Matt Farrauto, Director of Media & External Affairs at the World Wildlife Fund

Written by

Spotlight Spotlight interviews advocates, community leaders and policymakers who have dedicated their careers to improving our communities, our nation and the world.

As a director of media & external affairs, Matt Farrauto supports public policy and business engagement and oversees efforts related to the U.S. conservation programs at the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

For more than a decade Matt has worked a senior Democratic campaign operative and aide on Capitol Hill, most recently serving as senior advisor and communications director for U.S. Rep. Brad Sherman. He was the communications director with the Colorado Democratic Party and executive director of the Democratic Party in New Mexico.  Matt was intricately involved in the last three presidential elections and many campaigns in between. He started his career as a press assistant and legislative correspondent for U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold before joining Bill Bradley’s presidential campaign in Iowa.

What (or who) inspired you to do the work you are doing?

We live on a planet with a rapidly growing population and finite resources. This realization inspires me to work to advance conservation. It’s an honor to work for the world’s largest conservation organization, which is active in over 100 countries around the globe. I also enjoy working with and learning from WWF’s dedicated program staff, which have had a multitude of experiences across the globe. Furthermore, the understanding that I am working to affect public policies that will help future generations to live in harmony with nature helps me sleep at night.

If there was a movie about you, who would play you and why?

Jeremy Piven. I empathized with his character, Ari Gold, from HBO’s Entourage. I should probably leave it at that. Alternatively, friends have told me that an actor named Scott Grimes could be my doppelganger, and we’re pretty close in age.

What is the most important policy challenge facing the United States and how would you fix it?

Perhaps the most imporant policy challenge would be addressing the threats, causes, and impacts of a changing climate, which affect vulnerable ecosystems, iconic species, and people alike. From the inability to grow the food we need to the loss of biodiversity to the rising costs associated with more extreme weather events, the problems we face are real.

Also, it’s just common sense to plan ahead. This past year, 47 of the 50 United States were forced to declare a state of emergency in response to climate-related weather disasters. Fourteen of these disasters cost over a billion dollars each.

Some local measures, like building bigger rain culverts, regulating development, and rezoning land in at-risk coastal areas would help. And, certainly, investing in cleaner, sustainable, and renewable energy alternatives ought to be a no-brainer.

There is even evidence that addressing climate impacts around the world could help avert future military interventions, so it would be wise to invest more in international assistance rather than endure the heavy toll of foreign conflicts. But, again, many of our challenges point back to the United States’ lack of leadership to address carbon pollution.

We only have one planet, so one would think that even corporations would recognize the benefit of protecting its limited resources, as that makes good business sense.

What was the last book you read? What is the most important thing you learned from it?

I just finished Theodore Rex by Edmund Morris. I learned that President Theodore Roosevelt loved the outdoors and conserved great swaths of territory and, basically, that there is such a thing as a visionary Republican conservationist. We could all learn a lot from the Roosevelt record of environmental stewardship.

How can people find out more about your work or get involved?

The WWF website is a fantastic resource with lots of information about our conservation work. Check it out. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

What do you value about where you grew up?

I grew up in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York, a relatively small community in Westchester County that is just outside of New York City and across the Hudson River from the Palisades. I spent my summers in rural Vermont. I value the experience of splitting my youth between city and country life. I think it gave me a broader perspective on both the impacts of urban growth and the intrinsic value of nature.

What advice do you have for young people who are interested in your field?

Dedicate your life’s work to a cause that will outlast you.

What do you do when you are not protecting wildlife?

To some degree I view my vocation less as a job and more as a lifestyle choice. It’s not a job that I leave behind at the end of the day, it’s a commitment to try and act more responsibly. I like to cook, eat, read, watch movies, play soccer, and run. Pretty tame stuff. I’ve been looking into adopting a dog from a shelter.

What’s your guilty pleasure?

Reese’s peanut butter cups.