Join me in the cold, dark, life-sustaining NE Pacific Ocean to discover the great beauty, mystery and fragility hidden there.

Posts from the ‘Ocean Voice’ category

I Know

The following content has been very well-received on my social media. Therefore, I am sharing it here too.

Daring to share . . .

This belongs here, on my page, where ultimately it’s about the welfare of future generations; about equity and connection.

Through recent international “realties”, to situations impacting the welfare of other species and dear friends, I have gained even more insight into how power structures enable abuse and how, at their core, it’s about keeping others small, and preferably . . . silent.

I see, and live, how disparity in power means that those working for equality, truth and justice bleed out time, energy and expense into strategizing to navigate these power systems, adding another layer of disadvantage.

I have felt anger boiling up and exhaustion creeping in. I am an older woman which means . . . I can’t.

I can’t stop.

I found myself going back to a blog I had written on “Lessons Learned from Whales – How to be a Killer Female”. Being this age, I had forgotten that I had included the text you see above beside my head.

Those of us with power must help those who have less, for that is a life well-lived. It does not mean that we have to carry it all. But imagine a world where many more of us recognize and reject the forces that strive to diminutize, divide, distract, and paralyze, and rise into our power to create positive change and help others. More of us united. That’s the world I will continue to work for.

The blog I am referencing is at this link. And yes, by writing this post and that blog, it clears my head, adds to my resolve, represents what motivates me most, and hopefully is of use to others.

#KillerFemale

Can’t see the forest?

Can’t see the forest for the  . . .  fears?

Yes I am toying with this idiom to get your attention dear community. 

Please read. Please take just a few minutes to check in with yourself. Please share if this resounds with you. 


This week the findings of a very big, very important report went into the world.  Likely you noted the heft of it; urgent words accompanied by imagery of burning, flooding and/or orange, red and yellow graphs?  

Yes, I am talking about the 2021 report by the Intergovernmental Committee on Climate Change. Stay with me!  What was your reaction? What did you feel? What will you do?

Take a few minutes please to reflect on this. Was it an emotional cocktail of overwhelm, fear, despondency, shutdown? This would be so understandable, especially for you who are already striving for so much socio-environmental good. But, BUT reflect on the amplified danger of this. 

If we shutdown, if it is “too much”, if we bury it, or if we reject  . . . where is the action? Where is the resolve and dedication to change? Where is the empowerment? Where is the future? 

It is such a difficult and delicate dance in how to communicate the urgency for change while not stimulating the fear that catalyzes paralysis or for “hope” to replace action.

What to do? Feel it and then .  . . do it.

We don’t need to be perfect in our actions. That notion also manipulates / debilitates us into eco-paralysis.  But we do need to act. 

At the very core of what needs to be done is that we need to reject that the use of less fossil fuels is about loss. We need to know the great gains achieved by our consumer and voter actions. We need to act on the knowledge of the common solutions to so many problems being achieved through less fossil fuels, less consumerism (consumerism most often fuels fossil fuel use), and more nature. 

We need to model the happiness that comes from empowerment and valuing our reliance on the natural world (like the kelp and trees that absorb our carbon).

We need to embrace that disempowerment is not only individually disabling, it is the denial by those who have power over the rights and choices of others.

Care more. Consumer less. 

Vote for future generations. 💙


Photo: Bull Kelp Forest in Kwakwaka’wakw Territory.  Kelp forests too are in a state of change through a suite of variables that are related to climate change. More heat and/or more wind challenges their health as does the balance of their predators e.g. more grazing by urchins as a result of less Sunflower Stars. ©Jackie Hildering The Marine Detective


Do you need more red, orange and yellow graphs? Probably not, but if you do or if you want to look at the scenarios for the best future:

IPCC, 2021: Summary for Policymakers. In: Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis.
Contribution of Working Group I to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
Change
[Masson-Delmotte, V., P. Zhai, A. Pirani, S. L. Connors, C. Péan, S. Berger, N. Caud, Y. Chen, L.
Goldfarb, M. I. Gomis, M. Huang, K. Leitzell, E. Lonnoy, J.B.R. Matthews, T. K. Maycock, T. Waterfield,
O. Yelekçi, R. Yu and B. Zhou (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press. In Press.


For those who have found their way here but, for whatever reason, are not able to believe there is a climate crisis, my empathy to you. If this post provokes you, there is emotional truth in that too. There are of course deep reasons for why you believe what you do. Please know that I understand but I will not tolerate any comments that are motivated by countering precaution and/or countering science and reasoned and respectful dialogue.

Mask Squeezed and Lessons Learned

This is a personal post.

The photo above is of me 21 years ago, about a week after I got “mask squeeze” on my 37th birthday. I came across the image while preparing for an Ocean Day talk last week. It was taken as a staff photo when I had the joy of teaching children with special needs.

I found myself staring at the photo, at younger me, and thinking of how much has been learned since then. I am sharing with you because . . . because why? Sure, there’s a lesson in physics here but that’s not it. There’s also maybe something of value in how the most important things in life sometimes don’t come easy. But more than that, it’s about sharing some of what I have learned in these years, what I strive to put into the world, and why. 💙

It won’t surprise you to know that you can’t be the same after you’ve been punched in the face by the Ocean. So here goes . . .

Mask squeeze happened on my 20th dive when I did not know enough to realize how little I knew. It was my second birthday back in BC after my many years of teaching in the Netherlands.

I was on a dive trip to some of the most challenging conditions on our coast. The accident happened during one of my first dives in a dry suit. I now know it was madness to be doing my first dives in a dry suit in such challenging conditions. But it was the result of some human chaos and unreliability whereby the suit was not ready when it was supposed to be. Thereby, I could not sufficiently practice with the dry suit before the dive trip and get used to the change in buoyancy from my Dad’s old, thin wet suit.

On that 20th dive, when I rolled into the water off the boat, my fin slipped off my suit. My mask flooded. I did not realize I was holding my breath as I tried to grab the fin. I continued to descend whereby the pressure in my mask did not equalize. BOOM – the pressure of Mother Ocean pushed against my mask and blew out every capillary in my eyes.

From my dive log back then: “ Whatever it took, it was SO worth it. Astounding, astounding life. So grateful to my dive buddies who helped me and who decided the dive site should now be named Shiner Rock.”

It was a powerful lesson in shaping me on this path . . . the vital importance of humility, respect and knowing one’s place in the natural world.

Since then, I have metaphorically faced equivalent injuries, usually inflicted as a result of human ego and disconnect from understanding how our actions impact future generations.

The resulting process has been the same: learn, heal, surface, and repeat.

I will admit too that this photo makes me reflect on the few who say to me “You’re so lucky” or who have had the need to try to blow out my fire. I am lucky in many, many ways but, as much as I do not know the journeys of others, very few know my path – some very difficult choices made and painful lessons learned. We’ve all had those and how very easy and privileged indeed my path has been compared to that of so many others.

I’ve written about having mask squeeze once before, after my 800th dive over 7 years ago. There I reflected: “The Ocean is the source. The battle force. She is my inspiration. She is the beginning and she is the end. She is where I hide and where I am fully exposed. She has taught me my most valuable lessons and . . . . I know it’s not over yet. Not by a long shot.”

I thank all who carry me forward – from my dive buddies to you, the readers, who signa shared values and understanding. . Please know how much direction you give.

Onward, fuelled by lessons learned and knowing what matters most.


See this link for my previous blog about mask squeeze and lessons learned:
“My 800th Dive. From Shiner to Shining?” from January 2014.

On the Radio . . .

I am so grateful for having been interviewed by Sheryl Mackay for CBC Radio’s North by Northwest and for how she captured the messaging for conservation.

This has led to a significant spike to my website and to social media channels which means . . . more reach of this work.

Welcome to all who have found their way here through their interest in, and love and concern for, the life-sustaining Ocean. 💙

 

Please click to hear the episode.


Social media links. 

World Whale Day 2021

Today is World Whale Day.

The following is what I wrote for our Marine Education and Research Society social media.

I am sharing it here too in the hopes that it is of value to you in thinking about our giant neighbours, how far we come in overcoming fear and disconnect but  . . . read on. 💙

[And welcome to all those landing here as a result of the recent CBC interview. It would be wonderful if you follow along on social media with The Marine Detective and the Marine Education and Research Society. Links are at the bottom of this post.] 

 

Take but a few minutes to reflect on the giants; how they enrich life on earth and how endure human need?

They inspire awe, capture carbon, fertilize the ocean upon which our lives also depend, and remind us of our capacity for change.

So many were driven to the brink as a result of whaling, which only ended in British Columbia in 1967. They have survived the breadth of human impacts from harpoons and guns, to overfishing and ignorance of ecosystems, to capture and the selfie absorption of believing wild whales put on shows.

Some populations may topple still.

Now they swallow the consequences of our disconnect and consumer crazed lifestyles – climate change, plastics, toxins, continued overfishing, noise, collision, entanglement, etc.

The leviathans, may we truly understand how they are barometers of our value systems, indicators of environment health, ambassadors of the marine ecosystem that sustains life on earth, and reminders of how little we know and that we are but small . . . in the world of the whale. 💙


Photo is of Cirque the Humpback with scarring testifying to being a survivor of collision. See the scarring from a boat propeller?

©Kate Holmes, Straitwatch 2019. Photo taken with a telephoto lens and has been cropped.


World Whale Day dates back to 1980 and originated from Maui’s Whale Fest to honour Humpback Whales.

Social media links. 
Thank you so much for your interest!

Where?

Daring to do this again. It’s an #OceanVoice blog where it is not science that speaks the strongest.

I need words to find my way.

By sharing, I hope for connection, affirmation, and maybe, that the words help others too.

Photo while on my boat “Fluke” by dear friend and contributor to light in the world, Kendra Parnham-Hall


Where?

Where to find the space
Between denying the darkness
And disappearing into overwhelm?

Inhaling scorching realities in shared air
Masked and isolated against viral spread
Where to find the space?

Refugees on roadsides
Inequalities of skin laid bare
Where to find the space?

Narcissism thriving
Rewarded for lies and lechery
Where to find the space?

Social media frivolity
Verses sleepless sorrow
WHERE to find the space?

It’s there . . .

It’s there in the knowing
Eyes closed, is to contribute to darkness
Wide-eyed in horror, is to contribute to same

It’s there in the feeling
Compass unwavering forward
Recoiling from misspent privilege

It’s there in the tasting
Savouring what is sweet and true
Rejecting the poison of paralysis

It’s there in the doing
Common solutions, common good
Forces joined, together brighter

The space is found
Where we shine our light
So others too, may find their way


View down Johnstone Strait ©Jackie Hildering.

 

 

Words by Which to Live . . . and Breathe?

The following photo, taken recently, catalyzed the following words.

How I hope they resound with you, and maybe even that they are of use to you.

Breathe, knowing others breathe too.

It has such importance, to live knowing we share air, share water, share economies, and share fates.

Decisions made by one have the potential to negatively or positively impact those standing within 2 metres, those on the other side of the planet, and/or those who are another species. Impacts rippling on from how we vote, to how we consume, to the words we put into the world. For words carry power as strong as viruses, seeding and spreading hatred, or empowering and healing with compassion and equality.

These are difficult times, but much is being unmasked and called out for what it is re. narcissism and presumed privilege, racism and misogyny, economic disparity and how it rocks the foundations of the systems we all depend on, and in disconnect from Nature and the species we share the planet with.

Power to you all who, step-by-step, word-for-word, put good into the world, working for equality, connection and health (in its full sense – physical / mental / social / environmental).

Words by which to live and . . . breathe. 💙


Photos: Mature male Steller Sea Lion exhaling at the surface.
©Jackie Hildering
August 31, 2020 NE Vancouver Island

#SharedAir
#OceanVoice

 

Red and White

Some red and white for you on Canada Day.

 

May we celebrate all that is wild, good and free.

May we truly know the privilege of it all.

May we be the neighbours and stewards who are as open-eyed and open-hearted as this land is large.


Photo: Two Rose Anemones touching, different colours, same species.
Aka Fish-Eating Anemone, Urticina piscivora to 30 cm across.

How to Love the Ocean – Daily Actions for Future Generations

Here’s a whole lot of information, and entertainment, about ocean education.

First, it’s the video of my presentation “Ocean Wonders” provided on Oceans Day 2020.


The text below is supporting material to motivate and enable Ocean Education, especially for children.

It includes:
Ocean Inspiration (why it is so important to teach about the ocean)
Action for the Ocean (detail on the many ways we can reduce impacts); and
Guidelines for Beach Walks.

For my “Find the Fish” challenges, also provided for Oceans Day, please click here. 


Now, to further get in the mood, please view my brief slideshow below (and forgive the “breathe” typo).

 

Ocean Inspiration

Why is it so important to educate and help others love the ocean?

Chances are that if you have the interest and motivation to read this, you already have that knowledge. May the following then provide you with affirmed purpose and inspiration.

The ocean is the life-sustaining force on the planet. It is where life began. The ocean’s algae produce at least 50% of the world’s oxygen, buffering carbon dioxide in the process. As water cycles around, over 90% at any time is ocean. The ocean is the largest surface on earth, whereby it has a significant impact on climate regulation. The ocean is also a source of food, energy, inspiration, transportation, and healing.

 

Human psychology so often puts a divide between land and sea. There is not enough understanding that life on land cannot survive without the ocean, no matter how far you are from her shores. As a result of this perceived divide, assaults upon the ocean include persistent organic pollutants, agricultural runoff, warming and ocean acidification, disease organisms, and plastics and further marine debris. Consequently, the ocean so often testifies to socio-environmental problems first.

This “ocean blindness” is especially true of the perception of dark oceans where the rich plankton soup means we cannot see the marine life easily. Thereby, many of us form biases to thinking there is more life in warmer waters with less plankton. This is exactly backwards. Less plankton means there is less food at the bottom of the food web. Thereby, if you can easily see through water, there is less life in it.

This bias and blindness is exacerbated because, so often, the imagery we are fed in everything from documentaries, to children’s books and movies, is of life in warmer seas. If we do not know how extraordinary our marine neighbours are, and how important the ocean is, how can we be the teachers, parents and voters we need to be?

By helping others love the ocean, you are not only helping marine life, you are helping the future of our own species as well.

Power to you.

 


Ocean Action 

First there’s a summary. Then, there’s depth.

SUMMARY
1. Learn about the ocean. Enjoy the ocean.
It is especially important to learn about species that live closest. No matter how far away the ocean is, we are connected to the life there through the cycling of water.

2. Care, knowing how important the ocean is to life on land and how amazing our marine neighbours are. We need to be especially careful because we still know so little about life in the ocean which means we could make big mistakes.

3. Use less because it helps so many. By making sure there is less garbage (includes less disposables and less consumerism) and less bad chemicals, there is less pollution in the ocean AND on land. By saving energy and helping use less oil and gas (fossil fuels), there is less change in temperature and climate. By using less water, less chemicals are added to it at the sewage treatment plant.

4. Teach and share
with others about the importance of the Ocean and how easy it is to do good things that help the ocean AND ourselves.

 

MORE DEPTH

1. No Problems Without Solutions
Yes, it is important for students to know of environmental problems. But, there is the potential of creating overwhelm, fear / paralysis, disconnect and the perception that nature and/or the ocean is sick. It is vital to ensure that solutions are provided; that those doing the teaching are modelling those solutions; and that the common denominators between socio-environmental problems are made clear i.e. most problems have the same causes whereby there are the same solutions. Examples are the connection between Sea Star Wasting Disease in Sunflower Stars and warming seas; over-harvesting being related to inequality in the world and the lack of precaution in favour of short-term economic gain; and plastic pollution being the result of consumerism, overuse of disposables, and disconnect with the environment.

 

2. Connect / Learn / Respect
No matter how far you are from the ocean, you can connect to the ocean. I emphasize again the value of prioritizing learning about the most local ocean (and species) so that the biases and blindness I referenced above are not exacerbated. For example, turtles are amazing and engaging but what is most valuable for Canadians is connecting to the Leatherback Turtles that belong off both Canada’s east and west coasts.

Understanding of the water cycle is such an effective way to connect to the ocean from any distance i.e. the ocean is on top of mountains as snow, it flows through rivers and groundwater, and it comes out of the tap. Therefore it is impacted by what we do to water even when far away from the ocean. Including sewage treatment in the water cycle is of great value.

I find it helps to reference local marine life as “neighbours” as this suggests that we live together and are connected. Beach walks, if possible, certainly aid this if conducted as a study and with respect. Please see my  guidelines for good beach walk practices below.

It is so valuable too to teach from a perspective of adaptations, allowing students to deduce why species look the way they do, live where they do, and/or behave as they do. This allows for the understanding that nature is not “random” but that organisms are connected, evolved, and have fulfilled niches to fit into the puzzle of life.

Please, do not limit learning to the species at the surface i.e. the charismatic marine megafauna like whales. To understand why there are these big animals, requires an understanding and valuing of the biodiversity and interconnectedness below the surface.

Please too do not encumber yourself with feeling you need to know a lot about marine species in order to aid love and action for the ocean. By not knowing, you give even more space for students to form connections and hypotheses about adaptations, and to own their knowledge. One of the most vital things in loving and learning about the ocean, is to emphasize how little is known about life in the ocean and, therefore, that it is essential to have the appropriate humility and precaution in how we “manage” the ocean.

 

3. Reduce
This is the single most important solution to reducing socio-environmental problems, including impacts to the ocean.

So many students believe that recycling is the best thing they can do (and our consumer paradigm of course favours this). It shows, in part, that understanding has been lost that the three “Rs” are a hierarchy. By far the most important is to REDUCE. Next is to re-use. And if reducing and reusing are not  possible, then  . . . recycle.

Reduce what?

It is very important to approach this from the perspective that reducing is not about loss, but about gain and that the following are also the solutions for so many other problems.

Reduce the use of harmful chemicals that can flow or condense into the ocean. Which chemicals are bad? The easiest with younger students it to show the skull and crossbones on the label of products like bleach. Older students have curriculum content about pesticides and other persistent organic pollutants. It is valuable of course to discuss how the human-made bad chemicals are not essential and/or that there are alternatives that are not harmful.

Reduce fossil fuel use because of the impacts on climate change. The ideal is to enable students to think in terms of carbon footprint and, thereby, to know how many ways we are empowered to reduce fossil fuel use in our every day actions and how smart and innovative we become when we care more.

Never too young to learn about animals as individuals.

Reduce waste. This goes far beyond beach clean-ups. Understanding is needed of why there is so much garbage and how easily this can be solved when we learn and care. This includes using durable and reusable things, not buying so much, being aware of how much packaging things have and, here’s the BIGGY, to understand the difference between biodegradable and non-biodegradable. If something cannot rot away there is no “away”.  It cannot be  flushed “away” or thrown “away”. Non-biodegradable chemicals enter the water and food webs. Plastics that cannot rot will entangle, or get mistakenly eaten by animals, and/or break down into smaller pieces that enter the food web.

 

4. Empower

Sharing good news stories, especially of innovative and ethical thinking and technologies that create positive change, allows students to know about human social evolution, that we learn from our mistakes, and make huge steps forward when empowered with knowledge and caring. It will help make them feel there is space in the world for their ideas and that every generation learns from the ones before. It is tricky though to ensure that hope and human ingenuity are not perceived as exit strategies.

Empowerment too means providing students with the opportunity to participate in decision-making and respectful dialogue about practices and decisions made at home and at school. It will involve discussions about ethics and how we cannot be perfect. We have to use resources and make some garbage but can make decisions that reduce impacts. It invites critical thinking. It can lead to learning about who and what we support with our money and effort is like voting, and the importance of that.

Again, power to you. 💙

Below is my presentation on Ocean Wonders.

 

 


Black Prickleback father guarding eggs. Were he to be moved by those who think he does not have enough water, the eggs would be eaten by predators.

 


Good Beach Walk Practices Include: 

No Taking and No Touching (with exceptions)

There are exceptions when you know for sure a species is hearty or truly in trouble. Hearty species like sea stars can gently be touched with one’s pinky. By using your little finger, you can’t apply much pressure and this very act instills greater understanding and respect in children for the life they are visiting and learning from. It is also the case, that what is one our hands, may not benefit other animals. I am sure there is heightened awareness of transmission of pathogens in  our current COVID world

Collecting animals does not model respect (e.g. Shore Crabs). Even taking shells does not allow for the understanding that there are animals that will use these (e.g. hermit crab species) and that, as the shell breaks down, nutrients are returning to the Ocean. There are exceptions here too where a few “treasures” (non living) can be taken for further study.

Moving animals, even with the best of intentions, can lead to unintended consequences like displacing fish fathers from the eggs they were guarding. There are fish species that are very well-adapted to surviving with little water at low tide.

Another exception is, of course, that you DO want to remove garbage that you are sure IS garbage and that has not become habitat (has life living on it).

 

Another  fabulous example of where the well-intentioned are not helping. These are not garbage. They are moonsnail egg collars. They are wondrous constructions to house and protect moonsnail embryos. There’s more information about them at the end of this blog.

Rock Rules
Only lift rocks that you do not need to pivot and that you can put back very carefully. If you pivot big rocks, animals will rush to hide at the leverage point and will be crushed when you lower the rock.

A good rule is to only lift rocks smaller than your head, and that clearly have space under them (this means there are likely to be animals there and that you can better return the rock to its position). I have found it really helps to explain to children why life under a rock lives there and not on top of a rock (i.e. teaching about habitat). Children seem to understand well that lifting a rock is like lifting the roof off a human’s house.

 

Walk Carefully
This is not only for human safety but seaweed and Eelgrass are habitat to so many animals.
Barnacles too are living animals.

 

No Squealing and No YUCK!
This is negative and can perpetuate a physical reaction of disconnect and disrespect for the natural world. It is “rejection” and judgement of another organism being “wrong” rather than understanding the perfection of adaptations and evolution. Beach walks are about visiting organisms in their habitat and the gift of being able to learn that everything is the way it is for a reason. I find it helps to let children know, when about to lift a rock, that we are disrupting animals in their home so that we can learn and that, of course, the animals are going to be startled i.e. so they anticipate the potential of things like fish flopping about.


YES to pictures, learning and contributing to knowledge. 💙

 


Below, an exception to the rule. This Gumboot Chiton was upside down and could not have righted itself. They are tough organisms and provided a wonderful opportunity for students to feel how this is a living animal that responded to their gentle touch.


More about Moonsnail Egg Collars
Yes, I really have to do a blog on moonsnails but for now:

The female moonsnail forms one layer of the egg collar by gluing together sand grains with mucus; then the fertilized eggs are laid on this layer and THEN she seals them in with another layer of sand and mucus! The female forms the collar under the sand and then forces it above the sand when done. The 1000s of eggs develop in the the sand-mucus matrix. The process of making the egg collar takes 10 to 14 hours (and reportedly starts at the beginning of a flood tide). As long as conditions are good, the egg collars found on beaches are likely to have embryos developing inside them (if they are still rubbery and moist).

When the egg collar is intact like those in the photo above, the young have NOT hatched out. The collar disintegrates when the larvae hatch. The larvae are plankton for 4 to 5 weeks and then settle to the ocean bottom to develop further.

There is contradictory information on how long it takes the eggs to hatch (one reliable source relays about 1 week while another reports up to 1.5 months).

The moonsnail species in the photo above is a Lewis’ Moonsnail whose shell can be up to 14 cm wide (referenced too as the Northern Moonsnail).


Related posts: 

Find the Fish for Oceans Day 2020 (student activity)
More of my blog items on Ocean Inspiration and the importance of the Ocean.

Shine Brighter . . .

The following is not a science post. It is an #OceanVoice post = my thoughts about hope, our connection to the environment, and positive action for the sake of greater health and happiness. It is meant to be inspirational and, maybe, empowering.

 

It’s hard. I know it can be hard. But, it’s the only way forward, and out of the dark.

We live in complicated times where fear is used as a blunt tool.

Fear of the other. Fear of loss. Fear of change. Fear amplified in our not understanding the way forward is the same for most (if not all), socio-environmental problems. Thereby, our light can diminish and even be exhausted whereby . . . we add to the darkness.

So important to realize is: Fear thrives in the dark. Fear masks truth. Fear chokes potential. Fear makes us automatons, marching on, ignoring the reality around us. Fear walks hand-in-hand with disempowerment, the same neurons firing, limiting the way we look at the world and ourselves. And above all, FEAR LOATHES CHANGE.

Thereby, fear is such a powerful tool to be used by those who benefit from things remaining the same.

How to counter fear? Shine the light forward, living lives of connection, empowerment, celebration of human ingenuity (but not as an exit strategy) and understanding that using less is about GAIN, not loss.

Shine on. Show the way out of the dark.

For more #OceanVoice, please see click here.