I was walking along the side of the ship, looking out across the sea onto the shore. There was quite a strong wind blowing, enough to fill three of our sails, but the waves hadn’t picked up yet. I leaned over the side and said how much I wished a pod of dolphins would come up and race along side us. But Manuel, a deck-hand from Austria, had a different opinion of what I should be wishing for.
“There are still many many dolphins left in the sea, and seeing a family of them is pretty common – what we should be wishing for is a school of tuna.”
When I joined Greenpeace, the oceans weren’t something I was particularly passionate about. Sure, I loved seeing dolphins as much as the next person, and the aquarium was cool for an hour or two, but beyond that, the oceans just weren’t my thing really. I came to the organisation because I wanted to do something about climate change. I still think it’s by far the biggest challenge we face today, and it extends far beyond ‘just’ an environmental issue; climate change is about human rights.
On the Rainbow Warrior there are people who have been sailing for thirty years, they are Oceans People, and you can see it in almost everything they do. Yesterday, for example, we came across five or six humpback whales, and the captain completely stopped the ship for a whole hour so we could fully appreciate our visitors – what other captain in the world would stop his entire operation for some whale watching? (See a short video clip of the whales below)
The buzz of seeing the humpbacks out in the open, so magnificent – and vulnerable – made me think about the oceans a little more. I read up on how as carbon emissions continue to rise, so a lot of that carbon is absorbed by the oceans (about a quarter of the CO2 in the atmosphere), making bodies of seawater more acidic. As that happens, the ocean becomes less conducive to plankton populations; the whole ocean foodchain – all the way up to these humpbacks – starts to unravel.
Like climate change, a crumbling ocean ecosystem is not just about the environment, it has very real implications for humans too. For many people in coastal regions around the world, fish is the main source of protein in their diets – not to mention their main source of employment. Healthy oceans mean healthy people, and in this case, the opposite may very well prove true as well.
And so I watched the whales swimming just a few meters away, and felt the spray of mist as they blew out another breath, and I was struck again by how interconnected everything is, and the profound impact we are having on those connections.
So although I still may not be a full-on Oceans Guy, I am starting to feel something there, an awareness of how I feed back into the ocean. I’m learning to look beyond the immediate, wishing for Tuna, not just for dolphins.