It has long been said that it is a fine line between love and hate. When you feel passionate about someone or something it has the capacity to lift you up and bring you down, so so down.
So I sit here, in El Nido, on Valentines Day, and I declare that I have a love/hate relationship with my job. But to be honest I think this is pretty standard for everyone. It does not mean I ever want to quit or change careers. It just means that sometimes, I hate it. However, the scales are well and truly tipped in the favour of Love. The hate lasts mere moments. To mean, this balance is job satisfaction, and I have oodles of it.
Conservation is not glamorous work (previous ZEPs will tell you that never has anyone sweated so much as us in our Green Fins shirts), and there isn’t a continous cycle of feeling rewarded for the good you hope you are doing. The corporate world will still look down on you for the hippie-tree fish-hugging work that you do. The economy doesn’t value the worth of your industry (or you wouldn’t have to fight tooth and nail to get funding). People will refuse to listen to science and logic for the long-term benefit of their business, and you know, their planet. You will cry, more than once. You will throw your hands up and ‘give up’ more than once. You will question your choices, your commitment, your passion, yourself. These are just some of those ‘hate’ moments I was talking about.
There will be many, they will be harsh and they will completely pale in comparison to those ‘love’ moments. Here are some of the moments of the past year that have swept me off my feet:
1) Moalboal Dive Guide Seminar
Anyone who follows this blog would have seen my blog post on this and known that I came out of that event on a serious professional high. It was amazing to get the public and private sectors in the same room in the first place. It was magic to hear them voice their concerns, normally directed at third parties, to each other. To see bridges mended, explanations given. To see tempers flare and die down with understanding. And the not only see, but be part of, a change in attitude towards each other. Whether it lasts and is built upon only time will tell, but regardless, it was a special afternoon.
2. Unexpected beach clean up outreach
After Sharon’s highly successful beach and reef clean up we were all hanging around waiting for the elusive dump truck to collect our spoils. Two young Moalboalano girls started hanging around our group. The fact that the ZEPs attrack attention from the local communities is no surprise and we tried to offer them some of the snacks we had for the clean-up participants. The girls took the snacks but refused to eat them, mumbling something in Cebuano that I (shamefully) couldn’t understand. After a few minutes of hopeless encouragement for them to start eating, they pointed at the bags of rubbish. I tried to explain what we had been doing and they nodded in understanding and asked for a bag. They wanted to help to earn their snacks! I took them to the beach and they ran around checking if each piece of rubbish was the correct thing to take. “Ate Sam! Ate Sam! What about this? What about this“. They weren’t our target audience for the clean up, but it just goes to show how a public event can reach out so much further than you intended.
3. Training National Government Partners to be Green Fins coordinators
5. CITES 2013
This wasn’t an event I was directly involved in, but I appreciated it as a huge step forward for marine conservation, shark conservation in particular. We were at an inception meeting with representatives from UNEP, IUCN and the Maldivian and Vietnamese national partners for Green Fins. It was an intense few days that saw me frantically taking minutes for the first time in my life. Definitely job satisfaction in hindsight. The meeting was during the 16th CITES Convention of Parties and several elasmobranch species were up for protection after several highly successful public campaigns and years of hard work from elasmobranch scientists and conservationists. On every break I was scrolling through the live commentary from attendees on Twitter, and every (it ended up being all) successful listings brought on skipped heartbeats. Marine conservation issues are largely overlooked by these big international conventions and it felt like an exciting insight into the future.
6. Birthday 2013
I spent my birthday on a glorious day off in Aninuan, diving our favourite spot with JJ, Wai and Meg (ex-ZEPs and Reef-World interns; we missed you Chloe!). I made some time for my hammock and having drinks on the beach under the most incredible blanket of stars (before falling asleep like the party people that we are). I was in a beautiful (warm) place, with some of my favourite people doing some of my favourite things. Moments like this continually affirm my life choices, and my pursuit of this line of work, despite those ‘hate moments’ and the other struggles that come hand-in-hand.
2014 has already proved incredible rewarding for the whole team, and it’s only set up to get better. The ocean may not have been my first love, but it is, and always will be, my last.
Thirty one new Hope Spots - places that are critical to the health of the ocean - were announced yesterday by renowned oceanographer and IUCN Patron Sylvia Earle, a global initiative of the Sylvia Earle Alliance “Mission Blue” and IUCN, with the aim to scale up the marine protection necessary for a sustainable development of the ocean.
Sorry I haven’t been posting much original material lately… my time has been enveloped by Zoox and Green Fins work (as jobs tend to do) over the last few months, and as always it has been incredibly rewarding.
A highlight was a project of one the Zoox volunteers who managed to pull together a week of clean ups around various dive sites and beaches around Puerto Galera, Philippines.
In total, 205 people participated over the week, and we managed to collect a whopping 953.5 kg of rubbish and throw in a whole load of local community awareness about marine debris.
Organizing a clean up is much more than meets the eye, especially if you want to count what you have collected, or are trying to organize various people or town garbage trucks to meet you at a certain time. But it doesn’t have to be a big event. Take a picnic at a beach with friends, and after you clean up your mess, go and pick up the rest and see what the weirdest thing you can find is.
On one dive this week, I found everything I would need for for my own picnic including a rug, umbrella, crockery, cutlery and beer (a bit salty but so was the rest!). It’s unbelievable what finds it’s way into the ocean, but when you are faced with the reality of it being right there in front of you, it helps reinforce actions when you are dry again.
It’s thought that 80% of the trash in the ocean comes from land. And that’s not just beach-side communities, thats you and me, and family and friends. Let’s start there, with what we can easily change, and hopefully we can inspire others to start making a difference too.
Grace Peliño (Fisheries Coordinator, Puerto Galera, Philippines) on community outreach and awareness of environmental issues.
Firstly, let me point out that technically, I work in marine conservation. I love the non-9 to 5 nature of my work, that I get to share my passion and love for the ocean with others, and that I have the skills to educate and try and change peoples attitudes and therefore their actions to reduce their impacts on the marine environment.
I work long hours, in remote and beautiful places that are sometimes without certain luxuries like hot water, or cheese, or…internet! I both like and dislike this! But really, I don’t dislike much - and if I do, I try to put it in the ‘just-deal-with-it’ box because I love what I do. I am away from family and friends, and moving around a lot means it’s hard to sustain a routine, or have a base, or a relationship but you just have to find a balance. It’s not impossible. I’ve concentrated on how work affects a personal life because at the end of the day, the work is great and it’s the ‘life’ part that you need to make sure you are happy with.
Yes. My spending habits have definitely changed. I think in Philippine Pesos now, which makes the rest of the world just seem ridiculously expensive. Again it’s about finding the balance between what you want, need and are saving for.
Where’s the fishing?
Look at the patterns of color out in the ocean, massed against Chile’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) boundary, shown as a green line. There are a variety of fishing restrictions within Chilean waters designed to protect local fishing and fisheries by limiting industrial fishing, but on the high seas beyond the EEZ boundary anything goes. The fishing within Chile’s territorial waters must be relatively good, because this map shows that fishing vessels are trying to get as close as possible without crossing the line, although if you look closely, you can see indications of repeated incursions into Chilean waters (via SkyTruth).