Even if you’ve never stepped a toe into the ocean in your life, you’ve probably benefited from coral reefs in a number of ways. EVERYONE – not just ocean lovers, but all of us – have a stake in protecting these vitally important ecosystems.
Anyone who has been paying attention knows that our oceans are in trouble. Sea levels are rising, as are sea surface temperatures. Combine that with the issues of ocean acidification, plastic pollution, and overfishing, and you have a perfect storm of threats facing our oceans. Many ocean advocates, conservationists, and scientists are looking for ways to protect our oceans. Marine conservation is essential to the survival of our oceans as we know them, but when conservation efforts are exclusive or fail to consider all voices, they are doomed to fail.
It’s nearly noon on a warm June day. I am on the small, tropical Indonesian island I call home. I have water bottles, knee braces, fruit, and a GoPro. In 5 minutes I will start walking. For 24 hours. Nonstop. I’m nervous. I’m excited. I can hear the waves pounding on the beach nearby. I’m not sure what the next day will bring, but there’s no turning back now. Only forward. Soon there is a countdown: 5…4…3….2….1. Then “The Walk” begins.
Peering over the side of MV Predator, the water beckons a deep inviting azure blue, every ripple on every wave reflecting the rays of the sun in tiny bursts of light that appear to be synchronized by nature. The visibility is marvelous, the kind that causes you to involuntarily smile ear to ear like a giddy fool. Focusing intently, I concentrate on reaching my gaze all the way down, down, down. The topside sounds fall away, time stands still and now they appear: one, two, three, four, five, six, seven… the dark grey silhouettes move silently in the depths, and the sight of them is simply mesmerizing.
My hands were sweating and visibly shaking as I stared out into the oncoming waves and the rising sun just peeking through the horizon. How did I agree to go on a snorkeling trip when I knew full well I had never swum off the beach past my waist. Measuring 5’2, that wasn’t very deep at all. But there I was, putting myself in situations for the sole purpose of growth, a promise I had made to myself years prior.
With expertise in scientific dive instruction and a master’s degree in leadership, I’m going to share my strategy to inspire students in hopes that you can apply it to whatever educational setting you’re in. Just how it takes three components to light a fire, it takes three elements to light up students’ passion for the material...
Let me start with a pre-emptive denial that my request below to you readers is a slacker move to avoid conjuring up an original and creative perspective on a well-trodden subject: the irrationality of human-environment relations.
So picture this, you finally get a chance to escape quarantine, bags are packed and it’s time to head to the islands for essential sea, sun and sandy beaches. Everything is pretty much perfect except you get there and you’re greeted by mounds of seaweed on the beach and it wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t also floating in the water nearshore. Can you picture it? ... Not ideal is it?
Typically, SCUBA diving is peaceful and quiet. The only sound is your own breath. But on that day, in the idyllic marine habitat off Miami Beach, the very reef that makes this part of the world iconic, was darkened with swirling sediment clouds. The ocean floor was gray and flat -- the reef looked more like a moonscape than a vibrant and functioning ecosystem.
One person may not be able to change the world on their own, but they sure can inspire others in their community with a strong message and mission. The more communities and individuals take this approach, the more they add up to make a global impact.
Systemic change is needed urgently in all sectors of society where racism pervades. Academia is no exception and the need for change is high. This is not just a university or departmental issue, it is at its core a matter of people treating other people with dignity and respect, and reversing waves of inequality that have been entrenched in our educational system for centuries.
It is more important than ever to focus on experiential learning opportunities so that this critical component of education is not lost. I hope that this piece, and the accompanying resources, can help everyone find non-traditional ways to ease the educational burden during this stressful time.
Can we, as creators, painters, drawers, makers, dancers, singers, thinkers and writers help connect the people and move the environmental impact this world is facing in a more positive and sustainable direction?
I work in Aquaculture. When I tell people this the most common response is “Aquaculture… but isn’t that bad?”. Not everyone asks this, but the sentiment is certainly the most common. “I thought you were saving the oceans or something”, might come from people who knew me when I was an undergraduate focused on marine conservation.
Waterlust’s animal print legging, rash guards, and board shorts have been described as “sustainable products to support marine science research and education”. But could they be described as a dinner bell for sharks? That’s a question that the Waterlust team receives a lot, and they asked me, your friendly neighborhood shark scientist, to answer it.