Jennifer Savage / @ 6 a.m. / Ocean, Op-Ed

Ocean Optimism: 5 Things to Give You Hope


Head out to Ocean Night at Arcata Theatre Lounge this Thursday.

The whole “face for radio” cliché proved true last Saturday when a morning surf session in the sunshine left me dashing off to a remote KSLG 94.1 FM broadcast with a comical circular tan line on my face. But looking silly was a small price to pay for the two hours of bliss that took my head out of the “bad news for the ocean” vortex and reminded me why I do what I do.

I forgot about climate change. I totally spaced the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (and all the other trash-riddled gyres). I never once thought about dying coral or whales entangled in discarded fishing gear or dolphins washing up dead on Gulf Coast shores. Bad form for someone as immersed in ocean issues as I am, right?

I blame the sunshine, the lack of wind, the camaraderie of my fellow surfers, especially the ones who hollered, “Go, Jen!” as a set wave reared up so steep I wasn’t sure I’d make it, but I had to go. You always go when someone yells you in. And so I did and the drop wasn’t pretty, me standing up too straight like the kook that I am instead of crouching down, cool-like, as if the wave would pitch over my head and I’d be pitted, so pitted…. 

pitted, so pitted

…but I didn’t fall over, at least not until the wave broke against me, whitewater smashing against my shoulder and knocking me under, 53-degree water flushing my wetsuit as I bounced against the sea floor. Hard to think about much else when you’re on a wave or under it. Which is one of the main reasons I fling myself into this shark-riddled, current-sucking, bruise-inducing excuse of a hobby: if I don’t take a break from all the thinking, planning, working, studying, convincing involved in trying to get people to stop doing what hurts the ocean and start doing what helps it, depression would pull me under for good.

What’s in the ocean news lately?

Dying pelicans.

Dying albatross.

More plastic in the ocean.

Global warming.

More global warming.

It’s grim. And yet, when I’m in the ocean, I’m so happy. This will sound corny, but I love it, I love it so much.. I can scan buoys and weather and tides and look at the sky and make a guess about where to surf (it’s always big and sharky and cold, but some places are worse than others) or which direction to walk on the beach, but really, this giant undulating blueness remains mostly mystery

The sea is otherworldly and yet part of us. Being in the ocean is a timeless.experience. Each time I emerge from the water, I am even more determined to protect this wondrous thing.  And so I turn to science, seeking hard evidence that hope is warranted, that action can bring about positive change.

For those of you like me, here are five things to make you feel optimistic about the ocean’s future:

  1. Ocean Night – The monthly event at Arcata Theatre Lounge features Ocean Frontiers, in which unlikely allies come together and craft solutions for the good of ecosystems and industry, while not sugarcoating the conflicts or the sometimes-difficult road to the end result.
  2. Hector’s Dolphins – A 21-year study shows a marine protection working to boost population of this little, rare, dolphin.

  3. Salmon abundance – Lots of salmon predicted off our coast. How many is “lots”? About 2.4 million!
  4. The RESTORE Act – Bipartisan support for a bill vital provisions to fund environmental restoration projects in the Gulfof Mexico in the wake of the 2010 oil spill and an ambitious program to support conservation projects in coastal communities around the country.
  5. Marine Life Protection Act completion – California’s poised to become the first state in the nation to have a network of marine protected areas off our coastline.  North Coast adoption is scheduled for June 6 – perfect timing as June 8 is Oceans Day! We’ll have so much to celebrate. Preferably at the beach…. 

Jennifer Savage is the North Coast Coordinator for Ocean Conservancy’s Pacific Program and also chairs the Humboldt Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation.







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