Interview with an activist
We recently met with a marine biologist, and activist, that fights for the preservation of marine species in Costa Rica.
His work covers various issues, from fighting against trawling vessels to protecting turtle nesting grounds, and in his career he collaborated with some, if not all, the main conservationist organisations of the country.
It was the perfect occasion to sit down and chat about the status of the marine conservation movement in Costa Rica, and what is the future lining ahead.
What does "being an activist" mean for you?
"It means doing everything I can to either raise awareness or make people change their mind over a given environmental topic. It means volunteering for a beach cleanup, it means making your friends wake up before dawn to locate turtle nests, it means telling your mother to stop buying shark meat"
A lot of people care about the environment, but don't either have the time, the knowledge or the willpower to get involved.
"It doesn't matter. If you care about the environment, you most likely already have enough tools to do something to preserve it. Choose not to buy sodas in plastic bottles. Or ask for a drink without a straw.
By simply doing, you become an activist. Activist means "being active". You don't have to get arrested for yelling against the Minister of the Environment to be an activist."
Ok. That makes me feel better. But I, for one, don't have a degree in biology: I'm not sure people will listen to me when I talk about whales and sharks in danger.
"Well, this is interesting.
I was recently telling a lady sitting next to me on a plane what I do for a living, but I didn't specify what my degree was. And the first think she asked me was: "are you a marine biologist?"
Right. That's because you have to be an expert in your field if you want to work as a marine conservationist!
"Yes. But not in the way you think.
See, nobody will ever hire you because you are a "marine conservationist".
That's not a profession like being a lawyer or a doctor.
You can earn money by doing work that is related to marine conservation, certainly. You can even teach marine conservation if you like. And, by the way, that would make you an incredible activist!
But you don't need to get a degree. There are hundreds of ways you can get involved in marine conservation, and whatever your career is, I guarantee you there is some knowledge in it you can apply to marine conservation."
I get it: you can be an expert in marine conservation by knowing what chemicals are toxic for fish, if you work in an oil refinery.
But wait, you said you can even teach marine conservation. This sounds like an exaggeration...how can you teach marine conservation without being a marine biologist?
"For the same reason we just talked about.
Of course there are macro topics that anyone involved in marine conservation needs to research and learn, like the effects of increased temperature on corals, or the impact of overfishing on the tuna population....but these are things you can learn online, or by asking people that work in that line of business.
But there are thousands of marine biologists in the world, and many of them don't even have a scuba diving certification...they work with water creatures, but not necessarily can talk about the black market of shark finning in Costa Rica."
Yes, but you can't tell me that a nobody with no degree can teach me how to save the ocean, can you?
"Oh yes I can. Let me give you a few examples:
Jacques-Yves Cousteau, the father of scuba diving, the pioneer of underwater marine exploration, a symbol and a hero for anyone who is involved with the Ocean, was not a scientist.
Rob Stewart, to whom we owe arguably the most important documentaries on shark conservation, was that: a documentarist.
Gordon Ramsey, the famous chef, initiated his personal battle against shark fin soups on a Channel 4 short-doc feature.
They all did much more for marine conservation than many of my biologist colleagues that yes, discovered incredible things about the blue blood of horseshoe crabs, but are not stopping japanese boats from killing hundreds of whales each year.
Teaching marine conservation is different from teaching marine biology: you do need a degree to research the behaviour of the Na-K pump in the cells of deep-water celaphodods, but you don't need a specific degree to be able to explain that plastic in the stomach of a whale is not good.
People should not confuse the argument brought up by a person with the person itself: if you tell me there is a fire in the house and we need a fire extinguisher to put it out, and can prove that there is indeed a fire in the house and that a fire extinguisher is a good tool to solve the problem, I don't care whether you are a fireman or not. I go take the fire extinguisher.
Then, of course, one of the biggest advocates for marine conservation is doctor Sylvia Earle, *the*, marine biologist, National Geographic Explorer and more.
And people tend to listen to authority and "experts" more than to average Joe.
So of course there is that too.
Anyways, I think the term "marine conservation" opens up to misinterpretations.
I'd rather call it "environmental awareness". Anybody can make you aware of something!
Does it make sense?"
to be continued...