When the BDN spoke with Bryn Mooser on Tuesday, he seemed well-rested and energetic. Which makes it all the more remarkable that 24 hours prior, he was just returning to his home in Los Angeles after spending eight days climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. Mooser, 33, a 1997 graduate of Mt. Desert Island High School, is used to jet-setting, though it’s rarely to glamorous locales. He’s more often in places such as Haiti or sub-Saharan Africa, working with nongovernmental organizations to help those affected by things like natural disasters, extreme poverty and disease outbreaks.
Until recently, Mooser was a director at Artists for Peace and Justice, a nonprofit organization founded by Hollywood A-listers dedicated to bringing education and clean water to post-earthquake Haiti. While in Haiti, Mooser and his collaborator and friend David Darg taught baseball to local boys in order to bring some levity to the incredibly dire situation; the resulting experience is documented in Mooser’s short documentary “Baseball in the Time of Cholera.”
Mooser now heads up the website RYOT.org, which aggregates news stories and then links readers to ways in which they can help with the issues discussed in said stories. He was recently named, with Darg, one of Esquire Magazine’s “Americans of the Year 2012,” along with such luminaries as Serena Williams, space entrepreneur Elon Musk, actress and writer Lena Dunham and Bruce Springsteen. Below are excerpts from his conversation with the BDN.
Q: First off, how was the experience of climbing Kilimanjaro?
A: It was by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done, physically. It was through an organization called Summit on the Summit, which brings together “social influencers” to talk about clean water while you’re on your way up. It was sponsored by HP and Intel, so it was a marketing thing for them, but for me, it was a free trip up Kilimanjaro, which is absolutely incredible.
Q: Tell us about RYOT.org. What are you trying to accomplish with it?
A: I’ve been building it for the past year and a half. Every story we post, we put an action toward it, whether it’s a link to how you can volunteer, you can donate, you can sign a petition or contact your representative. I know that when disasters happen in the world my friends would look to me and ask “What can I do?” I heard that over and over. I think a lot of people in my generation don’t read the news because they feel like they can have no way to effect anything. It’s depressing. This is one way to empower people to change their world. A bombing in Aleppo [Syria] affects your life, just like a natural disaster.
Q: You spent part of your childhood in Maine. What impact did that time have on you?
A: I moved to Bar Harbor in fourth grade, and graduated from MDI High School. I consider myself a Mainer, though I realize some people might not [laughs]. When I gave the commencement address at MDI High last year, I talked a lot about what growing up in Maine taught me, and I think the big one is compassion and kindness, and living a life through those principles. It really taught me about community, and on the Island in particular, it’s a very economically diverse group of people. You get to know people of different economic backgrounds, which helped me immensely as I grew up and went out into the world … My step-brother taught me about snowmobiling and deer hunting, which is about as far away from what living in New York and L.A. is like as you can get. Plus, it’s just incredibly beautiful.
Q: What are some other areas of concern in the world that we in the U.S. might not be aware of?
A: I think it’s important to keep an eye on what’s happening in Haiti, still. I think we should be keeping an eye on Syria. But I also think it’s important to look at your own community, and what you can do there. I hope what I’m doing with RYOT can help kids like those in eastern Maine to look at their world and address whatever problems locally there might be. I’m sure the problems that were there when I was a kid are still there, whether it’s heating your home or poverty or the elderly not getting the support they need. The more we as a society know our neighbors, the more we empower each other.