My new land-to-sea connection

Even if you don’t live by the ocean you should care about it and issues associated with its health. Yes, the ocean ecosystem is unhealthy. Industry, industry, and more industry popped up in the last century and brought with it increased emissions into the atmosphere causing climate change. The ocean is the largest ecosystem on the planet and is taking the hardest hit.

It’s out of sight and out of mind for most people and that’s understandable. I’ve shared reason why we should care about the ocean here, here, here, here, here, and …. I could go on and on. But, it’s truly going to be a personal connection that’s going to make anyone have an impact on actions that can restore the health of the ocean. But, are we really close to the sea even if’s we live in … say, the Midwest? I just moved to Oak Park, IL right outside of Chicago so that was a question I struggled with as I made the move. How can I leave the ocean? Well, I’m not actually. We are all connected!

Illustrating proximity to the sea is a starting point to recognizing this connection. I’m so grateful for the Michigan Environmental Education Curriculum
The Great Lakes Ecosystem
for these illustrations for my new home (I took the illustrations and made a quick gif below).

It’s no longer the acronym HOMES (Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, Superior) for me. Now to accurately follow the path of water from the top point of the Great Lakes Flow to the Atlantic Ocean it’s SMHEO (Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, Ontario). Eeeeekkk … SMHEO isn’t as neatly sounding.

The movement of creating awareness to the ocean even though you’re living far from it is known as “land-to-sea” stewardship. I’ve lived along the Atlantic coast my entire life so this Midwest vibe is so new and exciting that I’m officially having to give a name to my connection to the sea now. One organization that I’ve stumbled upon doing great work in Colorado is the Inland Ocean Coalition, a project of the Ocean Foundation. Can’t wait to be a part of how they expand to the Great Lakes region!

My favorite part about the land-to-sea movement is that even if you didn’t grow up near the ocean it causes a reason to learn about it and understand it’s importance to the larger ecosystem.

Don’t be blue!

The annual BLUE Film Festival was held from August 24-29 in beautiful Monterrey, CA. The event is sponsored by the Monterrey Bay Aquarium and has recently become more and more mainstream attracting many high profile ocean community celebrities. The winner of the festival last year, The Cove, even won an Oscar for best documentary!

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Rick MacPherson’s overview of his time there this year as he recounted how Julie Packard, Executive Director of Monterrey Bay Aquarium, challenged the highly talented and knowledgeable audience on how to engage the public to “care enough to do something about it”. Sometimes it seems as though we try and try and still make no headway.

Of course, in the past thirty years the movement to create a public that cares certainly has taken some giant leaps forward. We’ve been made aware of the bountiful wonders of the ocean and there is a collective knowledge that the ocean is in peril. But, that is only the beginning. Attitudes, skills and participation must be challenged as well. How that happens and where it begins is a perplexing question and unique to each individual.

For instance, not too long ago, I asked some colleagues to see how they got a foothold into the environmental education field and mostly the answers did revolve around wanting to teach others about what we love: woods, mountains or oceans.

With me it has been the sense of place. People have linked a strong sense of place as a child to advocacy efforts in adulthood. For instance, would I be as interested in the ocean and fishing communities if I did not grow up in Cape May County, New Jersey? (In 2009, Cape May County was the fourth largest valuable fishing port in the United States.)

Maybe how we, the ocean advocacy community, begin to think about challenging attitudes, skills and participation levels is to remain optimistic. However, this is more often than not a very difficult task (I am about to have my first child so I am all about remaining optimistic and hopeful for the future).

But, in an effort not to let ourselves get too blue, here is a list of accomplishments that would not have occurred without such a dedicated ocean community:

This is only a fraction of what has been accomplished! Have another success story? Please add it in the comments to keep the momentum going strong. Thanks!

Image (c) http://www.vimooz.com