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WHAT ARE THE UNIQUE CHALLENGES OF
TRYING TO CREATE PUBLIC AWARENESS
ABOUT OUR OCEAN CRISIS
AND INSPIRING ACTION?
~ The out-of-sight/out-of-mind conundrum that exists when most of the destruction happening to ocean life and habitat is either beneath the surface of the ocean, or out-of-sight of most people.
~ People feel overwhelmed by the enormity of our global ocean problems. They need exposure to exemplar projects and "how-to" information so they can be empowered by the positive impact individuals and groups can have.
~ Social mores and economic exploitation of marine resources in many countries are directly at odds with the requirements of ecosystem-based ocean conservation ["leave some fish to reproduce and don't destroy their spawning habitat"]. Cod fishermen in the North Atlantic destroyed their future livelihoods by over-fishing; the extraction of live coral from reefs for jewelry and other export items has been big business for centuries in many Asian countries; there are still mass whale and seal hunts and shark de-finning [death-by-drowning], even when the species are endangered, because these activities have become cultural traditions.
~ Dynamiting and cyanide poisioning of ocean reefs has been used as common "fishing practices" for over a decade by local fishermen in developing countries in the Indo-Pacific Region. Thus, in a few minutes, entire marine ecosystems that took hundreds of years to create, are decimated! Although these "fishermen" know that what they are doing is wrong, they choose this action over not having money for their families to survive.
~ Basic ecological knowledge is lacking worldwide in the general public and schools about how our marine ecosystems provide the fundamental life-support systems responsible for survival on planet Earth, and are integrally connected to land-based ecosystems.
~ Science data alone does not seem to motivate public action, and government fishery management agencies normally do not have the cultural tools that can inspire the creation of sustainable coalitions of local support that will ensure ecosystem based, fishery policy enactment.
~ People do not know what they can do to help. They need to know that mission of some ocean conservation organizations is to effect government policy changes where they see laws are not based on science but instead on the influence of powerful lobbying groups. By taking one-minute to sign online petitions to lawmakers, you can influence voting on legislation affecting the restoration and protection of ocean life. By providing financial support to marine conservation organizations, you an ensure that marine scientists can continue working on research projects. And, you can help by funding more public awareness projects targeted to all sectors of our society.
~ The scientific community does not value the arts for what they can contribute to societal change. Performance, visual arts, and song can be powerful, traditional, non-threatening "cultural bridges" for exploring, integrating, and disseminating ecological information about ocean issues and for exploring social values. There is a traditional bias by scientists against expressing emotion in relation to their research work.
"Shark" animation by Adrian Puricelli, 8th grader at ICE, NYC
[Institute for Collaborative Education, New York City]
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