President’s Circle Member: Lindy Novak & Spottswoode Winery

Published: March 13, 2023

Population Connection’s Director of Development Jennifer Lynaugh had a chance to catch up with Lindy Novak in January. We are grateful to Lindy and all of our President’s Circle members for their commitment to our mission and generous support of our programs!

Tell me a little bit about your upbringing and the careers you’ve had.

I grew up in San Diego County, part of a large, athletic family. We spent a lot of time outside, and I think that led to my appreciation for and connection to the outdoors and the natural world. We spent time at the beach (I love the ocean), camped in Mexico, and took road trips through the Southwest, the Sierras, and Wyoming. I feel very lucky for all of this.

My family moved to Napa Valley in 1972, as my dad wanted a lifestyle change; he wanted to leave medicine and become a farmer. (He was a general practitioner with a practice in Solana Beach, California). My parents purchased a historic Victorian house and vineyard named Spottswoode to realize that dream. The five of us Novak children helped with property projects and worked some in the vineyard (not always fun, mind you, suckering vines and cleaning the irrigation system!).

I ended up at UCLA for college and transferred to UC Berkeley, majoring in geography. I thought I might get involved in some kind of environmental work or city planning, but that didn’t happen. Instead, I segued into the clothing industry, having an interest in fashion. I worked for Macy’s for several years and then became a sales representative for various clothing lines, traveling throughout Northern California, Oregon, and Washington and enjoying my job. After I had been doing this for about 10 years, my mom and my sister, Beth, asked if I might be interested in helping with sales and marketing for Spottswoode, the winery they were getting off the ground. It was a big and somewhat scary change for me, but I adapted and ended up really enjoying traveling the country and meeting people who appreciated our wine. I’m glad I stayed on!

What brought you to Population Connection? What attracted you to the cause?

I have always had an awareness about human population growth being a significant issue in terms of our planetary health and balance. I read parts of Paul Ehrlich’s The Population Bomb, and I shared his feelings about dire consequences for unchecked population growth.

I don’t have children, and part of the reason for this decision was the recognition that we already have a very full planet.

What motivates you to stay involved?

To my knowledge, there are not many groups that focus almost exclusively on the human population issue, which amazes me. The topic still seems to be somewhat taboo and falls outside the realm of most environmental discussions. I think I may have Googled population focused groups perhaps six or seven years ago, and Population Connection came up as the extension of the group Zero Population Growth. I joined as both a member and donor. I love the work you do.

I so value Jennifer Lynaugh, my contact at Population Connection. She and I connected directly two years ago, and she is wonderful—both an engaging, down-to-earth person and a genuine advocate for all of Population Connection’s efforts. A pleasure to interact with! I read the Population Connection magazines I receive in the mail, and I have listened to a number of webinars, which have been very inspirational. I have loved hearing President and CEO John Seager speak during virtual events; he is genuine and straightforward and a great communicator.

I act as a sort of environmental liaison at the winery. My sister is equally, if not more, committed to environmental causes and endeavors, and Spottswoode has been a member of Yvon Chouinard’s 1% for the Planet movement since 2007, which means that every year we donate at least 1 percent of our gross sales to environmental causes. I stay connected to many of the groups we give to, and this involves personal interchange with individual contacts at these groups, listening in on webinars, and participating in live activities, such as visiting sites that are being adapted, preserved, or restored, writing letters to the editor, sending letters to encourage voter turn-out, etc. This is very satisfying. I just wish I could do more.

Do you have an anecdote about your experience as a member of Population Connection that really moved you?

I listened in recently on a webinar that focused on a girls’ school in Africa (Nasaruni Academy, “Education and Empowerment: How One School in Kenya Is Helping Maasai Girls Find Their Voice”). I found this discussion to be extremely moving. You see the work with groups on the ground making a real difference. It brings tears to my eyes!

Does anyone in your life play a role in supporting your involvement or providing inspiration?

I would say my sister, Beth. She has done amazing work messaging on environmental issues and guiding the winery toward becoming an inspiration to many other wineries, as well as to other businesses—a model of a successful business that focuses on the greater good (Spottswoode became a certified B Corp in 2020). Having someone I am close to and admire who shares my environmental commitment and concerns is helpful and inspiring because the fight for the planet is daunting and never-ending.

What do you hope Population Connection will achieve in the future?

I hope we achieve broader recognition of human population growth’s role in our planet’s problems. With the ultimate goal of drastically slowing population growth all over the world. I hope we continue getting the message out more broadly, with bravery and tenacity, about the population issue being a crucial factor in our planetary problems.

I wish more people would become involved and do whatever they can to make a contribution to these efforts. It is going to take all of us.