ET’s Leadership

A vision informed by deep time.

An ethic based on ecology and reverence for complex life.

Strategies based on systems analysis and real human behavior.

EarthTrust is unusual in a number of good ways.


EarthTrust has an international focus, engaging with and frequently solving world-scale problems which have proven intractable to others. It’s regional programs can be wonderful, but they are always part of a global overview and strategy. With ET it’s “Think globally, act globally”.


EarthTrust goes where it’s needed at any given time, based on the issues it has committed to. It’s central administrative and executive office has always been in Kailua, Hawaii. It has had campaign offices in Auckland, Geneva, Honolulu, Kuwait, London, Los Angeles, New York,  San Francisco,  Washington DC,  Taipei, Tokyo; ; as well as field workers in many other areas. These offices are opened and closed based on campaign needs.  no office is kept open unless it is needed for one or more specific campaigns.


EarthTrust is based on valuing and preserving the earth’s evolved life systems as we humans inherited them. Its methods are informed by the scientific method, and directed by pragmatism and an ethic of responsibility for the earth’s future.

This means a planet with rainforests and ice caps, seas of fish, whales and other complex, stable-environment (K-type) species. A planet with the biological carrying capacity and stable climate to feed a stable population of humans without wiping out other species.


ET is structured with a small board of directors and a large number of advisors, to enable pulling together information quickly and adjusting course to deal with real-world crisis and opportunity. This is melded with long-term stability of executive management.

Physically, EarthTrust is organized electronically, and therefore not inherently limited. It doesn’t own buildings, ships, planes or other hard assets, though it rents or charters such things as needed to accomplish program goals.

The organization is literally run out of a network of electronically networked home offices, which is the most logical way to structure such an organization in the 21st century. ET pioneered this sort of structure and was written up many times in the early days of the internet, for doing impossibly cool stuff on low budgets and low overhead.


The overhead of the organization is ridiculously low compared with many other organizations, so low as to raise your eyebrows. Most organizations would have to cook their books to get anything like our real numbers.  We have volunteer administrators, we spend next to nothing on fundraising, and there are very few fixed overhead costs. Why would anyone do it differently?

Funding Philosophy:

ET creator DJ White was also a founder of Greenpeace in the USA and internationally. His experience at the top levels of those and other groups caused him to want to do things differently with ET. Most nonprofit fundraising has extremely high costs associated with it, often high enough that the fundraising barely breaks even. This is especially true of mass mailouts and hiring professional fundraisers. For that reason, ET does not conduct mass mailings and has shut down any funding project that doesn’t produce a high percentage return, so you can be assured that a high percentage of your donation  will go directly to saving species you love. ET has no paid fundraisers of any kind. Its philosophy is based on respect for the intelligence of its sophisticated donors, and respect for their contributions. If you aren’t inspired by our methods and our success, we don’t deserve your contribution.


The organization has extremely stable leadership over the years, while maintaining the ability to make quick strategic decisions and campaign pivots at the board level. The guy who created the organization in 1976 still directs it today, and his personal history coincides with a lot of environmental history being made.



ET’s Founder & Strategist, DJ White

ET’s success has involved the hopes and efforts of millions of people around the world. It’s campaigns have often hung crucially on key campaigners in the field.

Yet it’s not incorrect to note that the concept and reality of ET and its campaigns have largely been conceived, created and directed by DJ White.

In addition to personally incorporating the organization in 1976, he has shaped it over the years into the unique tool that is has been, and steered it in a number of improbable directions. And into even more improbable successes.

Pulled into the ‘greenpeace’ movement in 1977 as the expanding GP movement collaborated with ET’s pacific anti-whaling campaign, DJ for a decade developed the campaigns and structure of Greenpeace Foundation, Greenpeace USA, and Greenpeace International in parallel with those of ET.

Doing so, he became instrumental in shaping Greenpeace structure and international campaigns. And he also came to see how many things could be done better – or even go wrong. By 1985 he pulled back from the growing GP empire to re-focus on ET as a more flexible and creative tool than ‘greenpeace’ was turning out to be. It turned out to be the right call.

Don has been a full-time environmental advocate and campaigner now for 39 years. It has been an interesting ride. A bit of background detail below, excerpted from a bio assembled by ET volunteers in 2000.

Bonus Draft thing! Here’s the bio graphic, to see how well it shows up on the website. This version is JPG format at 40% compression quality.

DJ White scattered bio...

(use the little arrows at right to scroll)

Who is he?

Don was born in 1950 in Indianapolis to artist parents who were themselves innovators, authors, inventors, and idealists. His childhood was dominated by fishing, making big things that would fly,  and enjoying nature. A voracious reader who didn’t care much for school, Don became versed in many things while ignoring most of his school classes.

He paid for his first year of college by catching mosquitoes at a nickel apiece. His subsequent years were paid for by factory work and college loans. Originally a physics major, he switched to geology in 1970 and managed to fit 3 years of curriculum into 2 years of work, graduating in 1972. He paid back his college loans by working construction in the 2 years after his graduation.

While in college, he kept reading. Thus began an in-depth study of dolphins and whales which stemmed from his interest in the nature of self-aware intelligence, and of the prospects for life in the universe beyond the earth. He also took, or snuck into, every environmentally-related course offered by the university. During this time, a personal ethic was evolving.

Shortly after graduation, he became a working oil-industry Geophysicist, which had the advantage of allowing him to fly around the world and be in nature. However, the explosive and exploitive nature of the work was hard to reconcile with his increasingly-firm conservationist feelings, and he abruptly quit this lucrative career in 1975 to devote his life to conservation. His studies and work in paleontology gave him a multi-million-year perspective on evolution and extinction which found its way into his philosophy.

Don has always been a teacher by inclination. He taught inner-city science classes in Indianapolis, taught Geology in a traveling wild-west summer camp, spent two years working double jobs as a high school science teacher in Honolulu, created the largest program of marine-mammal conservation lectures in Hawaii, and has touched millions through his writings and televised productions.

Since 1977, he has been married to Sharon Sue Difloure White (“Susie White”) who is herself a well-known working-class fisheries conservation activist and NGO director. They have no children, but have a border collie who keeps them busy. They live in Kailua, Hawaii in a working-activist home they designed and built on a shoestring. Over the years, they have made an art of living on little to no income, due to their frequent choice of refusing to take salaries when their programs need the money, and by spending most of their savings on environmental campaigns which could not otherwise be funded.

DJ White is one of the world’s premier environmental visionaries, strategists, and innovators. He has never been afraid to roll up his sleeves and dive into an issue, even when conventional wisdom said he was tackling an impossible task. Indeed, he takes on such “impossible missions” by preference, since they are best suited to his talents and usually being attempted by no one else.

To this task, he brings an array of knowledge. White is conversant in physics, biology, acoustics, computer science, electronics, business management and administration, law, legislation, treaties, marketing, audio and video production, mathematical theory, quantum science, medicine, molecular biology, psychology, astronomy, and many other disciplines. He applies these cross-disciplinarily to create stunningly creative approaches to problems.

He also nurtures a worldview he calls his “alien gamekeeper” perspective, which has involved an in-depth study of human behavior in aggregate, and its interaction with nature and energy.

What are his mission & motivations?

Don has designed his life around a set of core principles and goals, motivated by an intense desire to make a difference. He became a full-time conservation innovator in 1975 and has never looked back. Since that time, he has explored many aspects of science, conservationism, inter-species dynamics, and the interplay of complex systems. Along the way he has steered some history.

Although extremely pragmatic and not religious in a conventional sense, Don admits that species and habitat conservation is, to him, a quest which defines and gives personal meaning to his life. A quote: “Many people feel a deep connection to nature , but deny these feelings of ‘religious naturism’ unless they are couched in terms of one of the mainstream religions. That’s a shame, because these profound feelings of connection can form the basis of a satisfying life, and a rich new definition for personal success. In my worldview, saving wild nature is a sacrament. Saving an entire species is a rare privilege, and preventing the destruction of an entire ecosystem is the truest wealth a person can know”. Despite such corny sentiments, or perhaps because of them, he tells some pretty irreverent jokes.

White does not fit into stereotypical categories. He has been a long-time booster of space exploration and its links to earth ecology, while working to save endangered species. He is an advocate of drawing down human populations to a sustainable size to prevent mass starvation on the back-half of the 21st century.  He chose not to have children, yet he has been a lifelong teacher. A pioneer in inter-species communication and cognition, he insists that this work always be tied to real-time conservation goals. Aghast at the depredations of the fishing industry, he has nevertheless worked with its members to break barriers and achieve real gains for the environment. And in a business where the typical campaigner lasts two years, he has stayed on the cutting edge for a quarter century.

White was drawn into conservation simply because it needed to be done. A 1974 lecture by Dr. Roger Payne on the then-imminent extinction of most whale species convinced him to radically change careers, from an oil-industry geophysicist to environmental activist. His first expedition initially seemed virtually a suicide mission. Quickly, he emerged as a leader of the whale-saving movement, the conservation movement, a founder of Greenpeace, EarthTrust, and many other organizations and programs.

As he entered its highest levels, White was struck by how much the conservation movement could be improved upon. It utilized protest and other “reactive” tactics, but rarely a cogent longterm strategy. Moreover, he found that the same forces which create environmental destruction in the world at large are actively at work within the environmental community and its organizations. He set about trying to change that. He remains a staunch advocate of the movement policing itself.

White’s wry, sometimes ironic sense of humor has served him well in dealing with sometimes-impossible situations. Of Greenpeace he says “you never forget your first cult”. White demands integrity and offers it to others, building nontraditional alliances as he “thinks outside the box”. He has never been in the “mainstream” of the movement and never expects to be, preferring to anticipate problems and solutions rather than “riding along with the posse”.

White’s work as a Geologist, thinking in terms of millions of years, have given him a sobering perspective on what is at stake today. “Just as all other considerations are rendered moot if you wake up in a burning house, those of us alive today have been born into a situation in which we must rush to save the basic things we value most, before they are lost immediately and forever. This terrible reality also confers a strange gravity to our actions: even the least of us can save entire species from extinction.”

What are his current life Goals?

Don plans to continue directing EarthTrust while increasingly consulting with the institutions he feels have the best chance of totally rebuilding the conservation movement to be more effective, smarter, and less reactive.

He’s formed the Bottleneck Foundation, to demonstrate new and different ways of engaging humans with deep time and the environment.

What is his personal Mission?

DJ White, has, from the beginning, defined his own mission rather than following the lead of others. He then finds people to work with who can understand and agree with that mission.

The fact that he HAS a personal mission speaks volumes. He lives his life with a perspective on its entirety, and has launched stepwise projects which have been expected to take 3 decades to complete. He is among the longest-term conservation strategists.

By 1980, his initial Goals were to end pelagic driftnetting, create an independent dolphin-safe tuna standard to end the huge kills of dolphins off the ETP, to establish Greenpeace as an international movement, to end pirate whaling on endangered species, to end dolphin drive-kills in Japan and Taiwan, and to explore the possibility of dolphin self-awareness. He had substantially accomplished all these goals by 1996 (reality check at page bottom**) Since that time, he has analyzed the needs of the conservation movement and dedicated himself to making the biggest impact with his life that he can.

White has brought many new tools and methods to the conservation arena, some of which are so new that they are not yet widely understood or used. Don is working to see the methods he has developed become more widely available, and widely used, for conservation and environmental issues.

**Reality check:
(1) The campaigns led by White at Greenpeace and then EarthTrust created and focused the power behind the successful U.N. Driftnet ban resolutions, these active campaigns began in 1982 and culminated at the U.N. in 1991; (2) White’s creation and negotiation of the “Flipper Seal of Approval” standard catalyzed the Heinz dolphin-save tuna decision of 1990 and has since that time drastically affected the status U.S. labeling laws, keeping private dolphin-safety labels legal to date; (3) Greenpeace is perhaps the best-known environmental group in the world, based in some part on White’s decade of leadership and the issues he popularized with his campaigns; (4) The large-scale selling of “pirate” whale meat for high prices in Asia was effectively ended ­ and documented – by White’s market DNA initiatives from 1993-98, which have become the standard tests for a nation’s compliance; (5) Under White, EarthTrust ended all Taiwan drive-kills in 1990-91 by getting national laws changed. Drive kills in Japan have not ended, although campaigned heavily by Earthtrust and White; (6) White’s research lab, with Dr. Ken Marten and Suchi Psarakos, scientifically demonstrated dolphin self-awareness in 1991.

His Vision

White’s previously-attained goals have been ambitious. His vision for the future of the conservation movement is, if anything, even more so. He hopes to change the  nature of institutions which promote change, and the way they perceive of and interact with the world. Some pieces of the toolkit Don brings to bear on this task are listed here:


Don believes that the only way to create lasting change is to actually shift the culture at the level of individual personal worldviews. Rather than looking only to legislation, litigation, and incremental education, he has specialized in the creation of stable cultural icons which can leverage the strength of conservation causes by the powerful hold they have on our perceptions.

Among the icons he has been instrumental in inserting into the popular culture are “Greenpeace”, “dolphin-safe tuna” and the “Flipper Seal of Approval”, “driftnets” which “strip-mine the seas”, self-aware computer-using dolphins, dolphin drive-kills,  an “invasion of the Soviet Union” and the careers of iconic individuals like Sam LaBudde and Keith Highley, to mention a few. He has also created specialized applications of trademark and contract law to control and evolve icons in the real world of corporations, laws, and treaties.


A movement is only as effective as the tools it uses. Don has created whole new types of conservation entity, demonstrated the feasibility of nonstandard alliances, innovated new funding models, and has invented and overseen technological breakthroughs which range from new fishing techniques, through adaptation of DNA science to treaty, through robo-observers and underwater dolphin touchscreen computers, the use of national “action groups” online, new ways of managing fisheries with contract law, and new media products and strategies.


There are often conservation crises which seem so rooted in tradition, so intractable in complexity, or so large in scope that they are considered by the conventional wisdom to be “impossible to address” by entities smaller than Nations.

These are the issues which may yield to White’s new toolkit, and the ones he prefers to spend time on. From the world’s largest and most destructive fishery, to a gridlocked Whaling Commission, to generations-old Asian wildlife kills, to the Kuwait oil fires to the tantalizing mystery of dolphin intelligence, White’s programs have not only gotten results, they have in many cases broken the deadlock to entirely resolve the situation. There are many more such “impossible” missions facing the conservation movement today, and White is working to pull together new funding sources and visionary movement leaders to solve them.


In many cases, a necessary piece of the puzzle is missing. Something which needs to be done to resolve a situation may not be done by the existing players. Don feels that the conservation movement should not be limited by the entities now existing, but should be aggressive at analyzing the situation and creating new entities as needed. Examples of this approach have included Greenpeace USA, EarthTrust Taiwan, The Flipper Foundation (a totally new class of 509 (a) 3 entity), The DNA Coalition for Wildlife, the DriftNetwork, the Dolphin Action Group, Earthtrust Kuwait Documentary Team, Earthtrust New Zealand, Project Delphis, a new Harvard institute for conservation genetics, and co-founding Species Survival Network, among others.

Don believes that several new classes of conservation-aiding entity must be explored and established in the coming decade, and that these will be the only real players by 2020.


in a field where 6 months is sometimes considered a long way off, Don has been one of the only conservationists to actually implement projects with multi-decade stepwise schedules and to see them through. Although he has achieved improbably well when backed into a corner or newly brought into an existing crisis, he ultimately views reactive strategies as failures in planning: the problems should have been anticipated and nipped in the bud before they got out of control. Don routinely strategizes specific plans for 5, 10, 20, and 50 years into the future. Moreover, his grasp of trends and biological interactions is conceived against the background of geological time, thinking in terms of millions of years past and future.


Don believes that total control of the destructive and unsustainable effects of world fisheries and markets is attainable by conservationists, and some concrete ideas on how this can be accomplished. This notion departs radically in scope and concept from those who believe that only limited or incremental change is accessible to the conservation movement.

He has involved himself in complex negotiations with major fishery firms, and worked out mechanisms for bringing industries under stepwise control leveraging off existing market factors. He was a major player in securing “dolphin safe” tuna, among many other fisheries triumphs, and has promoted a recasting of the entire ETP fishery. He also does not shrink from destroying a fishing industry which is inherently unsustainable, and warns that compromise is sometimes a bad strategy.


Increasingly, in the rush to internationalize trade, treaties are becoming a hodgepodge of inconsistent and unenforceable rules which nevertheless supercede national laws. In other cases, treaties have evolved taking into interest only the consumption of a resource, not the benefits of its conservation. These need to be fixed, and White sees them as crucial battlegrounds for the coming decades.

Two examples of this: The IWC and CITES were in conflict, with CITES rules preventing the acquisition of whaling market data. By innovating new technology and working with national CITES delegations to re-interpret the treaty, this conflict was fixed by Don and Sue White.

Similarly, the so-called “Panama Accord” regarding tuna fishing in the ETP led the USA to pass the IDCPA in 1997. The fundamental conflict is that in order to secure participation in the treaty, the US and IATTC made the observer scheme non-transparent, and thus locked the large firms out of product acquisition by setting the law and treaty at odds with the existing “dolphin safe” cultural icon. The resulting problems have set U.S. policy at odds with itself and made the treaty less useful than it could be.

White ha spressed the “Flipper” standard as a treaty-compliant icon rooted in contract law, while pressing for a return to transparency in fishery oversight. This can allow the re-entry of the large processing firms into the fishery while preserving the lowered-bycatch gains of past decades and current treaty negotiation. It can also break a troubling deadlock which now divides parts of the conservation community.


One of the most important functions Don has provided is as a “reality check”: he completely assesses any situation independently, from the ground up. While studying to understand the problem, he makes a concerted effort to ignore the existing assumptions and “buzz” and evolve a fresh view of the dynamics in play.

This “parallel perspective”s has saved the day many times on many issues, even though it often means that the solutions so derived are not intuitive to those working under the conventional wisdom. Thus, Don’s initiatives often have had to work without mainstream support, and are not widely seen as successful until they succeed – at which point, everyone lauds them. On any issue he analyzes, Don can be counted on to propose a new set of options which were not previously apparent.


Don White believes that the “black hole” spending and accounting policies of many organizations need to be reformed for the long-term credibility of the movement. His past experience with NGO’s and charities using “tricky bookkeeping” left a bad taste in his mouth. He has been an advocate of direct accountability to contributors and for “de-mystification” of financial reports. He also advocates new funding models which can allow funding to flow to efficient and innovative players rather than the few “name” organizations with all-encompassing mailing lists.


When attempting to reform a fishery, there is often a “grandfathering” approach employed which “locks in” the currently capitalized fishing methology. Don feels there is always a “best” technology and fleet size which can be identified, and that mechanisms to evolve the fishery toward this ideal must be included in control regimes from the getgo. For instance, he is, at this time, specifically promoting the evolution of a new class of fishing vessel for the ETP tuna fishery, based on the “parasite hypothesis” of tuna/dolphin interaction and his “cleaning station” explanation for the biological basis of baitboating.


The conservation movement of today is made up mostly of specialists: biologists, lobbyists, lawyers, fundraisers, bookkeepers and administrators. This derives from some very basic perceptions on the part of the “movement” about the acceptable structure of an NGO and what the nature and limitations of conservation advocacy can be.

Don feels that at this point in the evolution of the movement, nearly all of the breakthroughs will be made through new cross-disciplinary approaches, and is actively promoting this concept to the conservation community. Many of White’s most successful programs have demonstrated this sort of approach, due to his own expertise in a broad range of fields as well as his techniques for monitoring what is “newly possible” in seemingly-unrelated fields. His point is that such expertise and techniques are within easy reach of today’s conservation advocates.


One particularly useful tool is “the art of the deal”; being able to function as a dealmaker to leverage the interests of the private sector into large-scale support for new initiatives, and locking this progress into place with shrewdly-negotiated contracts.

This is an extremely underused tool by the movement because it necessitates an understanding of all motivations, economics, and stable states of a sector of businesses; and it also entails a level of interaction with resource exploiters which is distasteful to many NGO’s.

White’s unlikely deals have included convincing Ted Turner to underwrite an invasion of the Soviet Mainland and create a series of televisions specials; Creating the most-successful conservation TV PSA program in the nation by targeting nonstandard station employees; binding the world’s largest tuna firm to contractual control of its tuna acquisition standards, negotiating co-ownership of Flipper with Universal studios with no money on the table, and many others. Such skills are widely available in the job market today, but are usually not employed by conservation advocates. Don is working to change this.


We are in a “free trade” world, and all existing national conservation laws and treaties are poised to be nullfied or compromised. Even treaties like CITES are fundamentally in danger of the juggernaut that is the WTO, as small panels of businesspeople make decisions which will end species. Surprisingly, then, the bulk of conservationists are still focused on affecting national laws and treaties. White believes that we must “re-program” environmental protections in contract and trademark law, which are fundamentally immune to overhaul by free trade treaties. He has demonstrated new mechanisms which he hopes will enable a new paradigm for global conservation and business interaction in the 21st century.


You can lead a horse to water, but sometimes you have to hit existing groups over the head to break deadlocks. Sometimes even that doesn’t work, and you have to leave the playing field and demonstrate that something is possible. Judging by the number of groups jumping in to help take credit for White’s demonstrations after the fact, this is a successful strategy. To work, it requires nontraditional funding sources which aren’t afraid to break new ground. It also may involve creating new kinds of advocacy groups, from the ground up.


As noted, Don White often finds himself engaged in creating tools and strategies 10 to 15 years ahead of their acceptance. Along those lines, In what may be seen by some as his most esoteric current initiative, Don is currently attempting to involve major players in global conservation in what he has termed “stable state analysis” of current and projected environmental problems, and the use of “phase shift” strategies to predict and produce abrupt and profound change in the issues so analyzed.

This approach is linked to complexity theory, a new way of looking at interacting dynamic systems. White contends that understanding issues, and biology, on this level as interacting systems with knowable stable states gives conservationists a way around the almost infinite complexity which now confounds the application of traditional conservation efforts to the global marketplace.

He has applied this strategy with great success, and is currently the only conservationist pushing this approach. It is quite accessible, but requires a bit of training to understand. White is used to being in front of the cutting edge. In general, his peers usually don’t understand exactly how his newest initiatives will work, but they can’t remember the last time he was wrong.

His Creations

Creations: Movements, Organizations, Programs, and Expeditions

Organizations Created or Co-Founded
Greenpeace Foundation
Greenpeace USA
Species Survival Network
The Flipper Foundation
Institute for Pacific Marine Research
Flipper Fund
EarthTrust New Zealand
EarthTrust Taiwan
EarthTrust Europe

Bottleneck Foundation

International Programs Created

International Campaign to Ban Deep-sea Driftnets – 1981-91
Save the Whales International
The Flipper Seal of Approval
The DriftNetwork
DNA Alliance for Wildlife
Greenpeace International Dolphin Campaign
Asian Wildlife Initiative
Dolphin Action Group
Project Delphis International Campaigns and Expeditions Created and/or Directed: Ohana Kai Pacific Whaling Campaign, 1977-79
Whale DNA Initiative, 1983-2000 , (and another link)
Japan Award Ceremony, 1985
Invasion of the Soviet Mainland, 1983
World’s first Driftnet Expedition, 1983
North Pacific Driftnet Expedition, 1988
Tasman Sea Driftnet Expedition, 1989
Undercover – Dall’s Porpoise Kill 1984
International Iki Island Campaign, 1979-82
Taiwan Rhino/Tiger Trafficking Exposes, 1992
Campaign to Protect Kuwait Wildlife and Habitat, 1990-91
Hawaii Toxic Pesticides Campaign, 1984-6
Hawaiian Humpback Sanctuary, 1983-85
Monk Seal Critical Habitat, 1985
Banning Nuke Waste Transit of Hawaii, 1979
Phase Shift/Stable State Environmental campaign strategy, 1996-present (see vision section)
Central American Sustainable Fisheries Tour, 1982
Peruvian Whaling Campaign, 1982
Cetacean Stranding Workshops and Network, 1988-92
Whaling Commission Reform Campaign, 1979-present
Campaign to Free Dexter Cate, 1980
Phillipine Pirate Whaling Investigation, 1993
Korean Whaling Campaign, 1985-86
MMPA Reauthorization, 1988
Hydrofoils VS. Habitat Campaign, 1991
DCPIA Amendment, 1990
IDCPA Amendment, 1997
Dalls Porpoise NMFS Campaign, 1982-83
Signing of Starkist and Watties under FSA, 1991
Hector’s Dolphin Campaign, 1992
Sea Turtle Protection project, 1990-present
Campaign to protect Kaula Island Refuge
Ending Taiwan Cetacean Drive-kills 1990-92
Dolphin Meat Mislabeling Campaign, 1997-present
ETP Sustainable Fishery Initiative 1997-present
The Delphis Interlink – Dolphin Communication

The above listings are representative campaigns only, and in no particular order. During the past 39 years there have been literally hundreds of other programs and campaigns, from small to large, done by EarthTrust, Greenpeace Foundation, Greenpeace USA, Flipper Foundation, and other groups under Don’s initiation, direction and responsibility. It is beyond the practical scope of this page to even attempt to list them all. Rather, if one wanted, they could compile the total number of programs and achievements of each of these organizations while under his direction. That has never been done, and may never be: many of these programs exist nowhere on the web at this time. As another note, many of the “single line” campaigns listed here really encompassed dozens of separate expeditions and initiatives. Moreover, not listed are the dozens of public-interest lawsuits, legislative initiatives, or key support provided by DW to other organizations.


Experience: Education, Training, Expertise, Employment and Offices Held

Education, Training, and Employment
B.S. Geology, Minor physics, Indiana Univ 1972
Geology Teacher, Cottonwood Gulch Foundation, 1972
Geophysicist, GSI (Texas Instruments) 1974-75
High School Science Teacher, St. Louis HS Honolulu 1976-78
President Greenpeace Foundation 1979-1985
President, Earthtrust, 1985 - 2000

Offices and Titles Held (past or current)
President, EarthTrust
President, Greenpeace Foundation 
Co-Director, DriftNetwork
Director, DNA Alliance for Wildlife
Czar, Greenpeace International Dolphin Campaign
Executive Committee, Greenpeace USA
President, Flipper Foundation
Director, GPUSA TV Productions
Trustee, Species Survival Network
Board Member, 2111 Foundation
Principal Investigator, Project Delphis
Founding Board Member, Greenpeace USA
Founding Board Member, Earthtrust NZ
Founding Board Member, Earthtrust Europe
Founding Board Member, Earthforce
Registered Software Developer, Mac OS X applications
Trustee, Institute for Pacific Marine Research
Co-founder, Kailua BioLogic

Skill Sets:
Audio and video production
technical writing
media spokesperson
field campaign logistics
business law
electronics design
physics theory
biology, and nuclear biology
identifying parallels across disciplines
computer hardware and software
folk guitar
long-term stepwise pragmatism
independence of perspective
contract negotiation
international treaty ramifications
corporate interactions
large-scale nonprofit fundraising
scuba diving
comparitive psychology


By any standard, DJ White has been one of the most successful conservation strategists and campaigners.Indeed, in researching for this bio, we’ve come up with the implausible-sounding possibility that Don’s planned actions have directly saved more wild animal biomass than those of any other person or conservation organization, period. That conclusion would derive from the scope of the driftnet threat and victory, and the case to be made for it is here.

What follow are some representative samples of success in several fields of endeavor. Again, there is no way to list them all, so a few interesting ones have been selected for each category. Even so, there are a LOT of accomplishments listed below. Each is unique in some ways. This page has more information content than the others here, but you’ll find it worth scrolling down.

Environment and Conservation


This global ban resulted from a 10-year stepwise plan in which White was – at most crucial times – the main player, spanning two major organizations, dozens of expeditions, two video productions, numerous global tours, the definitive scientific research compilation, and the final push at the United Nations. The images, issue definition, and even phraseology of this global effort were White’s. Between one and two thousand of the most destructive fishing vessels the world had ever known were permanently from deploying nets as a direct result. Possibly the highest-faunal-biomass conservation victory in history, now stably in place for over two decades. White and his wife Sue have also supervised some post-resolution NGO policing of driftnet activity in the Pacific.


Since 1972 the fundamental failure of the IWC as a body to prevent whale species extinction was due to the ease with which protected or endangered whale species could be easily taken, and “passed off” in the markplace as “legal” meat. This allowed a huge bilateral criminal enterprise by Japan and the USSR to decimate nearly the entire global populations of fin, humpback, bryde’s, blue and other whales while ostensibly operating under IWC guidelines, as well as encouraging the proliferation of “rogue” vessels funded by Japan and set up to wipe out remnant populations, shipping their meat to Japan via dummy corporations.

The IWC, and conservation groups, were powerless against this until 1993, when White and his wife Sue, working with MJ Research Labs, invented a new protocol for collection and “suitcase DNA analysis” of market samples. Recruiting professionally-trained field agents to make “buys” throughout Japan and asia, they then shipped leading molecular biologists into these nations to “clone” the DNA of the samples, thus allowing its legal export and analysis without being blocked by Japan’s CITES office.

In the following years of this campaign, the reduction of contraband species in the marketplace was both tracked and documented by EarthTrust. This revolutionized the very nature of oversight at the IWC, caused the creation of national and international whaling gene databanks in Japan, Norway, and elsewhere, and spurred the creation of a new Harvard institute funded by Pew Trust. Most independent whaling-oversight DNA labs in the world are run by EarthTrust-recruited geneticists, including Dr. Scott Baker, Dr. Stephen Palumbi, and Dr. Frank Cipriano; whose publications in SCIENCE and NATURE regarding their work for EarthTrust continue to keep pirate whaling much less feasible.

This model has been adapted for oversight of other controlled species under CITES as well, where the EarthTrust Protocols are pushed as the “gold standard”. This approach, blending technological innovation with cross-cultural “undercover research” savvy and a detailed knowledge of treaty workings, permanently changed the IWC and the nature of whaling. No one else could have done it: conservation groups considered it impossible, DNA researchers had no understanding of the realities of illicit trade, and technology firms had no grasp of treaty workings.


In 1990, a retreating Saddam Hussein destroyed more than 700 Kuwaiti oilwells and set them afire, creating toxic pools of oil and clouds of choking smoke which threatened marine wildlife habitat and blotted the sun from the sky. The US Military and Kuwait enforced an embargo on environmental reporting from within Kuwait. All high Kuwaiti officials fled the nation to safety, leaving no infrastructure for an environmental response.

From half a world away, EarthTrust filled this gap, simply because it was the only group which could. Its operatives were working on site to salvage the situation before the Iraqi scud missiles had stopped falling. No other environmental organization was involved until much later, after the ET work was done. EarthTrust teams braved mine fields, deployed oil barriers to protect marine habitat, and escorted teams of international journalists past guards and into the burning fields, leading to some of the most dramatic news footage and coverage of the war, and letting the world bear witness to the environmental carnage. EarthTrust’s own documentation – later made into the internationally-acclaimed “Hell on Earth” documentary, stands as some of the most dramatic footage ever taken.

This footage was screened by EarthTrust to representatives of the Kuwait royal family, immediately resulting in a change in policy: rather than limiting the oilwell fire containment to only US and Kuwaiti firms, as Kuwait had previously agreed with the US, it was opened to international efforts. Thus, within a few weeks there were innovations like a russian tank with a MIG jet fighter engine atop it, blowing out oilwell fires. The time of burning – originally estimated at years – was reduced to a few months, saving enormous amounts of environment and resources. The need for the deadlock to be broken led White to audaciously commit people and scarce funds in the face of war, mass death, official stonewalling, dishonest officials, martial law, and a seemingly impossible task. Again, the crisis was transformed through shrewd leverage of images and information.

White also pretty much would up funding this effort personally when the Kuwait royal family reneged and stuck ET with the costs. He committed his life savings to keep ET in the black and campaigning, qualifying him as one of ET’s largest donors as well.


For hundreds of years, Taiwan has driven dolphins ashore and killed them for sport, spectacle, and bait. In fact, this occurs at other places in the world as well. The difference is that in Taiwan, since 1991, it has stopped. It’s illegal by national law, and the local schoolchildren learn about dolphins through curricula written by EarthTrust Taiwan. This is the only place in the world such a transformation has taken place, and another situation previously considered “impossible” to change.

Again, it was accomplished by the shrewd use of images and information by a well-picked team which played off national and international dynamics to create a new stable state. (Have you noted yet that White’s campaigns seem to often result in a new stable state, rather than a temporary victory? That is an important thing to realize.)

White had EarthTrust post local videographers with SVHS cameras around Taiwan (and other nations) in an initiative he called “EcoEye”. An EcoEye team was directed to an annual drive kill at Peng Hu harbor. The team obtain utterly horrific images of dolphins and whales being tortured to death by laughing crowds.

Rather than release this to the media as Greenpeace would have done, EarthTrust worked smart. It did an immediate screening of the tape to key Taiwanese legislators, so quickly that they were able to actually halt the ongoing kill. The legislators were given a choice between an international scandal which would hurt tourism and national pride, versus the opportunity to reform the laws immediately and share a positive story with the world going forward.

Thus, within two weeks, these legislators donned EarthTrust-labeled wet suits and untied the harbor nets in the first-ever dolphin-and-whale release ceremony in Taiwan’s history. The practice of drive kills was outlawed, and EarthTrust offered public congratulations to Taiwan rather than censure. The horrific images were never shown to the world, demonstrating discipline rare in the conservation movement. (The images would have raised EarthTrust large amounts of money, but it wasn’t the right way to solve the issue). White deployed a boat team to Peng Hu in the following year to make sure the law was upheld, while EarthTrust Taiwan directors Keith and Susie Highley did local outreach in the schools and Buddhist community. The drive kills have now ended.

Business Negotiations


In 1983, nobody gave a damn about driftnets, least of all the news media. This was a problem, because White needed a documentary of driftnet operations in order to start a global campaign against them, and also needed $30,000 in diesel fuel to even get a Greenpeace boat into the Bering sea. Turner had just funded the Cousteau Amazon tour, and was the only media source which seemed sellable. However, Turner and Co were totally bored by the concept of driftnets. There was thus a deadlock.

What White did caused ripples within Greenpeace, within WTBS, and in the greater world. He sent Turner a telegram giving him 24 hours to say yes or no to having a crew along on a seaborne invasion of the Soviet mainland by crazy whale-huggers. Turner said yes, and White set up a meeting in Atlanta to negotiate the terms. On his way, he simultaneously announced within all USA Greenpeace offices that the Rainbow Warrior was going to invade Siberia to protest illegal whaling there during the upcoming meeting of the IWC. This started a mad dash as the senior Greenpeace office workers applied for the crew to make their names in the movement, and by the time White got to Atlanta a week later the US organization was committed to invading the USSR to save the whales, much to the consternation of the somewhat USSR-leaning Greenpeace International.

White negotiated a tight contract in two days of meetings with WTBS VP Robert Wussler. Per this contract, WTBS would fuel the Rainbow Warrior to reach the Bering Sea and film White’s driftnet fleet confrontation, and agree to produce and internationally air a documentary on it, in exchange for Turner’s crew being aboard the ship when it invaded the Fur farms at Lorino in Siberia. The value of this deal was over $200,000, and it is what started the ban-driftnets movement. Ironically, Turner didn’t read the contract Wussler signed, and pulled his crew off the boat immediately before it invaded the USSR over an argument with its fine points. The invasion itself followed almost exactly the scenario White predicted, doubled the US membership of Greenpeace, and made names for some previously-obscure office workers. White also initiated a series of specials with CNN, but this contract negotiation was taken over by a horrified Greenpeace International as it hastily relieved White of his campaign authority. It all worked out exactly as White had projected, forcing both Greenpeace and Turner into an important issue neither gave a damn about, and changing the world.


It was considered flatly impossible. White proposed to have the world’s largest tuna firm sign a binding contract with EarthTrust, whereby it would be held to a higher dolphin safety standard than was defined under US law. This standard would be binding on all of its international affiliates and subsidiaries, AND Starkist would have to commit to heavily funding independent monitoring of its activities, making all its internal documents available to EarthTrust. This plan, initially rejected by Heinz CEO Tony O’Reilly, was negotiated by White at multiple levels of congress, the fishing industry and the environmental movement. it was considered so unbelievable that a represesentative of Threshold Foundation called White a liar and canceled an unrelated grant to EarthTrust’s driftnet campaign in 1990 because her sources in Washington said that what Don had reported to her was impossible exaggeration.

Only weeks later, White signed this historic contract and it became marketing history. It is an achievement which arguably has never been duplicated. It was accomplished by White on a shoestring budget, using only the “art of the deal” and a rare negotiating ability. The audacity of this maneuvering is partially apparent in the fact that independent labels, such as EarthTrust’s, were illegal under the wording of federal law when White sat down to negotiate the final terms. He convinced StarKist that he would “fix” the wording of the DPCIA before it was reported out of committee, even though the congressional committee had already passed it with prohibitive language! Starkist executives agreed on this basis, somewhat incredulously. White then managed to alter the wording of the congressional Act to include independent labels by arguing to its drafters that the committee-approved wording would screw up the StarKist contract. The law was reworded between the time it left committee and when it showed up as a law. (When next the DPCIA was reworded again in 1997, White again conducted a solo lobbying campaign which kept private consumer labels legal.)


“Flipper” is a property worth many millions of dollars. White felt it would be a useful mark for accreditation of dolphin-friendly seafood, and set out to acquire it.

He acquired a limited license from Animation Filmakers, Inc, the animation company which produced “Clutch Cargo” and other classics, who owned the cartoon rights. White aided AFI by using their mark in commerce and merchandising, thereby keeping AFI from having its rights lapse through lack of use. Subsequently, Universal Studios, another part-owner of the property, got involved with a lawsuit with the many other parties who owned spinoffs of the original “Flipper” franchise. White kept EarthTrust out of this suit. When it ended, Universal was sole representative of Flipper and the copyright owner, but EarthTrust owned the independent rights it had earned.

Universal produced a Flipper movie, sponsored by a major tuna firm. However, neither Universal nor its partners had ever established the use of the Flipper property for merchandising or other marketing, while EarthTrust had done so under White’s direction. White challenged Universal’s right to grant the Flipper name to a tuna firm for use in promotions unless the firm met EarthTrust’s no-dolphin-kill standards. Amazingly, the tuna firm sponsoring the “Flipper” movie would not agree to not kill dolphins! White, forced into hardball negotiations – again with no budget – made Universal to sever connections with the film’s lead sponsor for this hypocrisy.

Moreover, in order to secure the unchallenged right to merchandise around the film, Universal had to sign a contract negotiated by White granting EarthTrust greatly-expanded ownership of the Flipper property in perpetuity. Such a successful negotiation – semi-adversarial, under a time crunch, against one of the world’s richest and most aggressive media firms, is relatively unheard-of.

Success in the Nonprofit world


White was instrumental in creating what is perhaps the world’s most well-known environmental organization at the corporate, national, international, and program levels. Prior to 1976, Greenpeace was a single Canadian organization operating out of Vancouver. In ’76, White met with representatives of that organization. White had already announced to the press that his organization (EarthTrust) had selected a vessel to be the first fully-owned environmental campaign ship in the world, and had planned a fundraising event to purchase it for a 1977 expedition against the Soviet whaling fleet. The Vancouver organization had pioneered this sort of expedition using chartered ships, but was virtually bankrupt after the charter of the ship James Bay in the summer of ’76.

White agreed that a Greenpeace corporation  formed in the USA could help and take shared credit for EarthTrust’s campaign, principally to convince the whalers that the movement had momentum. This took place, and EarthTrust’s 1977 anti-whaling mission by the ship White had chosen and bought – the ‘Ohana Kai’ – went into the history books and global media as a joint Greenpeace-EarthTrust campaign. The campaign was a success. However, the Hawaii Greenpeace corporation was left with a huge campaign debt of nearly $300,000 in in 1976 dollars.

Greenpeace Vancouver – and several other newly-formed “greenpeace” groups in the USA – argued that the in-debt corporation should be scuttled. Instead, White took on the thankless job of taking over the reins to repay the numerous creditors left in the state of Hawaii by the greenpeace check-writing spree prior to the ship’s leaving.

As President of Greenpeace Foundation, he was a key figure in the development of Greenpeace as a national and international organization. He acted to intercede in 1979 to end a lawsuit between the San Francisco and Vancouver corporations of Greenpeace, and to set up an administrative organization, Greenpeace USA, in 1980 on which Greenpeace Foundation would have representation. He participated in the forming of Greenpeace International later in 1980, and by 1982 was the international director of Dolphin campaigns, senior board member of GPUSA, and still president of Greenpeace Foundation. His campaigns and strategy helped define the young movement and grow its membership in the years prior to 1985.


The U.S. government allows only certain limited kinds of nonprofit entity under law. White has not been limited by that. In 1995 he desired to create the Flipper Foundation, a new class of entity he had envisioned whose entire job would be to accept accreditation and licensing revenues from the fishing industry, and efficiently distribute these funds to create an adaptive system for monitoring and oversight.

The problem was that in order for fishing firms to commit their strategy to the program, the board of directors would have to include a heavy representation by fishery executives. How, then, to guarantee that such a board could not dilute the conservation purpose of the “foundation” or improperly redirect fisheries monitoring funds? White did this by petitioning the IRS to allow a new class of 509 (a) 3 organization. 509 (a) 3’s are “supporting organizations” tied by charter to a primary organization such as a 501 (c) 3. Under the Flipper Foundation proposal, the latitude of a 509 (a) 3 would be broadened to include a whole CLASS of supported organizations, defined by conservation criteria as opposed to name.

The IRS approved this new entity, which log stood as the only example. In this way, stability and a fisheries-friendly board could coexist with an unthwartable conservation mandate.


White has directed Earthtrust since its inception. During that time, the scope of its activities has from time to time placed it among the larger and more complex nonprofit entities in the movement. EarthTrust has supported dozens of other organizations fully or partially through granting programs managed by White, and grants to hundreds of individuals.

EarthTrust itself has had as many as 6 international centers of activity at one time under White’s control and authority. For instance, it had offices simultaneously in New York, Geneva, Honolulu, San Francisco, Taipei, and Auckland, with action teams in countless other nations. The number of direct employees of EarthTrust at that time (including the highly-staffed New Zealand corporation) was nearly 200. A truly international organization. As the CEO, White was the lead strategist, manager, and decision-maker, and dealt on a daily basis with the complex web of legal and logistical necessities of an organization that size. Few executives in the conservation movement have ever had such a broad range and heavy load of responsibilities. Moreover, White was able to resize the organization without disrupting programs even when grant foundations would abruptly alter the cashflow. White does not seek to be known as a manager, but he has been one of the movement’s best.

Cross-disciplinary Innovation


During the ’70’s, ’80’s, and 90’s the primary nation-level response of the environmental/conservation movement has been lobbying for legislation, and litigating based on such legislation. Internationally, the push has been to adapt older treaty organizations and rely on legislated unilateral sanctions by one or two nations to enforce compliance.

Although he has been one of the most effective at employing these strategies when necessary, White has always believed that better mechanisms were needed to achieve stable environmental gains. Now, as national laws and treaties are increasingly trumped by “free trade” agreements, is is clear that he has been right. White has developed methods to leverage international trademark and contract law into a stable framework to replace the failing laws and treaties. He has referred to it as “programming in the language of global commerce”.

The meaning is that when drafted using contact law as a framework, those protections cannot be abolished without abolishing the international business community itself. These concepts have not yet been adopted by the mainstream of conservation organizations, but White is working to train them in the tools they will need to be relevant in the new century.


Japan has often been the lynchpin of many marine conservation crises. It has also often been the symbol of an intractable situation: Japanese culture celebrates consensus, abhors dissension, and doesn’t accept protest or litigation. There is also a fierce nationalistic resentment of outside intrusion. Thus, the intervention of Western conservation entities in Japan has generally ranged from problematic to disastrous.

In stark contrast, White’s campaigns have been extremely successful at actually changing the way Japan acts, many times and on many scales. The demise of Japan’s pelagic driftnet fleet and the end of a large larcenous trade in endangered whalemeat are just the most obvious examples of what is often a highly-finessed approach.

In 1985, the IWC had passed a ban on Sperm whaling to take effect in 1985 and a ban on all pelagic whaling to take effect in 1986. Spouting nationalistic anger, Japan defied the Sperm whaling ban and continued whaling, and declared it would continue all other whaling as well, despite high-level diplomatic pressure from the USA and other western nations. It was a matter of the government “saving face” and not being seen to cave in to outside pressure. A bridge event was needed.

Seizing on the small story of a Japanese fisherman raising money to release a captured Risso’s dolphin, White assembled and sent to Japan a team to present these fishermen an international award. In the small town of Odowara, humble fisherman Akira Takase and his partners were presented with a trophy and a proclamation of thanks from dozens of western conservaiton organizations. This event was covered for three days in the national Japanese media as a “meeting of minds”, and on CNN internationally. Immediately afterward, Japan announced that it had decided to abide by the IWC whaling bans.

By enabling a polite and symbolic “trade of gifts” EarthTrust afforded Japan’s government the latitude to make a prudent decision without seeming to back down. Similarly, White’s invention of an interface to link dolphins to powerful computers at his lab in Hawaii has been the basis for dozens of Japanese documentaries and news stories, as these images have played a large role in transforming the view of small cetaceans in Japan over the last 10 years. Without confrontation or controversy, these images of dolphins as self-aware tech-savvy beings have challenged traditional views, and “pro dolphin” is now an accepted viewpoint in Japan.


Any serious student of conservation progress is sooner or later struck by the fact that while some of the best players show real expertise, there is rarely enough breadth in an individual or an organization to take an issue from one stage to another. Rather, one entity will expose an issue, another will popularize it, several others may come up with different or conflicting strategies to try to effect it, and a conventional wisdom will develop around it as it remains unsolved.

This may be an organic process, but it is highly inefficient. In reading the rest of this site, you re invited to reflect on how many times White has discovered and defined an issue, conceived a complete stepwise campaign to entirely transform it, secured the financial, institutional, political, and legal means to do this, and proceeded to leave the issue entirely solved in a relatively short time. As an exercise for the reader, try to name three other conservationists who have done this once, let alone repeatedly. The clarity of vision and intellect, and resolute will needed to do this are seldom seen.


There is a reason the queen is the most valuable chesspiece. The ability to move in different dimensions multiplies the available moves. After wearing his conservation ethic on his sleeve as a Greenpeace leader until 1985, White took pains to develop professional credibility in a number of simultaneous fields.

This has paid off many times in “impossible” situations. White is simultaneously the head of dolphin cognitive research lab, president of a fisheries accreditation organization, an award-winning documentary producer, a legendary figure in the conservation movement, a mover in the UN, CITES, and IWC, the director of undercover international surveillance teams, an inventor, a geologist/physicist, an expert in nonprofit law and history, and the co-inventor of a revolutionary DNA field protocol.

What this means is that White has not been limited by the usual choices or polarizations when he has planned or negotiated an issue. He is not easily characterized or pigeonholed, with the result that he can walk into nearly any door with an interesting new “take” on a situation. This has contributed to his success as a negotiator of “impossible” deals. White believes that the effective conservationist of the future must strive to be a sophisticated generalist, grounded in at least three very different primary disciplines and trained to know what is generally possible in at least three more.

Fundamental research and science

WHALE AND DOLPHIN DNA PROTOCOL – Co-inventor, with Sue White, of the entire new field of market analysis and DNA cloning of whale and dolphin tissue for treaty enforcement. Numerous technical papers submitted by his lab techs to SCIENCE, NATURE, New Scientist, and many others.

SCIENTIFIC DEMONSTRATION OF SELF-AWARENESS IN THE BOTTLENOSED DOLPHIN – White was lab founder and is principle investigator for this project in what has been perhaps its most profound finding.

DOLPHIN MANIPULATION OF AIR-CORE VORTEX RING SCULPTURE AS AND INDIVIDUAL AND CULTURAL DEMONSTRATION – White first drew research attention to this fascinating phenomenon. He co-authored an article on it in Scientific American and has written on it elsewhere as well. Not only are there individual dolphin “artisans”, but it is a learned skill which is acquired by observing a “teacher”.

INVENTION OF THE UNDERWATER COMPUTER TOUCH-SCREEN FOR DOLPHIN-CONMPUTER INTERACTION – after his initial adaptation of voice-recognition technology proved uninteresting to dolphins, he developed the theory for an underwater touch-screen using interrupted infra-red beams. This is the only such infinitely flexible interface between dolphins and computers, and it is employed in ET’s cognition and communication research. Notably, rather than “train” the dolphins with fish reward to use the sonic interface, White re-invented the entire physical basis for interaction so the dolphins involved would want to participate “for the fun of it”. This care for the dolphins’ side of the experience is an integral part of White’s ethic.

THE PARASITE HYPOTHESIS AS BASIS FOR THE TUNA/DOLPHIN BOND IN THE ETP YELLOWFIN TUNA FISHERY – White has published, with Dr. Ken Marten, his novel hypothesis based on tuna metabolism, thermodynamics, sonic scattering, shallow thermoclines and energy benefits to completely explain the puzzling tuna/dolphin affiliation which has been the basis for the Eastern Tropical Pacific tuna fishery, and to show how this fishery can be evolved to zero bycatch using a new class of boat and targeting a different market.