Earth Day is April 22, and while awareness is the first step to saving our oceans, you can also take action and help.
As I stood in front of the Capitol in Washington DC at the Women’s March on that grey January day, I looked around at the faces of hundreds of thousands of women, girls, and men gathered there and it felt like the beginning of something far greater than any of the previous marches I had attended. I knew they were going to remember this moment for the rest of their lives.
I’m sure many of you have had an experience like that —a defining moment when you are confronted with profound beauty—the kind of experience that, as it’s happening you realize: “I’m going to remember this forever.” I’ve had quite a few, but this one was notable because it involved getting to witness thousands of young people having their own defining moment too.
They were there to uphold a vision of a world in which women and girls can live to their full potential, to demand equality and to assert their rights to be seen, heard, and counted. Seeing the looks on their faces took me back to moments in my life that shaped how I see the world.
Moments that have helped me realize that we all have the ability to create change. Those moments also drove home just how essential that change is, not just for us but for the generations that follow—especially when it comes to protecting the planet that they will call home and all the wonders it holds.
My start in marine science and conservation came from a personal love of the ocean. I grew up enjoying family trips to the New Jersey shore, body surfing in the Atlantic, and walking the beaches in search of shells (or a starfish if I was lucky), and trying to catch crabs before they’d scoot back into the wet sand. These summers planted the seeds of my love for the ocean, and when I learned to dive, it turned into a lifelong passion.
And yet, it wasn’t until decades later, when my wife and I began to take our nieces and nephews to those same beaches, that the importance of my conservation work truly began to set in. Watching the kids laughing and running in the waves, I realized I might be looking at the last generation able to enjoy a healthy ocean.
Another defining moment: I will never forget the emotions I felt when I attended the United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 2009. The reality of what we are leaving behind really sunk in as I thought about my nieces and nephews, and their generation who may never see the colors of the Great Barrier Reef, or know what it’s like to live in a world where the impacts of climate change are not constantly visible.
The threats are real, and many. We are living some of them now, it’s not all about the future. Sea ice is melting at alarming rates, species ranges are shifting due to warming, and we will be facing greater threats from flooding, droughts, and intense storms from here on out.
Fossil fuel companies want to put more oil rigs off our beaches. Climate change and ocean acidification, driven by our use of those fuels are driving vast coral die-offs, threatening the world’s reefs. Overfishing and bottom-trawling are destroying fish populations and vital marine habitats, threatening food security, while sustainable fishing would allow those populations to recover and feed even more people.
Even as a kid poking around on the beach, I recognized that we were living on a planet with finite resources, and I could never understand why we were not treating it as such. For decades we have been getting better and better at extracting more and more from the Earth as if the oil, the fish, the land and the water will never run out. We give too little thought to the destruction and pollution we leave behind in the process.
The work that I do at Oceana aims to stop these threats. We win policies that will lead to more responsible and forward-looking stewardship of our planet’s fisheries.
Many of my colleagues are fighting for clean water and clean air. If we don’t succeed we will not have enough fish in the sea, we will not have clean water, we will not have clean air, and the world that our children and our children’s children grow up in will look very different than the one we grew up in. That thought breaks my heart but it also hardens my resolve.
Resolve, combined with hope, can be a powerful thing. And the Women’s March on Washington to me, signaled the beginning of a new era. The faces of the daughters and granddaughters, the young women and girls I saw at that march were filled with hope.
This was a defining moment for all of us. Here were millions of people across the world, in a resounding chorus, speaking up for what we believe in. And not just the women and girls—we marched with the boys and the men by our sides, all of us together, gay and straight, lesbian, bisexual and transgender, from every culture and race, because that is the way we must march from here on out.
That day it was equality for women, but there is so much more we can and will demand together, for ourselves and for each other, and for our children. And if we have to do it this way—if we have to take to the streets – now I know that we will.
We have seen a resurgence of these visible mass mobilizations throughout our country and around the world, and I hope this will continue to snowball. I hope it will lead to women’s equality and LGBTQ equality and respect for all people. But I also hope that those defining moments I witnessed will feed a movement to protect our oceans.
I will keep fighting for the survival of the oceans because they are vital to the health of the planet on which we all depend. And I believe we will win. I saw it in their faces.
How you can help:
- Join Oceana and become a Wavemaker today
- Start protecting the world’s oceans right now by telling Congress to ban the trade of shark fins in the United States
- Follow Oceana on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to learn about additional opportunities to #StandForOceans
- For more information about global initiatives visit Oceana