The Marine Conservation community is large and represented from all parts of the Earth. More and more people are entering this wonderful community every day, but they aren’t sure how they can help protect the Ocean to the point that they might give up because the problems are too big and they don’t think they can bring about change. Well, I can’t have that!
So I decided to list these 7 ways that you can help conserve the Ocean to prevent you from being too overwhelmed. There are many other ways that you can help conserve the Ocean, but I feel that these are good beginner steps to getting what you want and feeling good about what you are doing.
Don’t Panic, take a breath
I get many messages from the Speak Up For Blue Podcast audience members after they listen to a show where I describe an issue and send me an email saying that they can’t believe we, as humans, can be so stupid to treat our Oceans the way they do. They are angry and shocked and want to yell at the world! I promptly reply for then to not panic and take a breath. They don’t want to approach people who are doing something to contribute to an Ocean issue aggressively and make that person angry for being called out. This attitude will not change the way people act in their lives or towards the ocean.
Marine Conservation should be conducted in a positive way and provide the chance for people to change their habits. People contribute to Ocean issues without realizing they are doing anything wrong. You and I may be doing something that contributes to the problem every day, but we are unaware. For example, I did an interview with Stu Landesberg, CEO of the Grove Collaborative (formerly epantry), who sold certified eco-friendly cleaning supplies online. He described to me the way products on a store shelf differ from products sent via online purchases. The former has to compete on a shelf with other similar products and they have to last a certain time period on the shelf. The products are often sold in large, bright plastic containers that are not easily recyclable. They also contain chemicals that act as preservatives to ensure the product doesn’t spoil on the shelf. Those chemicals may not be as good for you as you thought (you would be surprised).
The point is we live in a world where we waste and consume products that are not good for us or the environment, including the Oceans. It’s good to understand the issues, but don’t get too caught up in the anger and use that anger to change behaviour for conservation.
Think Globally, act locally
Think Globally, act locally is a term you probably heard bused by many environmentalists around the world. It’s such a cat phrase that often people use it in jokes, but the statement is so very true especially in Ocean Conservation.
After you finish panicking, it’s good to take note of the major Ocean issues that we are facing: Plastic Pollution, Climate Change, Overfishing, Water Quality and Coastal Development are just a few of the major issues we not only face, but cause. Each issue is widespread enough that the consequences extend across the Ocean having a Global impact. Breakdown the problem by thinking how you can act locally that will remedy this problem. For example, decreasing overfishing will require you to eat seafood more sustainably and responsibly to avoid fish that are overfished. The Seafood Watch program will allow you to eat seafood with a conscious as the program is updated frequently to allow you to create informed decisions on your meals. I use my Seafood Watch App for my iPhone to ask the waiter or retailer whether the seafood was caught sustainably. If they don’t know, then I tell them that I don’t want the seafood because they don’t know how it was caught.
Start at home
It’s always good to start conservation at home as there are so many things that we can conserve including energy, water, plastic, and cleaning supplies covering four of the major issues I mention above. Each conservation action requires a change in behaviour by you and your family, but they don’t require a ton of changes. You can even start slowly by reducing the amount of plastic bags used in your home or eliminate plastic utensils from your house. You can buy a digital thermostat to control your heat/air conditioning by setting it at different temps throughout the day to save on energy.
Starting your conservation efforts are small but significant changes that can really reduce your Ocean Issue footprint. It just takes a little time to get used to some of the changes, but once you are in the full swing of things you feel better about yourself.
Become a leader in your community
Your leadership at home can transfer into your community through actions. It is easy to show others that you care about the state of the environment in your community whether you live by the coast or inland. Debris and plastic pollution is quite hi in the spring after the snow melts. This past spring, my wife and two daughters went out to clean a portion of our neighborhood (after the suggestion by my 6 year old daughter). A neighbor or ours loved the plan and her family joined us as well. We spent half an hour cleaning up and the results were spectacular (8 garbage bags!)!
Another neighbor, who we didn’t know, was driving by and asked us what we were doing. He thanked us for cleaning up as he saw the value of our efforts. We never expect people to follow after we clean something up, but we know we are leading by example when we do clean ups like these.
It doesn’t take a lot of time to show your neighbors that you care about your neighborhood, but the reactions are priceless.
Understand that change takes time
Rome wasn’t built in a day nor did the ocean change for the worse in a day, so why do we all think that our efforts will change all of the destruction (or stop the destruction) that we have done to the Ocean in one day. Marine Conservation takes time. Sometimes it takes time to see positive results in the Ocean from changes such as implementing Marine Protected Area and/or it could take time to change people’s behaviour that can cause a specific Ocean Issue to get out of hand.
Marine Conservation requires you to become persistent and patient when trying to change the way people behave (after all, behaviour is usually the problem). Dr. Naomi Rose is a great example of someone who has worked and continues to work hard at Marine Conservation. She works for the Animal Welfare Institute to get captive Orcas and Dolphins released into the wild. We have seen some great strides with captive animals and their road to release over the past year, but people like Naomi are the people who laid the ground work for all of this to happen and she continues to work to get the animals released into Whale Sea-Side Sanctuaries.
You need to have patience but still be persistent in your quest to change things for the better in the Ocean realm.
Conservation is more than just science
You don’t need to be a scientist to be in Marine Conservation. There are many scientists out there who do some great work, but they would like to do work rather than take most of their time searching for funding. People with a background in finance, business, marketing, law and other non-science backgrounds can really help secure funding for scientific and conservation projects. Tradespeople can also play a crucial role in Marine Conservation. Science and Conservation require equipment to complete their projects so being an electrician, carpenter, plumber and being good with your hands with a creative mind can really come in handy.
Conservation is a discipline that requires all professions and backgrounds to become successful. Never count yourself out and be creative as to how you can help.
Never give up!
Ask Dr. Naomi Rose if she ever found it difficult to do what she does. Conservation is like an emotional roller coaster. It can be very difficult to reach your end goal. There are numerous challenges on the way to overcome to see small rewards. However, they goals can be reached through teamwork and support from other conservationists. The war to release Orcas is not over, but many battles are being won. Passion for the Ocean is what drives us forward and allows us to rise during the tough times.
Links Mentioned in the Podcast
Speak Up For Blue Snap Chat: @speakupforblue
Speak Up For Blue Instagram: @speakupforblue
Marine conservation is a wide ranging field in which people all over the world, from various cultural, professional and religious backgrounds take part. Why? It’s because they have a great passion for conserving the Ocean. Regardless of the passion, the field is huge and it can be difficult to find a way that you can “fit in” to the field to make a significant impact in the area you specialize let along in the marine conservation field in general. I still struggle with finding the way I can have a positive influence and build a legacy for my daughters and their generation to continue to build on it and live for a better Ocean. With that said, I feel as though I am close to following that path (after 15 years of searching!) after attending the International Marine Conservation Congress (IMCC4).
— Andrew R. Lewin (@arlewin) August 11, 2016
— Andrew R. Lewin (@arlewin) August 11, 2016
I was excited to attend the IMMC4 conference because I attended IMCC2 four years ago and met some wonderful people. Two and a half years ago, I attended another conference called the Oceans Online Conference, which focused on communication Marine Science and Conservation to the public. Many of the people at IMCC2 where at Oceans Online and I formed some great business relationships and friendships. The people are the main reason I go to Marine Conservation Conferences. It therefore made sense to me to go to IMCC4 where Oceans Online was going to be held in the same place by IMCC4. This was going to be fun. Working as a Marine Conservationist and Scientist in Ontario gets a bit lonely at times, so I jump on any opportunity to meet with friends and colleagues and I look forward to meeting new people to forge new relationships…and I met some amazing people.
The people that I met were so amazing that I decided to record a podcast and this accompanying blog post about meeting them and how the people inspired me to venture down a path where I can really have a positive influence in the Marine Conservation field. Here are 4 women who helped further inspire me to follow my passion. I must note that all 4 people are women and 3 of the 4 women were plenary speakers (I also think the other woman could have easily been a plenary speaker!).
Dr. Asha de Vos, Marine Mammologist with a Focus on Blue Whale Distribution and Human Impacts
I had the chance to hang out with Asha during the conference even though I missed her plenary talk as I arrived the night she spoke (she spoke earlier in the evening). I was told by colleagues that very night and throughout the conference that here plenary was “life changing” (so were the other plenary talks). Asha is from Sri Lanka and has her PhD in Marine Biology. It’s not fair to rewrite her entire journey when you can find it on her website; however, I will say that this woman is awesome! Her passion for understanding the distribution and health of a large blue whale population brought her to deal with the Sri Lankan government to reroute shipping lanes in order to avoid ship strikes on whales. The ships were sailing in and out of one of the largest ports in the world and Asha was ready to work with them to protect the environment and promote tourism opportunities to view blue whales (the largest animal on the planet!). Working with government and trying to reroute shipping lanes took her down a challenging path including death threats because people thought she was trying to shut the port down (which was not true); discrimination; and, sexism. Regardless of the challenges, Asha says she continues to work to understand and protect the iconic blue whale species because we have to protect them, there is no other way around it!
Nikita Sheil-Rolle, Marine Biologist working with students to educate them on the Ocean and solving social problems in the meantime
Nikita sat down with me for an interview on the podcast (the interview will be posted within the next couple of weeks) to discuss how she has transformed the lives of Bahamian school children through a marine education program. Nikita made me aware that the current graduation rate of Bahamian school children was 50%; therefore, she decided to incorporate parts of the school children’s curriculum into her program to get them excited about learning about the Ocean and the subjects in school. The program is for 2 hours 3 days a week after school and 4 hours of Saturday. Since the programs start, crime in the local area has decreased significantly. In fact, Nikita recently won an award for Youth Development in the Bahamas for her tremendous work with school children. As you can see, Nikita has transformed the lives of children in a positive way creating a generation of marine stewards to take care of the ocean.
Dr. Easkey Britton, Former Pro Surfer, Social Entrepreneur, and Marine Scientist building social change and marine awareness and protection through surfing
Easkey was a plenary speaker at the end of the conference highlighting her accomplishments that she and her teams have accomplished over the past number of years. I also sat down with Easkey to talk about her most famous project that took place in Iran. Easkey and a fellow surfer traveled to Iran in search for surfing…and they fund more than just surfing. Easkey’s friend documented Easkey’s experience surfing in Iran covered head to toe in her wetsuit to respect the traditional garb). The video went on You Tube and went viral within Iran. The large contingent of women who enjoyed outdoor sports immediately fell in love with the idea of surfing and soon Easkey found herself travelling back to Iran to teach women how to surf and bring together the people through surfing. The local village soon realized that they had to protect the water to which they were now connected by organizing beach clean ups to improve water quality. Easkey continues to witness a social and environmental change within the local village that has been historically oppressed. She hopes that the Iranians will come to integrate with the local village as more and more people turn to surfing as their recreational past time. Until then, she will continue to work with beginner surfers and arrange surfing equipment to be delivered to the area to get more people into the sport.
Dr. Michelle LaRue, Conservation Biologist at the University of Minnesota specializing on conservation of iconic species such as emperor penguins, seals, cougar, and polar bears using satellite imagery
Michelle was also one of the plenary speakers who talked about her research and her passion to integrate new technology with conservation biology. She is leading the way in understanding Antarctic and Arctic species distribution and population dynamics from afar. Why is this important? Well, have you ever traveled to the pole? It’s insanely expensive. Using satellite imagery along with field surveys proves to be more cost effective (in a field where constrained funding is strong!) and provides a good representation of where animals are going and why. Michelle uses her research to communicate science to public groups who are excited to learn more about the conservation of iconic species. Effective communication is important for research and conservation to gain a good hold in the public forum as that will move policy and make changes for a better environment (just look at what happened with Sea World after Blackfish came out!).
Each one of these women has created change through their passion to better understand the Ocean and create social change to protect the Ocean and the environment. It is truly difficult to NOT be inspired by the stories of these women and I look forward to watching them make more changes in the future.
They have already created a sense of change in my life and leading me down a path that I look forward to following in the future and implement the plans. I will let you know once I figured it out.
Links Mentioned in this Episode: