort things out, so definitely was an interesting time I didn’t actually have my own apartment or place to live for the entire two year period. I was spending some time in my parents’ house. We lived in this incubator program, Washington, DC a while was a lot of camping, drive, flying around different investment meetings. And, uh, you know, at times it’s tough not to have your own space, but I, at least at that point in my life was definitely up for the journey.

28:36

Yeah, you’re willing to sort of sacrifice those creature comforts in favor of doing something that had a lot wider spread of an impact.

28:44

Exactly. Yeah. Something I really believed in, you know, I’m lucky enough to be from a background where I don’t necessarily have to, you know, support my family or you know, immediately because of debt or whatnot, go right into the workforce, as I was saying, so, coming from that background, I really only ever could see myself working at a job or doing something that I truly believe in that I feel like is doing something good for the world.

29:23

Because Yeah, I don’t I don’t see what else would be worthwhile.

29:26

Definitely. So that two year struggle period is over. You start getting your first big interest in what Coral Vita was becoming. What was the next step? Did you immediately start trying to scale the business or start to, you know, deploy everything that you had learned over those two years and the connections and partnerships you had made? What came next in building your company?

29:51

Yes, so I mean, it’s an interesting industry we’re in here and we’re kind of trying to create an industry around reef restoration. There’s no other scaling up to commercial companies really. And so it’s not your traditional kind of tech startup where you can just put the product out there and start seeing, you know, hockey stick growth, as far as, you know, users are concerned or revenue or anything. We’re, you know, growing living animals and restoring reefs that are owned by governments and the public good. And so there’s a hell of a lot of leg work that goes into making any of these projects happen. And so after that period, where we finally kind of got our first tranche of funding, we started doing that groundwork to figure out where we were going to build our first coral farm. Okay, and so, we started looking around the Caribbean, for a partner that would offer us the ability to really hit the ground running and start up one of these farms without too much hassle because the permitting process can be a serious headache and working in small island nations has their own complexities when it comes to dealing with the red tape that exists in any place. And so we took a few months to look around to talk to a bunch of potential partners to look at some options of where we’re going to land and build our coral farm. And after that kind of negotiation period, we ended up forming a partnership with the Grand Bahama Port Authority, which is more or less the municipal government here in the city of Freeport where we live and work. So it’s in the Bahamas, just off the coast of Florida. They were really excited about the opportunity to bring kind of a forward-thinking startup to the island that does climate change adaptation work and is benefiting the local economy, being an eco-tourism attraction but also in the long run and really first and foremost restoring the natural ecosystems that communities around here depend upon. And so we ended up moving down to Grand Bahama, I moved here over a year and a half ago and have been living here on the island since building as you said before the heavy worded world’s first commercial land based reef restoration and the other but all the qualifiers in their world’s first.

32:57

Yeah, you gotta have it really be the world’s first

33:01

Don’t want anybody to get upset.

33:05

No stepping on toes here definitely.

33:07

So you moved to Grand Bahama, living in Freeport. You’re now building frankly awesome company with it with an incredible mission. What’s it been like? How have you felt over the last couple of years you said a year and a half.

33:23

It’s been a journey for sure. There’s been some high highs and some low lows. The really the process of getting things up and running off the ground can be incredibly frustrating. I’m sure it is anywhere, just how quickly you want the permits to come through and the electrical contractors to start working and all the different pieces that really have to come together to build something not only from the business side of things, you know, getting work permits business licenses and bank accounts and all that kind of stuff. But especially in an industry like ours where we’re actually building the infrastructure necessary to have a functioning kind of high tech coral farm. And so there was a kind of a slog of the first year so getting things off the ground and putting the pieces together to make it start working but it was also incredibly rewarding to see you know what had been an idea for years now. Really start taking shape and coming to life and creating what was an incredibly beautiful coral farm and will again be soon and incredibly beautiful coral farm. I said like that because hurricane Dorian just recently came through the island and our farm took some heavy damage. So that was definitely a low low in the last couple of years. But we’re in the rebuilding phase now. And we’ll be back up and running soon.

35:12

So what are and that’s kind of a good spot to sort of take a step back from, what are some of the challenges that you’ve been facing specifically related to how climate change is impacting the very problems you’re trying to solve?

35:27

Yeah, so I mean, climate change is the reason we’re doing this work in the first place. You know, I’d be the first to say that we shouldn’t be doing this work. It’s, you know, no one should have to go restore coral reefs because they’re dying so quickly, but it’s the reality of the world we live in at the moment. That we’re at as a civilization in that we’re changing the world faster than it’s pretty much ever changed in the last hundreds of thousands of years. And coral reefs are really at the forefront of climate change. And so we’ve already lost 50% of the world’s coral reefs in the world are dead. And by 2050, scientists project that over 90% of the world’s reefs will be dead. So, that’s not just an ecological tragedy, which is it really the reason why, you know, my heart is in his work is because I love the reefs. I love the animals that exist within them. And reefs actually support 25% of all marine life. And so as these reefs are dying, that wipes out a quarter of the species that exist in the ocean, it’s pretty shocking. But it’s also a serious socio-economic issue for up to a billion people around the world that benefit from having these reefs offshore. The coral reefs are really pretty much everywhere on the shorelines of the tropics. And they provide breeding grounds for the fisheries. The fish stocks are heavily dependent upon coral reefs. It’s a huge tourism boom in many places around the world. And then also, coral reefs act as natural sea walls. So that’s why it’s called a barrier reef. You think of the Great Barrier Reef it’s a barrier from these waves and strong ocean storm surges that break up on a reef out to shore or offshore before they come on land. And so as those reefs die and begin to crumble, the protection that coastal for protection that they provide becomes less and less. And with climate change, it links back to how we need coastal protection more than ever, with the increasing hurricanes that storm surges that we’re experiencing as our waters want. And so, I mean, our work is completely in and out connected to climate change, we’re only doing it to save these corals from climate change. We do science on the back end to adapt our corals and breed them together so that they can survive the ocean conditions that are warmer and more acidic that are projected in the future. And one of the big values that we’re providing for different communities is building up those reefs that can act as a sea wall against the very catastrophic effects of climate change when hurricanes come through and, and really wipe out communities as we saw here in the Bahamas over the past month.

39:10

Yeah, you’re really focusing not so much on the economic impact even but sort of the physical impact of that losing these structures and really losing a massive quantity of life can have on communities in the overall ecosystem.

39:27

Exactly. And it’s tied closely into the economics you know. If your storm surges, four feet lower when a hurricane comes through because it breaks on the coral reef offshore, that’s a heck of a lot of property, and houses and the like that are not going to be destroyed from flooding. And so I think it was a couple of years ago, the hurricane Maria I believe it was that hit the Florida Keys Cause you know, Billions of dollars of damage. And there was a study that showed if the reef was healthy in the Florida Keys, which it’s not at all. It’s about 95, 98% dead in the Florida Keys. It would have saved over a billion dollars in repairs that needed to happen in the Keys because it would have provided that shelter. So it’s closely tied to economics. And that’s one of the things we’re doing at Coral Vita is presenting that case as a prudent economic decision to invest in reef restoration and conservation as well because we got to stop killing these reefs, even more than we need to restore them. And so we were constantly making that economic case of how valuable the reefs are and how it’s beneficial in the long run to spend money now restoring them.

41:03

Gotcha. And so with that, I think it’s time we start to shift into the second portion of our show. So what are some of the key takeaways that you have found from your career and your projects so far?

41:19

Lots of life lessons learned, I guess over a few years for sure. I think one of the kinds of easy takeaways that I can put into a sound bite is to never count on anyone option too much to have, you know, a plan B or Plan C, and to not depend upon anything more than you need to. Because one way or another, something’s going to fall apart and whetheryou know you’re working with this partner or this government or this species of coral or whatever it ends up being. Try to diversify your options and not put everything all your eggs in one basket is a huge lesson that we’ve learned a couple of times over the past few years. And yeah, I think we’re getting much better at you know, always having contingency plans and backups, because something’s going to go wrong at some point.

42:33

Yeah, build the parachute before you need it.

42:35

Exactly. Yeah.

42:37

So then what advice would you give to your 20 year old self?

42:42

My 20 year old self.

42:46

I don’t think I tell him to have more fun because

42:52

When I was 20 years old. But I think I would would tell my 20 year old self that sky’s the limit. Believe that you can create anything you want. There’s no dream you have that’s too big to really manifest and create that in your life and whatever your biggest dream is, go for it and there’s no reason you can’t make it happen.

42:52

That won’t cover.

43:31

Send it and see what happens.

43:32

Exactly.

43:34

Awesome. So then what is a book or resource that has helped you in your journey? It can be anything from either the science side, the business side or just something you found interesting along the way.

43:46

Yeah, a lot of lot of good books along the way. One that pops to mind which I recently read, which I found really eye opening was Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari. I don’t know if other people have said that one.

44:01

You’re the first to say it, but I’m a fan of it.

44:05

Nice. Yeah, incredible book really, it’s kind of a dense read took me a while to get through it because I often read a page and then had to sit there thinking about it for a few minutes before moving on. But really an amazing source of knowledge that really approaches our culture and why we’re here and how we’re affecting each other in the world in a perspective that I hadn’t thought through before and so definitely helps me think through how we can create change in the world and why we’re in our current predicament. So definitely recommend that book to your listeners.

44:51

Awesome Sapiens. I’m really excited. I have that one right on my bookshelf ready to go.

44:56

So lastly, where can people learn more about you and your ambition?

45:01

Go to https://www.coralvita.co and check out what we’re doing. We have a bunch of information on there about coral reefs, the kind of high tech science we’re doing at Coral Vita. You can go to my bio page and read a bit more about me and feel free to reach out if any of your listeners out there and if any of you guys want to get in touch and and see what we’re up to or have any questions feel free to shoot me an email, it’s on the website there. And hopefully sometime soon, you guys can all come down and plant the coral with us here in the Bahamas after we’ve got the farm back up and running. And you can also adopt the coral on our website and we’ll give you a little certificate in reply and will grow your coral and planted out in the reef for you.

45:56

That is awesome.

45:57

Well Gator Halpern is the Co-Founder and President of Coral Vita. It’s been an absolute pleasure Gator. Thanks for coming on the show.

46:05

Appreciate it, man, have a good day.

46:07

Take care.

46:09

And that does it for a show with Gator Halpern from Coral Vita. This show is very near and dear to my heart. I am a Boy Scout as some of you know. I’ve spent time out in nature and in the environment throughout my life. It’s something that’s very important to me. And so naturally conservation goes very close with that. And with a lot of the challenges that we’re facing now, we need incredible action to start to address them and to make sure we sustain the environment that we have and create a better environment going forward. And so Gator’s story and his approach of taking extreme action is really one of the best ways to start to address something that’s as significant and wide-reaching as climate change. And he’s just focusing on one aspect of it, which is coral reefs. But to put it bluntly, climate change is something that’s going to have a huge impact on every single aspect of our lives. And so hearing from someone that is actively taking steps to prevent and build more resilient ecosystems, it’s absolutely incredible. And he’s taken something that’s important to him, which is the environment and turned it into not only a business but a career and a mission that he loves. From Taste for Tenacity show number 25. This is Ben Trela. Thanks for listening.

This is Taste for Tenacity Show number 25.

0:03

What is going on everybody? My name is Ben Trela and this is Taste for Tenacity. This week on the show I am joined by Gator Halpern. Gator is the co-founder and president of Coral Vita, a mission-driven company working to restore our world’s dying coral reefs. He is a lifelong entrepreneur that is passionate about starting projects that can help create a better harmony between society and nature. Gator’s work has earned him a number of awards, including being named a United Nations Young Champion of the earth. That is an awesome name for an award, The Forbes 30 under 30 Social Entrepreneur, and an Echoing Green fellow. He lives and works in the Bahamas, where Coral Vita operates the world’s first commercial land-based coral farm for reef restoration. That is a mouthful, Gator. Welcome to the show.

1:02

Thanks for having me, Ben. Yeah, it’s great to be here.

1:06

Alright,so excited to dive into our conversation. So let’s kind of roll things back. What did you do after high school? Did you finish high school? What was going through your mind around that time?

1:19

I had a great high school experience. I come from a really loving, caring family that supported me throughout my education, and was actually in high school that I started becoming really passionate about environmental issues. I was privileged to go on a few trips around the world and start seeing how beautiful nature is when you get into the you know, the jungles of Mexico or wherever I might have been heading and also was able to witness how quickly our society is kind of shaping the world around us from from a bit of a high level. And so, since high school I’ve always been really passionate about environmental issues. In high school, I started the green club at my high school and knew as I was going into college that I wanted to study environmental science and be a part of the solution to what I felt and still feel like is the biggest issue that our generation faces moving forward with climate change and all of the ramifications of the climate crisis that we’re in. So it all kind of came together and started in high school. I grew up in San Diego, California, and was on the beach and in the waves as much as I could growing up. And so my current company which works in the ocean is kind of coming back to that initial love of nature, initial love of the ocean and be at all really started farming during some awesome high school years.

3:04

Definitely. Okay, so you’re in high school, you start seeing sort of the natural beauty that’s around us. You went on several trips. You said you wound up in the jungle. What kind of places did you go that you got to see?

3:17

Well, the one that I was mentioning before was really a formative experience I took I think it was my junior year of high school. The buddy of mine and his dad, we went down to the rain forest on basically the Mexico under is border in the Chiapas, and we actually were able to have this experience living with an indigenous community in the jungle there and the village is called Naha, and the Lacandon rain forest. And it was an eye opening experience where these Mayan descendants had actually retreated to the deepest, densest part of the rain forest to escape the conquistadors. And, in fact, they weren’t really found by Western civilization until I believe it was the 1920s, early 1900s. So they still live life in much the same way that you know, indigenous natives would have hundreds if not thousands of years ago in the jungle down there. And so being able to see that kind of peaceful way of life that are really incredibly close connection that some natives have with nature, how they live directly off the land and the resources around them. But then, on that same trip, I was also able to see driving in from the capital of that Southern Mexican state to the rain forest, how much slash and burn farming was going on, how much deforestation was happening to increase mostly cattle pastures and Rain Forest that t his community lives off of is shrinking and shrinking, and it’s becoming much more difficult for them to sustain their natural way of life. And so that single trip was kind of the aha moment of just how quickly we’re shaping the earth and how that is going to increasingly become an issue and already is a huge issue in the world we live in. So that was definitely quite an experience that kind of set me off on the path of environmental activism that I’ve been on since then.

5:41

Okay, so you got to see really the harmonious side of human life where you can really live in harmony with your surroundings and with your environment. And you saw that right next to this very almost destructive form of life that was sort of taking away that natural beauty in that natural and environment that have been there for thousands and millions of years.

6:04

Exactly. Yeah, it was pretty eye opening experience, like I said, and I’ve been lucky since then to travel. I lived in the Amazon for a while at subsistence farming communities, have been to, you know, Favelas, the kind of township informal communities in Brazil working, in South Africa. So it kind of set me off on this kind of short career, which, if you’re ready to go in the next phase of my life in college, I was really focused on doing different environmental projects with communities, mostly in developing countries around the world. So that’s kind of the next step of my path. Bring me towards where I am today.

6:49

Yeah, definitely. So you had this awesome experience in high school, college runs around and you already know in your mind, okay, environmental activism is something that’s important to you. And so you dive into Environmental Science. Was that study what you were expecting it to be or what really drove you toward the environmental projects that you wound up taking on college?

7:11

Right. So I always knew that I wanted to do this environmental work. I was really interested in climate change science, in this enormous issue that I think is shaping the future of our civilization and especially is coming to ahead of in our lifetimes, a very interesting time to be alive. And so studying, you know, in school environmental science, and then linking it with these research projects that I was doing, allowed me to both travel all around the world and experience different cultures, but also kind of dig into some of these research issues that are important when we think about kind of the high-level land use and how we’re accessing and using resources around the world and how that’s shaping different communities and in turn shaping our global environment. So I’ll take a step back briefly though to say that I’m also kind of just an entrepreneurial-minded guy where I’m dreaming up my own projects or my own companies. And part of it stems from just the kind of inherent fear that I’ve always had of a desk job and spending, whether 40, 50 hours a week behind a computer screen as a cog in some larger institution where you’re kind of living the normal American lifestyle of two weeks vacation a year. Never sat well with me. My parents told me to get a job in high school. And so I walked up the hill from the high school to the middle school and started handing out flyers to tutor kids outside of school to like the parents with the kids and kind of started my own little tutoring business. By the end of that year, I had maybe 10 kids. I tutor an hour a week and make enough money for me to get by with my hobbies in high school. Yeah, and I think it was that mindset that really carried on into these research projects. And that in college, you know, in the summers, I would have had to get a job, go home, start work and make some money. Yeah. But I feared you know, the normal kind of environmental, consulting type of gig that I was getting groomed for in school, potentially. And so instead was searching for The ability to do my own thing to research and get a grant and go travel somewhere I wanted to spend some time and look at an issue i thought was intriguing. And so it really came from that kind of entrepreneurial mindset of making my own project or my own job, my own activity. And that was definitely one of the motivating factors that led me on this path of paying around the world. I spent a summer in the Andes, summer in the Amazon, spent time in South Africa and in Brazil, putting together these different research projects, which would kind of take the place of what would have been a more traditional job trajectory.

10:51

And that’s interesting too because you had created this really strong connection to your environment and needing to be in it both, you know, growing up, and surfing and having that lifestyle and then going on those sorts of first excursions throughout your high school career. You really forged this overall connection with your environment. And so in college, it makes sense that you then took the theory that you were learning in school and found a way to see it in the real world and in really expose the two to each other and see how the two could connect and play.

11:26

Yeah, definitely. And I can’t recommend more highly to all your listeners, the power of experiencing different cultures and spending some time whether it’s, you know, even in a different part of the US but especially when you get to foreign countries speaking different languages and just the way people think, and act, and form communities can be strikingly different. So to give you a different perspective on how you know, a lifestyle can be in the world. But then you can also see the kind of root commonalities behind any people around the world and how we’re all really quite similar in the core values that most people have. And so, really, if it’s possible, I highly recommend taking some time, some years even and going out and experiencing different cultures that really is definitely shaped my mindset on what I’m able to do in life and what I really want to do in life.

12:39

Okay, you’re in college, you’re experiencing all these crazy cool things during the summer as you’re working on these research projects, kind of walk us through what was on your mind as you wound down your college career and we’re getting ready to take that next step in your journey.

12:56

Yes, so when I was finishing college, I really was trying to figure out the next step. And as you’ve heard, I’m a big fan of traveling and (inaudible) things. And so I was trying to figure out the best way to both enjoy myself and see more of the world travel around. And I was thinking about maybe all you know, go ski bum and work on a ski resort in South America for a bit or I could you know, backpack through different parts of the world and work in hostels. I really wasn’t concerned at all about you know, settling on a career job trajectory quite yet. I’m very fortunate to have graduated college without too many debts and responsibilities that I had to immediately go right into the kind of traditional American workforce. But was able to get out in the world a bit more and enjoy myself spend some time before in my mindset at the time I, you know, I have a whole lifetime to settle down and have a career trajectory. And so I actually ended up backpacking from Panama up through the Yucatan, so taking buses around Central America with a few friends of mine, and, and taking kind of a big long trip. But I guess at the same time, in the back of my mind, I knew that I was still super passionate about these environmental issues that I feel like it’s incredibly urgent for our generation really, to make a difference and start, start changing the way our society is interacting with and and using nature in some ways. And so while I was in that kind of phase of traveling also went down to visit my brother in Europe and I went down to Brazil that after college as well to the Rio Plus 20 Conference, which was a big climate change movement that was happening, a big conference down in Brazil. And so I was bouncing around the world at the same time thinking of how I can become someone making a change in this movement. What’s the next step? And I felt like in order to really pursue the types of projects I was interested in, it would be beneficial to get a master’s degree in Environmental Science or it was actually an Environmental Management go back to school and get a little more time and credentials in the science behind environment, environmental movement, and also kind of use it as a launchpad to my next step. So I only have one year of traveling around in between college and going back to grad school. And I went to the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies for a two year masters program, after that gap year in college.

16:34

Yeah. So what was it like going from that really kind of free spirited lifestyle of getting to backpack and kind of bum around and see so many new places in that year to going to a somewhat more regimented schedule with going back to school? What was that transition like?

16:50

It was interesting. Yeah, I actually asked to defer from the Yale School of Forestry because I’ve wanted to continue to traveling around. I was thoroughly enjoying myself in Central and South America before coming back to school, and they told me actually I’d have to apply again. And I was thinking, you know, I was you know, really privileged to have gotten into such a prestigious awesome school. And I was thinking if I continued just traveling around and ski bumming potentially my application wouldn’t be as high as the following year. And yeah, I decided to, to head back to school, head up to Connecticut. And really, the transition at that point wasn’t too difficult. I think the transition to the northeastern weather was probably the toughest part for me being pretty soft when it comes to the northeastern winters. I definitely early enjoyed my time at Yale and it, it definitely was a big stepping stone to launch me towards what I’m doing these days.

18:11

Okay, so then once you’re in grad school, you’re at Yale, a totally different environment than you had been for a while. So what was that experience like and what was going through your head as you wrapped up your grad school and we’re trying to figure out what your next step was.

18:28

So I started my time at Yale, on a similar path of environmental science that I was in college doing these kind of like research projects. And I actually spent the summer between my two years at Yale in Brazil researching urban development and how actually the World Cup in the Olympics were shaping urban development in Rio de Janeiro during that time period. I was at this crossroad where I could continue doing those types of research projects, you know, writing academic papers and potentially pursuing a PhD in the field or the other option in my mind at the time was, I could always go back to school, get a PhD if I need to, at some point or if I really want to, but there was the kind of entrepreneurial mind in the back of my head saying that, you know, really, I think I can make much more impact and potentially have a much more fun lifestyle by starting my own kind of mission driven company doing something I really care about, and give that a shot for a year or two and see, see how far it takes me because really sky’s the limit in this world. And we can create and manifest some amazing things around us. So I kind of wanted to, to see where I could take that path. And so it was halfway through my two year masters program at Yale, where I shifted away from that kind of more academic science research lifestyle had been living and went towards business planning and my second year at Yale. I really didn’t take many of any environmental classes. It was more at the business school, writing business plans and financial models and the business plan, the original business plan for the company I have now called Vita was actually more or less my masters’ thesis ideal. So then

20:52

So then what really got that idea to come to life for you? How did you come up with Coral Vita specifically as the the next adventure you want to do in Barca?

21:06

So a huge part of that was my co-founder, Sam Teicher who was also a master student at Yale at the time. And we were both interested in solving these huge global issues that we’re studying in school and felt that potentially kind of market driven commercial path was the way that we might be able to make the most impact. And we were brainstorming different business ideas. Actually, in my phone, I have a list of like 100 different business ideas, which are environmental and some of which are you know, dumb gag GIFs but but at the time, we were throwing around different ideas and Sam started talking about reef restoration. because he actually had some experienced before he came back to Yale for his masters degree. He lived in Mauritius, which is a tiny island in the Indian Ocean, okay and was working at an NGO there doing some environmental work and one of the projects that he helped start up while in Mauritius was a reef restoration project. Please tell me about that experience and I had never heard of refrigeration before I learned to scuba dive. Scuba dove all over America. The Environmental Science about how reefs are dying faster than just about any other ecosystem in the world. And thought that, you know, maybe we can really scale up reef restoration and make a company that can make a big impact in sustaining them for decades to come. And so, with just kind of a back porch conversation between me and Sam, drinking a beer hanging out talking about reefs. We then kind of dived into whether or not we could make it into something real and build a company out of it and things really snowballed from there.

23:18

Awesome. So now you’re doing it right, you finished school? Did you immediately start building Coral Vita from when you guys kind of came up with that coral idea, or did you kind of wait to get more pieces in place?

23:33

So we were really fortunate that the university actually the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute, as it was known at the time, supported us as we were graduating with a small grant. And basically, that was a grant to have Sam and I survive over the course of that summer. Rather than get a more traditional job and start making money. So we got that small grant which we pay for our housing and meals and lives for that summer, during which we really fleshed out the whole business model and started approaching different investors and philanthropists to see if it really had legs. And if we could get some support and some funding to turn it into a real company. And we made a lot of progress over the kind of three months summer we were in that program at the entrepreneurial Institute, and found a couple partnerships with some leading Marine Science Institute whose methods and techniques we utilize in our work. And we found our first investor that put in a chunk of cash and really made us believe that we can make it happen. It still wasn’t up and running by any means. It took years after that, actually, I think it was two years ish post grad school where Sam and I were piecing together a few grants here and there we went to an incubator program in Washington DC. And we spent our time basically, schmoozing. open minded focus possible done to conservation events and conferences and galas, and pretty much anything that was a place where you could meet either investors or philanthropists or people that just really loved the ocean. And we would pitch them our idea we talked to them about for Vita what we’re doing about this new innovative methods we used to restore reefs. And eventually, after a couple of years, we finally cobbled together enough support to have kind of an initial seed funding round they call it which, at that point, it became real. You know, before those two years, we were living partially in our parents house on friends couches, making very little money, basically only having enough to travel around to these events and live our frugal lifestyle. Until we reach that kind of level, where we had enough funding and support to make it happen, at which point, things kind of became much more real. As I was saying, we we started taking small salaries and were able to take through where we were going to go and where we’re going to start restoring reefs.

27:04

So what was that two year period like where you didn’t really have anything quote unquote coming in the door? What was it like trying to build something that you couldn’t see the fruits of yet?

27:15

It was definitely a long road. And still still is a long road you know, there’s a lot of ups and downs that come with starting your own company and entrepreneurship. But it was also a lot of fun you know, there was no time restraints as much as you know, a traditional job or lifestyle path and so you know, I did a lot of work while road tripping around the United States kind of my friend driving in the front seat and me hotspot and my phone. You’re doing conference calls from the middle of Nebraska sort things out, so definitely was a interesting time I didn’t actually have my own apartment or place to live for the entire two year period. I was spending some time in my parents’ house. We lived in this incubator program, Washington, DC a while was a lot of camping, drive, flying around different investment meetings. And, uh, you know, at times it’s tough not to have your own space, but I, at least at that point in my life was definitely up for the journey.

28:36

Yeah, you’re willing to sort of sacrifice those creature comforts in favor of doing something that had a lot wider spread of an impact.

28:44

Exactly. Yeah. Something I really believed in, you know, I’m lucky enough to be from a background where I don’t necessarily have to, you know, support my family or you know, immediately because of debt or whatnot, go right into the workforce, as I was saying, so, coming from that background, I really only ever could see myself working at a job or doing something that I truly believe in that I feel like is doing something good for the world.

29:23

Because Yeah, I don’t I don’t see what else would be worthwhile.

29:26

Definitely. So that two year struggle period is over. You start getting your first big interest in what Coral Vita was becoming. What was the next step? Did you immediately start trying to scale the business or start to, you know, deploy everything that you had learned over that two years and the connections and partnerships you had made? What came next in in building your company?

29:51

Yes, so I mean, it’s an interesting industry we’re in here and we’re kind of trying to create an industry around reef restoration. There’s no other scaling up commercial companies really. And so it’s not your traditional kind of tech startup where you can just put the product out there and start seeing, you know, hockey stick growth, as far as, you know, users are concerned or revenue or anything. We’re, you know, growing living animals and restoring reefs that are owned by governments and public good. And so there’s a hell of a lot of leg work that goes into making any of these projects happen. And so after that period, where we finally kind of got our first tranche of funding, we started doing that groundwork to figure out where we were going to build our first coral farm. Okay, and so, we started looking around the Caribbean, for a partner that would offer us the ability to really hit the ground running and start up one of these farms without too much hassle because the permitting process can be a serious headache and working in small island nations has their own complexities when it comes to dealing with the red tape that exists in any place. And so we took a few months to look around to talk to a bunch of potential partners to look at some options of where we’re going to land and build our coral farm. And after that kind of negotiation period, we ended up forming a partnership with the Grand Bahama Port Authority, which is more or less the municipal government here in the city of Freeport where we live and work. So it’s in the Bahamas, just off the coast of Florida. They were really excited about the opportunity to bring kind of a forward-thinking startup to the island that does climate change adaptation work and is benefiting the local economy, being an eco-tourism attraction but also in the long run and really first and foremost restoring the natural ecosystems that communities around here depend upon. And so we ended up moving down to Grand Bahama, I moved here over a year and a half ago and have been living here on the island since building as you said before the heavy worded world’s first commercial land-based reef restoration and the other but all the qualifiers in their world’s first.

32:57

Yeah, you gotta have it really be the world’s first

33:01

Don’t want anybody to get upset.

33:05

No stepping on toes here definitely.

33:07

So you moved to Grand Bahama, living in Freeport. You’re now building frankly awesome company with it with an incredible mission. What’s it been like? How have you felt over the last couple of years you said a year and a half.

33:23

It’s been a journey for sure. There’s been some high highs and some low lows. The really the process of getting things up and running off the ground can be incredibly frustrating. I’m sure it is anywhere, just how quickly you want the permits to come through and the electrical contractors to start working and all the different pieces that really have to come together to build something not only from the business side of things, you know, getting work permits business licenses and bank accounts and all that kind of stuff. But especially in an industry like ours where we’re actually building the infrastructure necessary to have a functioning kind of high tech coral farm. And so there was a kind of a slog of the first year so getting things off the ground and putting the pieces together to make it start working but it was also incredibly rewarding to see you know what had been an idea for years now. Really start taking shape and coming to life and creating what was an incredibly beautiful coral farm and will again be soon and incredibly beautiful coral farm. I said like that because hurricane Dorian just recently came through the island and our farm took some heavy damage. So that was definitely a low low in the last couple of years. But we’re in the rebuilding phase now. And we’ll be back up and running soon.

35:12

So what are and that’s kind of a good spot to sort of take a step back from, what are some of the challenges that you’ve been facing specifically related to how climate change is impacting the very problems you’re trying to solve?

35:27

Yeah, so I mean, climate change is the reason we’re doing this work in the first place. You know, I’d be the first to say that we shouldn’t be doing this work. It’s, you know, no one should have to go restore coral reefs because they’re dying so quickly, but it’s the reality of the world we live in in the moment. That we’re at as a civilization in that we’re changing the world faster than it’s pretty much ever changed in the last hundreds of thousands of years. And coral reefs are really at the forefront of climate change. And so we’ve already lost 50% of the world’s coral reefs in the world are dead. And by 2050, scientists project that over 90% of the world’s reefs will be dead. So, that’s not just an ecological tragedy, which is it really the reason why, you know, my heart is in his work is because I love the reefs. I love the animals that exists within them. And reefs actually support 25% of all marine life. And so as these reefs are dying, that wipes out a quarter of the species that exists in the ocean, it’s pretty shocking. But it’s also a serious socio economic issue for up to a billion people around the world that benefit from having these reefs offshore. The coral reefs are really pretty much everywhere on the shorelines of the tropics. And they provide breeding grounds for the fisheries. The fish stocks are heavily dependent upon coral reefs. It’s a huge tourism boom in many places around the world. And then also, coral reefs act as natural sea walls. So that’s why it’s called a barrier reef. You think of the Great Barrier Reef it’s a barrier from these waves and strong ocean storm surges that break up on a reef out to shore or off shore before they come on land. And so as those reefs die and begin to crumble, the protection that coastal for protection that they provide becomes less and less. And with climate change, it links back to how we need coastal protection more than ever, with the increasing hurricanes that storm surges that we’re experiencing as our waters want. And so, I mean, our work is completely in and out connected to climate change, we’re only doing it to save these corals from climate change. We do science on the back end to adapt our corals and breed them together so that they can survive the ocean conditions that are warmer and more acidic that are projected in the future. And one of the big values that we’re providing for different communities is building up those reefs that can act as a sea wall against the very catastrophic effects of climate change when hurricanes come through and, and really wipe out communities like we saw here in the Bahamas over the past month.

39:10

Yeah, you’re really focusing not so much on the economic impact even but sort of the physical impact of that losing these structures and really losing a massive quantity of life can have on communities in the overall ecosystem.

39:27

Exactly. And it’s tied closely into the economics you know. If your storm surges, four feet lower when hurricane comes through because it breaks on the coral reef offshore, that’s a heck of a lot of property, and houses and the like that are not going to be destroyed from flooding. And so I think it was a couple years ago, the hurricane Maria I believe it was that hit the Florida Keys Cause you know, Billions of dollars of damage. And there was a study that showed if the reef was healthy in the Florida Keys, which it’s not at all. It’s about 95, 98% dead in the Florida Keys. It would have saved over a billion dollars in repairs that needed to happen in the Keys because it would have provided that shelter. So it’s closely tied to the economics. And that’s one of the things we’re doing at Coral Vita is presenting that case as a prudent economic decision to invest in reef restoration and conservation as well because we got to stop killing these reefs, even more than we need to restore them. And so we were constantly making that economic case of how valuable the reefs are and how it’s beneficial in the long run to spend money now restoring them.

41:03

Gotcha. And so with that, I think it’s time we start to shift into the second portion of our show. So what are some of the key takeaways that you have found from your career and your projects so far?

41:19

Lots of life lessons learned, I guess over a few years for sure. I think one of the kinds of easy takeaways that I can put into a sound bite is to never count on anyone option too much to have, you know, a plan B or Plan C, and to not depend upon anything more than you need to. Because one way or another, something’s going to fall apart and whether you know you’re working with this partner or this government or this species of coral or whatever it ends up being. Try to diversify your options and not put everything all your eggs in one basket is a huge lesson that we’ve learned a couple of times over the past few years. And yeah, I think we’re getting much better at you know, always having contingency plans and backups, because something’s going to go wrong at some point.

42:33

Yeah, build the parachute before you need it.

42:35

Exactly. Yeah.

42:37

So then what advice would you give to your 20-year-old self?

42:42

My 20-year-old self.

42:46

I don’t think I tell him to have more fun because

42:52

When I was 20 years old. But I think I would would tell my 20 year old self that sky’s the limit. Believe that you can create anything you want. There’s no dream you have that’s too big to really manifest and create that in your life and whatever your biggest dream is, go for it and there’s no reason you can’t make it happen.

42:52

That won’t cover.

43:31

Send it and see what happens.

43:32

Exactly.

43:34

Awesome. So then what is a book or resource that has helped you in your journey? It can be anything from either the science side, the business side or just something you found interesting along the way.

43:46

Yeah, a lot of a lot of good books along the way. One that pops to mind which I recently read, which I found really eye-opening was Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari. I don’t know if other people have said that one.

44:01

You’re the first to say it, but I’m a fan of it.

44:05

Nice. Yeah, the incredible book really, it’s kind of a dense read took me a while to get through it because I often read a page and then had to sit there thinking about it for a few minutes before moving on. But really an amazing source of knowledge that really approaches our culture and why we’re here and how we’re affecting each other in the world in a perspective that I hadn’t thought through before and so definitely helps me think through how we can create change in the world and why we’re in our current predicament. So definitely recommend that book to your listeners.

44:51

Awesome Sapiens. I’m really excited. I have that one right on my bookshelf ready to go.

44:56

So lastly, where can people learn more about you and your ambition?

45:01

Go to https://www.coralvita.co and check out what we’re doing. We have a bunch of information on there about coral reefs, the kind of high tech science we’re doing at Coral Vita. You can go to my bio page and read a bit more about me and feel free to reach out if any of your listeners out there and if any of you guys want to get in touch and see what we’re up to or have any questions feel free to shoot me an email, it’s on the website there. And hopefully, sometime soon, you guys can all come down and plant the coral with us here in the Bahamas after we’ve got the farm back up and running. And you can also adopt the coral on our website and we’ll give you a little certificate in reply and will grow your coral and planted out in the reef for you.

45:56

That is awesome.

45:57

Well, Gator Halpern is the Co-Founder and President of Coral Vita. It’s been an absolute pleasure Gator. Thanks for coming on the show.

46:05

Appreciate it, man, have a good day.

46:07

Take care.

46:09

And that does it for a show with Gator Halpern from Coral Vita. This show is very near and dear to my heart. I am a Boy Scout as some of you know. I’ve spent time out in nature and in the environment throughout my life. It’s something that’s very important to me. And so naturally conservation goes very close with that. And with a lot of the challenges that we’re facing now, we need incredible action to start to address them and to make sure we sustain the environment that we have and create a better environment going forward. And so Gator’s story and his approach of taking extreme action is really one of the best ways to start to address something that’s as significant and wide-reaching as climate change. And he’s just focusing on one aspect of it, which is coral reefs. But to put it bluntly, climate change is something that’s going to have a huge impact on every single aspect of our lives. And so hearing from someone that is actively taking steps to prevent and build more resilient ecosystems, it’s absolutely incredible. And he’s taken something that’s important to him, which is the environment and turned it into not only a business but a career and a mission that he loves. From Taste for Tenacity show number 25. This is Ben Trela. Thanks for listening.

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