Jacob Simon settles down for this interview amid a flurry of notifications. He lowers the volume but does not silence them. Clients, partners, and activists from all over the world want his insight, and he’ll oblige as soon as he can.
It’s rare that Simon is anchored in place for even an hour. Between his freelancing, TikToks, and climate positivity newsletter, he’s working with people around the world to save the planet. Despite how busy he is, Simon is constantly creating, connecting, and sharing. By educating and empowering through his content, Simon has an impact well beyond his own community.
Simon was primed for a non-traditional path early on. When his peers were gearing up for college, Simon was training to be an Olympian. He took to figure skating at age 7 and was eventually recruited by Team USA for pairs figure skating. Instead of moving to the dorms after high school, Simon moved to Colorado to train and compete.
“It was such a creative outlet: the music, the choreography, the emotion,” said Simon, reminiscing about his career on the ice. “It gave me drive.” His confidence leaps off the screen, and his easy smile seems bigger than ever as he recalls cherished memories.
Unfortunately, it was not to last. Simon injured his shoulder while training for the Olympic qualifiers, an injury that eventually led to his retirement. As he stared down a conventional nine-to-five, Simon knew his heart wasn’t in it; he felt no drive. Instead, he took a leave of absence from his full-time job and traveled the world.
“That time I spent traveling was really important for me,” said Simon. “I learned that our current lifestyle isn’t inevitable. We can be connected to the environment and our communities.”
Traveling helped Simon crystalize a few key things. First was his need for autonomy and creativity. Second was a deep appreciation for the planet, and concern for humanity’s impact on it. So like any modern creative, he took to the internet.
Resurrecting old social channels that he’d used for art and skating, Simon started telling the story of climate change in his own way. Shunning doom, he embraced positivity. He found the good news, the successes, the heroes, and amplified those stories. First, he put them in a newsletter, but he really found success and a bigger audience through TikTok.
Before he knew it, Simon was a full-fledged content creator. His newsletter, Climativity, went to hundreds of people, his TikToks to thousands then millions. He started working with some of the biggest names in the industry. Then he started traveling the world to work with established activist groups. He was even featured in Forbes magazine. As he transitioned from side gig to career focus, Simon began relying even more on the tech that powered his climate action.
— Western Digital (@westerndigital) January 22, 2024
A digital nomad’s toolkit
The small glimpse of Simon’s home office reveals sparse white walls, but this makes sense. His workspace isn’t home; it’s the coffee shops of Vienna, the parks of Paris, the streets of New York City. As a result, his technology setup is utilitarian, collapsing into small, neat parcels for easy storage.
“The technology to support this workstyle didn’t exist even 10 years ago,” he said.
The power and ubiquity of phones and laptops, powered in part by sleek SSDs, are the key to Simon’s workflow. His TikToks are often filmed as he walks the streets of New York, where he recaps all the positive news that happened in the past week. He speaks into a tangled yet resilient pair of wired headphones, edits the video on his phone, and uploads as he walks.
“Take away my phone, and I’m just walking the streets of New York, talking about good news. People would think I’m crazy,” Simon joked.
Even when working from his laptop, Simon doesn’t have much more than a battery pack to embellish his work. His setup fits in a backpack, keeps him going all day, and helps him stay connected to his global network.
“With the wide world of climate content, I go all over the world and meet people I’ve only known virtually,” Simon said. “My work, my life, everything is mediated by technology.”
— Western Digital (@westerndigital) January 8, 2024
Live your values
As Simon’s career and audience grow, he’s been reflecting on intention and responsibility. His content has quite the reach, and he’s seen way his content can spark more activism and positivity.
“Something I’ve not yet grasped is the impact that I have. I can talk into my phone mic for 60 seconds and speak to potentially millions,” he said. “You can reach such a wide audience for free and that’s a huge tool for educating and advocating.”
Simon hopes his work can be a breath of fresh air and a spark of activism. He’s already had people reach out to tell him they’ve taken inspiration from his work to get local petitions and initiatives for climate action off the ground.
“All of us are taking the initiative,” said Simon, “and our impact is immeasurable.”
After an hour, the notifications could no longer be ignored. Simon was already being pulled away to some far corner of the world, where stories of resilience and success needed to be told. Before he left, Simon spoke about our future, and just why he’s so optimistic.
“I want to remind people that we are good, and we can do this, and we are actively choosing our future every day.”
Artwork by Cat Tervo