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Friday, May 31, 2013

What Is An Ocean Advocate?

As Dr. Sylvia Earle famously advocated for society to start thinking blue as well as green.

That is quite easy for all open water swimmers to do at various levels.

The open water community is led by numerous ocean advocates, individuals who work to represent and speak for the oceans. They encourage, enable and inspire personal, corporate and political action to protect and preserve the oceans through actions, speeches, films, books, and leadership.

The activities of well-known advocates like Lewis Pugh, Doug Woodring, and Bruckner Chase serve to bring attention and financial support to, or actually improve the health of the oceans and its ecosystems due to over fishing or over exploitation of marine life, pollution, dumping of contaminants, plasticity, climate change, shark finning, and man-generated erosion to the oceanic ecosystem. These individuals are dedicated to public education, ecological awareness, conservation, and improvement of the world's oceans.

For Ocean Advocates like Lewis Pugh, advocating and implementing meaningful change is a long process involving the following steps:

1. Identifying the issue
2. Drawing attention to it - speeches, film, social media
3. Working out the solution
4. Meeting politicians and business leaders to force a political or economic solution
5. Calling for legislation and getting it through the legislative process
6. Ensuring it is adhered to

For Ocean Advocates like Bruckner Chase who is intimately connected with Marine Protected Areas has a focus based on a specific mission: Positively impact how we feel, think and act towards our oceans. "I work to facilitate individuals to find the cause that speaks to them personally. I work with Marine Sanctuaries and have seen these become highly charged emotional issues in the South Pacific. Sustainable positive action for the oceans requires both personal and political action. We can't just ban plastic bags; we simultaneously need to move individuals away from choosing to use them."

And there are also practical things that race directors and events can do to help. Doug Woodring founded the Plastic Disclosure Project at the Clinton Global Initiative as a way to bring about large-scale prevention of plastic waste. He has also created guidelines and practical recommendations for race directors, event sponsors, swimmers, venues, suppliers and spectators to follow in order to reduce their environmental impact and minimize their plastic footprint. These guidelines are part of the sanction agreement of World Open Water Swimming Association events and events like Jamie Patrick's Lake Tahoe events.

The Plastic Disclosure Project Sport guidelines include a checklist to assist with planning and a scorecard of certification as a PDP Sport event. "These guidelines should be very achievable for most events," explains Woodring. "For events that already pride themselves on their sustainability, they should stretch further and seek ISO 20121 certification."

Woodring explains further about who can become an ocean advocate. "An ocean advocate is a self-dedicated ambassador for the sea, which has no voice, except from those who help to speak on its behalf. They use innovation, creativity and their own interaction with the ocean, to translate a message to others, including those who benefit from, but may not use, the ocean. The ocean advocate motivates and inspires members of the community to be part of the “ocean team,” sometimes without them even knowing it. Their actions help initiate others to follow suit, yet not without challenges, as water is a foreign place to many in the community.

Their goal is to create a multiplier effect which resonates with the communities they touch, and spreads like a ripple to address the aspects of ocean health which truly need our engagement, collaboration and immediate attention. The problems they seek to help are also all solvable, yet for some reason, have not been at the top of the list, such as over-fishing, the over exploitation of marine life, pollution of all types, and overall disregard for its importance in our lives. An ocean advocate works in a myriad of ways, through actions, speeches, films, books, leadership and entrepreneurship, to encourage, enable and inspire personal, corporate or political action, in the ocean’s defense
."

Photo above shows an example of human aerial art, created by Spectral Q that offers a unique medium of communication designed to build community and inspire creativity and action.

Copyright © 2013 by Open Water Swimming

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