The Controversy Of Plastic Straws / The Monotony Of Progress

8/1/18

Early in July, Seattle banned single-use plastic straws and utensils.  

San Francisco is poised to do the same.

As are many companies, including the Great Wolf Lodge lodging business.

Good, right? 

I thought so. 

Okay, fine, for all intents it is very good. But not for all purposes. (I separated two parts of a common phrase. I love language.) There are some complications involved that not too many people are willing to face. Not too many people even know the real negative impact this could have. I only knew because it was pointed out to me, on Instagram:  

   This post traveled fast like a meme. Multiple users with quite a few followers have posted this, and the slides that follow, including @avengersimscreaming, a fandom/feminism/textpost account. That's where I saw the post.    

This post traveled fast like a meme. Multiple users with quite a few followers have posted this, and the slides that follow, including @avengersimscreaming, a fandom/feminism/textpost account. That's where I saw the post.   

   Instagram has had a new update where you can share multiple photos in one post. These images were all shared at once.

Instagram has had a new update where you can share multiple photos in one post. These images were all shared at once.

   So this is essentially a chart showing the common plastic straw and known alternatives. It shows that plastic straws, for their chemical make-up and structure, are the only (known) truly safe straw for disabled people.

So this is essentially a chart showing the common plastic straw and known alternatives. It shows that plastic straws, for their chemical make-up and structure, are the only (known) truly safe straw for disabled people.

   Here's someone replying to that image. I had no idea some people could be allergic to straw material. But alright. We can still work with this.

Here's someone replying to that image. I had no idea some people could be allergic to straw material. But alright. We can still work with this.

   Yes, there are  definitely  more harmful things to focus on, but I personally believe that with the environmental issues at least, we should get rid of  all  harmful things. Not just the big harmful things. You'd be surprised how the small harmful things add up. And we have to start somewhere. Not too many people will be willing to start big and work smaller. Motivationally speaking, the opposite works better. 

Yes, there are definitely more harmful things to focus on, but I personally believe that with the environmental issues at least, we should get rid of all harmful things. Not just the big harmful things. You'd be surprised how the small harmful things add up. And we have to start somewhere. Not too many people will be willing to start big and work smaller. Motivationally speaking, the opposite works better. 

   Listen, Annie, I've researched you since first viewing the Instagram post. You're cool, and it's cool that you're encouraging dialogue about environmental accountability. (I would love to talk to you, as a disabled person who cares a lot about the natural world.) But no need to all caps this conversation we're all having. The decision to ban straws - no one actively thinks, "Hey, it's time to kill and injure a lot of people!" We're all just trying to do what's best for the world. It's just not working out so great. Maybe the U.S. education system failed us.    ❤️  (Click  here  to view Annie's YouTube channel. She's pretty popular, and for good reason.) 

Listen, Annie, I've researched you since first viewing the Instagram post. You're cool, and it's cool that you're encouraging dialogue about environmental accountability. (I would love to talk to you, as a disabled person who cares a lot about the natural world.) But no need to all caps this conversation we're all having. The decision to ban straws - no one actively thinks, "Hey, it's time to kill and injure a lot of people!" We're all just trying to do what's best for the world. It's just not working out so great. Maybe the U.S. education system failed us. ❤️ (Click here to view Annie's YouTube channel. She's pretty popular, and for good reason.) 

   Are waiters/waitresses/restaurant employees allowed to say that to able-bodied people? Some people do need the extra motivation. And are you implying you don't care about turtles as much as you do people? We've been putting people first for years, look where that got us.

Are waiters/waitresses/restaurant employees allowed to say that to able-bodied people? Some people do need the extra motivation. And are you implying you don't care about turtles as much as you do people? We've been putting people first for years, look where that got us.

   That's a fun answer. *sarcastic* And, I want to be clear, when we (original posters and I) say "disabled people," we don't mean people like me. My disabled situation is not everyone else's disabled situation. I have "mobility issues" - not even that - in my legs (hips and feet included in that). I can't walk that well. My arms, brain, etc. are fine. When we say "disabled people need straws," we mean, people like JJ from  Speechless , one of my favorite shows in the world. I don't "get" the experience of people like him, who have it different than I do - I mean, socially, I    sort of  get it:      https://www.zmkf.me/the-blog/2018/7/15/unique-me-on-the-verge-of-noise   This is something I wrote for my personal blog, about my experience as a wheelchair user, if you want to read.

That's a fun answer. *sarcastic* And, I want to be clear, when we (original posters and I) say "disabled people," we don't mean people like me. My disabled situation is not everyone else's disabled situation. I have "mobility issues" - not even that - in my legs (hips and feet included in that). I can't walk that well. My arms, brain, etc. are fine. When we say "disabled people need straws," we mean, people like JJ from Speechless, one of my favorite shows in the world. I don't "get" the experience of people like him, who have it different than I do - I mean, socially, I sort of get it: https://www.zmkf.me/the-blog/2018/7/15/unique-me-on-the-verge-of-noise  This is something I wrote for my personal blog, about my experience as a wheelchair user, if you want to read.

   "You just make our lives harder without offering feasible alternatives." Um, didn't I    just    see a chart filled with alternatives?? Apparently, none of them work for you!! It's getting kind of annoying. You've got to admit it, it's probably very annoying for you, too. But it's not as though we're not trying. 

"You just make our lives harder without offering feasible alternatives." Um, didn't I just see a chart filled with alternatives?? Apparently, none of them work for you!! It's getting kind of annoying. You've got to admit it, it's probably very annoying for you, too. But it's not as though we're not trying. 

Did you like my peanut gallery-esque commentary? 

As you can tell, I'm very passionate about the environment and wildlife within, even to the point of dissing people. But getting frustrated - or even furious - with people just trying to live won't help. Because that's just meaningless talk. And I suppose that "Do we need straws today, or would we rather save the turtles?" is the wrong question to ask.

The question we all should be asking, is,

"What can we do?"

Getting mad won't help. Talking about an issue and doing nothing won't help. Not holding yourself accountable won't help. On the other hand, becoming overcome with guilt won't help either. Solutions help. That's why they're called, "solutions." Here are some solutions for the plastic problem.

1. Use less plastic in other ways, if you absolutely need plastic straws. According to Vox's https://www.vox.com/2018/6/25/17488336/starbucks-plastic-straw-ban-ocean-pollution, "There are 150 million metric tons of plastics in the ocean. And if we continue this trend, scientists predict there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050. One of the landmark studies of ocean plastic was published in Science in 2015. The researchers found that we generated 275 million metric tons of plastic waste in one year, of which 4.8 million to 12.7 million metric tons get into the oceans." We are Operation: OceanFixer, we care about the ocean. We consider this a problem. If you want to use less plastic but need your straws plastic-y, say no to excess packaging, or even bring your own plates/containers if you feel up to the task. Anything you can do to cut back on plastic, please do. We should sacrifice some things, just not "I could get injured or die" things. Do some research, and find out how you can take care of yourself and the world at the same time.

2. Hey, manufacturers! Make better straws! So far, looking back up at the helpful chart up there, the silicone straw is most successful but still harmful. The silicone's problems are "not positionable," and costly." Part of the problem with this whole thing is, yes, everyone needs to be held accountable, but manufacturers always have more to do with the product design than the consumers. So, builders and inventors, let's take the silicone straw, and build off of that, or,

a) create a better plastic, somehow, so the material doesn't change, but chemical makeup and biodegrading process does, for the better.

b) find a way to destroy our current plastic. Oh wait, we did: https://www.sciencealert.com/plastic-eating-caterpillars-could-help-tackle-our-huge-waste-problemhttps://www.sciencealert.com/scientists-accidentally-engineered-mutant-enzyme-eats-through-plastic-pet-petase-pollution This, ladies and gents and nonbinary friends, is truly great. Get ready for inventions and landfill re-designs based off of this.

3. Go bigger. Move beyond plastic, if you have to. The plastic problem affects the sea and land, so tackle bigger issues, like overfishing or unlawful land animal hunting (I don't agree with hunting at all, personally, but there we have it). If there is an issue you care about, go for it. Just remember what (who?) you're fighting for.

. . .

With this, I leave you. 

I'm always here to help.

- ZMKF, disabled founder of Operation: OceanFixer. 💙       

The World's Smallest Dolphin Has Become A Meme

7/29/18

Funny, right?

Not really.

You may have seen these - or variants of these - photos floating around on different social media sites:

Vaquita 1.jpg
Vaquita 2.jpg

The posters and reposters all have good intentions - the best intentions. They want to help a dwindling species bound back and live through, well, us. But, as with all issues, there are definite problems with getting your environmental/global warming news from social media:

1. You can't be sure what you're even looking at once you've done your own research. Human memories are, on average, easily manipulated. Even if you're confident in your knowledge of an animal, any mistake you make in typing up your little earth activist post is going to get passed on many times over, likely with no corrections. And if you make no mistakes? Scientific names are different than common names, if you use common names of animals to describe them, you might be confusing people and turning them away from your cause. Make sure what you're writing about an animal is fact-checked and universally clear. If humanity is going to keep getting their "news" through social media, we have to make sure what we see from now on is easily verifiable, and true. Otherwise, the animal could end up in even worse trouble. The more incorrect information is posted over time, the more people memorize it. Which leads me to our next point here:

2. Information passed through the internet gets old real fast. I don't mean it's over and done with, I mean dated information in science is dangerous for activism and time-sensitive issues. Science is constantly updating, rules are constantly changing, and numbers keep shrinking (and growing). See how those numbers changed from the first to second picture? If you want to keep track of an animal like the vaquita, check every week at least, on your own terms. Don't let the information get old.

3. "Yay, I've posted (or reposted) a vaquita post. This means I've done my part! I don't have to do anything else now." Does this thought process sound familiar to you? Is it your view, or a friend's? Well, I got news for you, buddy. You have not "done your part" just yet. Awareness is great, but it's the first step. Every step after is "do something about it." Don't have time or money? Find out efficient ways to save the world. Don't even have time for that? That's why we're here.

The Vaquita

FACT FILE

Scientific Name: Phocoena sinus

Habitat: The Northern end of the Gulf of California. Their range is not huge, which is why their habitat is so precious - it is the only place they have been known to live. Destroy that, you ruin them. The Mexican government has been doing a fine and dandy job protecting the vaquita. In 1993, they created Upper Gulf of California Biosphere Reserve to protect it, and more recently, "an international trade court judge ordered the Trump administration Thursday to ban all seafood harvested with gill nets in Mexico’s northern Gulf of California — a bold move with significant political and economic consequences." Click here and here to read through my sources.   

Diet: Vaquita eat other marine animals, mostly fish, such as bronze-striped grunts, and dumb squid that wander by.

Threats: You. Kidding. But seriously. Vaquitas get trapped and die in gillnet traps meant for sharks and rays (who don't deserve to die either), as well as in other, illegal, gillnet sets meant for another endangered animal, called the totoaba (wtf you guys???). And shrimp trawlers. In other words, it sounds a lot like the usual - things getting killed by things meant for other things. Also, climate change, because reminder, they only have one habitat

Population: The IUCN Red List says it cold and brutal, but directly: "There have been three complete surveys for Vaquitas, resulting in abundance estimates as follows: in 1997 abundance was estimated to be 567 (95% CI, 177-1,073; Jaramillo-Legorreta et al. 1999); in 2008 abundance was estimated to be 245 animals (95% CI, 68-884; Gerrodette et al. 2011); and in 2015 abundance was estimated to be 59 (95% CRI 22-145; Taylor et al. 2016). These three abundance estimates revealed a catastrophic population decline has been occurring." Boom. There you have it. There are estimated to be less than fifty vaquitas out there. The number may even be twelve, as the good-intention posters and reposters think. Population science isn't exact (most of the time), but at least I told you what is known.

People Who Know More Than We Do For Vaquita-Related Purposes: The IUCN, the Defenders Of Wildlife, the WWF, the Marine Mammal Center, and of course, vaquitacpr.org.        

People shouldn't become *just* hashtags. Animals shouldn't become *just* hashtags.

Do what you can. 

Save the cuteness that is the vaquita.

- ZMKF             

Interviewing our Inspiration: Featuring Mary Middlebrook

Yes, I know. We are phenomenal. We *totally* don't take forever to post our articles. But the reason to our being amazing, AND the reason to our late articles are one and the same: Mary Middlebrook. Mary (we call her Mary, not Miss Middlebrook, or any boring teacher name) is our loved and dreaded marine biology teacher. She is the best teacher EVER, but she also assigns us more hours of homework than there is fish in the ocean. More homework means less time for extra homework, even if the extra homework is much more important. But not matter how much homework she assigns, we still love her anyway. 

We aren't the only students she teaches. She has influenced the lives and informed the brains of many children. Go to http://nextlevelhomeschool.com/, her website, to learn more about her classes.

She is a very interesting Homo sapiens, and we had the pleasure of interviewing her for our website. Each of the Operation: OceanFixer members has come up with a few intriguing questions, and Mary answers them. There are many questions, ranging from completely serious and scholarly, to downright silly (I, Penny, am to blame for the strange ones). 

Now, I present with great excitement and respect, the fascinating life of Mary Middlebrook! 

Shelly L. Black: What got you interested in marine zoology and biology in the first place?  
Mary: Actually, I went to college for marine biology because it was the ONLY major not offered at the college in the town where my dad lived! I wanted to be on my own- not still living with my parents. So, I chose a major that forced me to leave home. Once I got there, the thing that really hooked me on a love of fish and corals was buying my first aquarium. 
 

Shelly L. Black: What articles would you look forward to see on the site in the future?  
Mary: Articles about conservation and new scientific discoveries. I'd also consider allowing the new batch of online Marine Zoology students participate in creating articles this September if that's something you guys are interested in. 
 
Shelly L. Black: What is your favorite animal? 
Mary: A Mola mola. I saw one at an aquarium in South Africa this past December. Amazing creature. 
 

Shelly L. Black: After traveling the world, what is your favorite place? 
Mary: The next place I'm going, wherever that might be. So, it constantly changes. :) Spring break will be Colombia and El Salvador. Countries are kind of like my children. I love them all equally, for different reasons because they are each unique, but the love is equal.  
 
Ray T. Skater: What are five tips for being successful?  
Mary: Do things you are PASSIONATE about!! That's the first key. Second, work your tail off to do things to the best of your ability always. Always. In every single thing you do. Third, never stop learning- always push yourself to go deeper. Question EVERYTHING- don't believe something just because someone tells you it's the truth. Research, think, and come to your own conclusion. Fourth, listen to the advice of others and consider it, but always follow your own instinct. Fifth, live a life based in logic, not emotion. That doesn't mean don't have or feel emotion, that is important, but don't base your decisions on emotion. And please allow me a sixth: invest in real estate. :) 
 

Penny Gwinn: What is your favorite Disney movie?  
Mary: I don't really watch movies or TV. But I do remember watching Pete's Dragon as a kid and LOVING IT!! 
 
Penny Gwinn: What is your thoughts on Finding Nemo?  
Mary: I don't like it. It made people run out and buy “Nemos and Dorys” for their kids. These fish require very complicated conditions to survive in captivity, and thousands died because of it. It's why I never allow anyone to call clownfish “Nemos.” They aren't. They're Amphiprion ocellaris. Respect them. 
 
Penny Gwinn: Have you ever pet a monkey, and do you want to have one?  
Mary: I am SCARED of monkeys! I have been out in the wild with several species in jungles in Central America and Malaysia, but I always keep my distance and respect them. They are one of my favorite things to photograph, because there is so much intelligence in their eyes. I would never want to keep one in captivity. They are extremely intelligent and social creatures. They belong in the wild. 
  

ZMKF: Pick one thing in the ocean to make our Number One priority (this is hypothetical of course, we’re going to make everything our Number One priority if that’s humanly possible): 1) The dying coral, 2) the ocean animals and the many things that affect them (malicious captivity, certain fishing styles, etc), and 3) things humans are doing to the ocean itself (filling it with trash and chemicals and such naughty things like that).  
Mary: I would pick number 3. Because the other 2 problems would be solved if humans would change their behavior toward the ocean and its inhabitants. 
 

 ZMKF: What are three of your favorite books? - 
Mary: I don't read much. I am literally either teaching a class, grading, or creating a lesson plan Every. Single. Day. I read so much when I'm researching a class (hundreds of pages a month), that when I have time off, I don't want to read anything!! However, when I used to read avidly, I loved the Harry Potter series, the Lord of the Rings trilogy, biographies (especially of Marie Antoinette), and as a kid, I loved a little book called Chippy Chipmunk's Vacation. :) 
 

 ZMKF: Is (one of) the goal(s) of teaching (for you) that eventually a few students would do something like this? That your knowledge would get passed down by the people you teach in such a unique way?  
Mary: ABSOLUTELY!! I want my students to take the knowledge I give them and use it in the real world. For a student to become a teacher would be marvelous! It's such an honor and privilege to be able to educate people. There's no other feeling like it in the world. And for one of my students to be able to feel that rush of explaining something in a way that light bulbs go off over their student's head in that “Ah ha! I get it!” moment, wow. That would be awesome. :) 
 
 ZMKF: Has any ocean-related thing you’ve ever taught us scared you?  
Mary: Sharks. Hands down, no question, sharks. Look, I know the statistics. Heck, I TEACH the statistics. But it is rare for me to get into the ocean because they scare the bejesus out of me!! (Shhhhhhhhh. Don't tell anyone!!) 
 
Goldie Marina: What profession did you want to go into as a kid, and did you ever think you would be a teacher? 
Mary: It's so funny you ask, because from the time I was really little all I ever said I wanted to be was a teacher. I would play school with my friends and I'd ALWAYS be the teacher. I'd make up quizzes and everything! But then I realized that my parents expected me to become a teacher and go to the college in their town so I could continue living with them. I didn't want to do that, so I went to school for Marine Biology. I'm so happy that I made my way back around to teaching!! And that I can do it on my terms. 
 
Goldie Marina: If you could make one law, what would it be and why?  
Mary: Ban one use plastics (water bottles, packaging, etc...). Plastics are destroying our world. Removing them from the environment (and to cease adding any new ones), would solve a plethora of problems. 
 
Goldie Marina: If you were an ocean animal, which ocean animal would you be?  
Mary: Turritopsis dohrnii :) 
 
Goldie Marina: If the ocean would cease to exist tomorrow and you could only save one organism in it, what would you save?  
Mary: Cyanobacteria (phytoplankton). Because it provides the earth with a huge amount of oxygen. So just for our sake, they're handy! :) But being one of the simplest forms of life and being prokaryotic (instead of eukaryotic like the other phytoplankton species), it could jump start the evolution of a huge variety of ocean organisms. It also forms the base of the marine food chain, so that would be firmly in place to allow evolution to flow. Over hundreds of millions of years, our oceans could be full of life again!  
 
Sealia N. Harbor: Do you think that one day after teaching you will help save the ocean?  
Mary: I don't see myself not teaching. I plan on doing it for as long as I am physically and mentally capable. And honestly, it's the best way for me to have an impact on saving the ocean. Instead of just “me,” I'm teaching children all over the world about the ocean, the life in it, why it is so important to all of us, and the major conservation issues that need to be addressed. The best thing I can do to help save the ocean is inspire the next generation to want to do that. Then, my passions don't die with me- they continue to make a difference after I'm gone. 

Sealia N. Harbor: What is the most dangerous animal you have ever been in the water with?  
Mary: The most dangerous animals I've been in the water with have been inside of aquariums. I've handled literally hundreds of thousands of marine animals over the years, many of which are very dangerous. Cutting (fragging) zooanthids for propagation, which contain palytoxin- one of the most powerful toxins in the world. Being stung by a Hell's Fire Anemone that caused me to lose a day of work and left a scar on me for years. Those are just 2 examples. 
 
Sealia N. Harbor: What/where was your first job?  
Mary: My first job was when I was 17 and in college. I had gotten very involved in keeping marine aquariums, and I was in pet shops during all my spare time looking at fish and learning about how to keep them alive. When it became apparent that my college fund was running out (thanks to judicious planning on my parent's part <insert sarcasm>, it ran out after my first semester at a very inexpensive college!!), I had to get a job. The only job I wanted was working in a pet shop. So, I walked into one I frequented that had a “help wanted” sign on the door, told the owner that I was the girl for the job, and thus began my 25-year career in the marine aquarium industry. This was in Galveston, Texas, at Island Pet Center, in 1988.  
 
Sealia N. Harbor: If you could be a mythical animal which one would you be?  
Mary: Fins down, no question, a mermaid!!!!! :) 

Bill Hawks: Tell us an interesting story about...well…something interesting that happened to you?  

Mary: Seriously, I have DOZENS of interesting stories!! I should do a class called “Mary's Interesting Life!” LOL!! I'll pick this one, since you guys kind of already know about it. I found out I was adopted at the age of 37- almost 10 years ago!! I immediately found my birth mother, but she refused to tell me about my birth father. I was at a complete dead end. But then....SCIENCE!! Genetics technology has advanced so much in just the past decade, that now I can order a DNA test kit online, spit in a tube, mail it back, and in about 2 months see if anyone I'm related to has done the same thing! Where there was no hope of finding my birth father just 10 years ago, now there's a lot of hope. Because people are using this technology every day to find their relatives. We'll see what happens...stay tuned! :) 

ZMKF: What's the simplest thing you can think of, where if everyone (or nearly everyone) did it, it would have a definite positive effect on the ocean?  
Mary: Quit using plastic. 
 

Shelly L. Black: If you had the chance to re-do one year, without affecting the present that much, which what year would it be? 
Mary: I wouldn't redo anything I've done. Everything I've experienced, good and bad, has led me to where I am now and I am very happy with where I am. Sometimes those things that happen in life that seem like you'll never get through them and never be able to deal with them- well, you do. And you come out a stronger person for it. Without trials, we would be weaker people. So, I live a life of truly no regrets. Plus, that allows you to keep moving forward instead of constantly looking backwards and thinking “what if." It's hard to walk forwards if you're looking in the opposite direction. That's how you bump into things and fall off of cliffs. ;) 
 
Ray T. Skater: Coffee Bean or Starbucks?  
Mary: Diet Dr. Pepper. I HATE coffee!!!!!! 

 Now you have met Mary. And you love her. It is impossible not to.  

Your Paradise Depends On Your Actions

ZMKF aka DORKY SHARK

Right, so we've all written you a little intro, a little starter article, a little ocean overview or animal profile. One of them was literally titled "What's Going On." We haven't told you everything, and you probably, honestly, feel the same way about the ocean. Which is fine. Reading is not inherently the same as feeling.

Now I'm going to share a personal adventure with you in the hopes that you realize - wherever you go, the ocean will follow.   

I went to Catalina not that long ago. From the 1st to the 3rd. Two nights. The boat ride there was slightly longer than an hour, the boat ride back was slightly shorter. 

 This is a weird panorama of my hotel room.&nbsp;

This is a weird panorama of my hotel room. 

 First of all, I had an…interesting…view of the surrounding apartments. One person had little dolls and statues in their makeshift backyard:

 Now we go closer...

Now we go closer...

 ...Yeah.&nbsp;

...Yeah. 

 Oh yeah.&nbsp;

Oh yeah. 

The first day all we did was get there. We had a late lunch at the Bluewater Grill, and then we all took baths and then, together, watched Mrs. Maisel, had dinner, played one round of cards with just my mom and my bestie Sadie and I, and then went to bed. (I am so ready for Season 2 of Mrs. Maisel!) 

 Picture I took inside the Bluewater Grill.&nbsp;

Picture I took inside the Bluewater Grill. 

Then, the 2nd, my sister Sofia and Sadie started the day by going parasailing together. I didn’t go, but that’s okay. I don’t really like heights. I tried to greet them at the dock when they came back, because the entire city of Avalon is walking/chair-rolling distance, but they ended early, and I wasn’t fast enough, so I met them on the dock as they were walking back. I felt slightly jealous so we looked into something we could all do together. (Makes me sound bratty, doesn’t it?) We tried the ecotour office, but they said they only had spots for us the day after (guess what we did on the 3rd!). 

My mom wasn’t feeling that well, so Sadie, my sister, father, and I went kayaking. On the ocean. After eating street tacos. I definitely stuck close to the shore, but relaxed into it more as it went on. Plenty of times I wished I’d had one of those cameras that attaches to your head. It was pleasantly sunny and refreshing. The view was wonderful. The sky was gray-ish white, but lit well. Saw lots of small-ish orange fish. 

Oh, and flying fish.

And dolphins.

We saw the dolphins before the flying fish, as we were first coming past the red buoys that mean “People Swim Here” – we saw them behind a somewhat distant medium sized boat, and then in front of it, and then ahead of us, in the span of what, three minutes? They’re fast. And playful. Duh. They’re dolphins. A few of them jumped so high they turned over in mid-air. I actually didn’t see it when it happened, I was looking the other way. (You never know when to look!)

Fun fact: Dolphins ‘deliberately get high’ on puffer fish nerve toxins by carefully chewing and passing them around. Dolphins are thought of as one of the most intelligent species in the animal kingdom – and experts believe they have put their ingenuity to use in the pursuit of getting ‘high’. - Dolphins ‘deliberately get high’ on puffer fish nerve toxins by carefully chewing and passing them around, the Independent

Dolphins like to get high. They’re smart, fun, and they like to get high.

Sound like your kind of people?

Just kidding,

The flying fish came when we were a bit farther out. Around 30 of them came out of the water at once. They were so fast I only saw a whoosh. That’s right, a cartoon “W H O O S H” spelled out in the air. (Sarcasm.) But seriously, they’re in, they’re out, they’re in. Then something funny happened where they didn’t even come all the way out, they just…jumped. Bunch of bubbles. No fish. Like pop goes the weasel, but the weasel’s poppin against a glass wall.

That evening, my dad, Sadie and I walked around by the Avalon Casino. No gambling. Casino is something like “place of entertainment or gathering” in Italian. They had red and green lighting for Xmas. We snuck around back and tried to listen to the movie Ferdinand’s audio through a door. It sounds bad.

We came back the hotel room and played one round of poker and one round of Go Fish. And then we went to bed.

The morning of the 3rd, we packed, had breakfast – I had bacon, hashbrowns, and some eggs – and went to the ecotour office. Twas there we took off for the basic short tour of not all of the island. It’s only two hours, after all.

Oddly, I started taking pictures relatively late in the tour:

 

Catalina Hills Number 1.jpg
Catalina Hills Number 2.jpg
Catalina Hills Number 3.jpg
Catalina Hills Number 4.jpg

Catalina is a beautiful place, as is most every other island on this Spaceship Earth. And just like our tour guide, Pat, did for us, I’m going to give you a bit of Catalina history. 

Like all islands, Catalina didn’t pop out with animals and plants already roaming around. The plants would’ve most likely been the first to get there, swept out to Catalina by wave and wind. Animals then follow the plants there. Especially since palm tree leaf + palm tree leaf = nicely sized raft for a nuclear rat family. Bigger animals come on bigger “rafts,” and birds fly, of course. This all takes time. The evolution of an island is the evolution of a full ecosystem. 

Catalina in particular formed not from a volcano, like all the popular islands, but from subduction. “About 200,000 million years ago, the Farallon plate, sitting under the Oceanic Plate, began to subduct, or go under the North American Plate. This movement scraped up rock and sediment from the bottom of the ocean bringing it to the surface, forming what we know today as The Channel Island chain.” (From the Catalina Island Marine Institute’s website.) Which means that Catalina is made up of three basic types of rock – igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary. Neat, right?

Skip forward just a few years (geologically speaking), and Catalina has people on it. (Yaaaay, right? Yay! Yay? Humans = good?) “There have been inhabitants on Catalina Island for the past 7,000 years. The Island’s history as a resort community spans only the last 120 years. The first Europeans to arrive claimed the Island for the Spanish Empire, it was later turned over to Mexico and then to the United States. The island has served as a stop for smugglers, gold diggers, pirates, hunters, the Union army and missionaries.” (From Visit Catalina Island’s website.) I would’ve liked to meet some pirates when I went, but alas, we missed each other by a few generations. 

1864 – James Lick owns the place. The whole island. He’s just the most recent in a succession of apparently unimportant (and therefore nameless on Visit Catalina Island’s website) owners, but he’s different (or so they say) – he was once considered one of the richest men in California. After a few passionate but short-lived attempts to start resort development there, he sells the place to…

1891 – the Sons (their names weren’t revealed, so I guess that’s their official title) of Phineas Banning! The Banning Brothers (Sons, Boys, Buddies, etc) created the Santa Catalina Island Company to start developing the island for resorty purposes, and in improving the “fancy” score of the island, they paved the first dirt roads! (Wow! What an accomplishment!) Everything was going along swimmingly until – sizzle – a fire (something you should never yell in a theatre) broke out in 1915, causing them to sell the island to none other than…

1919 – William Wrigley Jr! Yes, that one! The baseball chewing gum man! “Wrigley invested millions in the island, building infrastructure and attractions. To bring attention and tourists to the Island, he made the Island the spring training home of the Chicago Cub’s, which he owned. Wrigley built the Catalina Country Club to house the team’s lockers and provide a gathering place for players. The team continued to train on the island until 1951. In 1929, he built the iconic Catalina Casino, which boasts the world’s largest circular ballroom.” (Visit Catalina Island.) 

I’ll leave you with the Wrigley’s. Because they still own the island, to this day! They benevolently share it with the Catalina Island Conservancy.          

 Catalina has many similarities with the Galapagos, although the two don’t really compare. The Galapagos islands have many species that live there and nowhere else (gigantic tortoise, anyone?), and though less impressive in some ways, so does Catalina. St. Catherine’s Lace is native to the Channel Islands and Catalina, and I suppose it makes it cheating to note that it’s seen as a “California plant” that is allowed to grow in fancy shmancy Malibu gardens rather than an “island plant” that only grows there. 

The Catalina Island Fox is another example. We saw one on this stretch of the journey: 

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…and it was adorable. I wish I had gotten a picture of it. They’re about the size of a kitten. It wasn’t afraid of us, it just stared at us for a while. The tour was done by the Catalina Island Conservancy, and according to them: An adult fox weighs just 4 to 6 pounds and is about 25% smaller than its mainland ancestor, the gray fox. Its diet includes mice, lizards, birds, berries, insects, and cactus fruit.

For another example of an animal that only Catalina has, meet Auggie, the mini donkey. 

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Whatever you do, do not feed the Auggie.

And no, technically, donkeys and foxes aren’t marine animals.

But island life is ocean life.

Every paradise you could ever happen upon is rooted in the ocean. If the ocean becomes too hot or too cold or too acidic even in the smallest of areas, the entire cookie crumbles. 

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This is a pond within an island within the great big ocean.

The cattails depend on the pond, the pond depends on the island, the island depends on the ocean.

We depend on the ocean.

I went kayaking again on the 3rd, an hour before our boat left. Just Sadie and I that time. It was amazing. (I think I’m going to take up kayaking now…)

Every water sport, every island, every island life – you cannot underestimate the reach of the ocean.

If you like water, you should respect water. 

Sea Otters, The Fluff-balls Of The Sea

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Sea Otters

Enhydra lutris

12/14/2017

By Bill Hawks

Operation: Oceanfixer

www.operationoceanfixer.org

Why Are Sea Otters Important

Sea otters are loveable flurfy snuggle-butts, and what is called a keystone species, keystone species are animals that are crucial to the ecosystem; like a keystone in an arch/bridge, a good example of this, (besides sea otters) are sea stars, which  keep the levels of seaweed healthy, therefore, sustaining all that rely on the seaweed for food. Sea otters live in kelp, sea urchins eat kelp, sea otters eat sea urchins, dozens of species depend on the kelp for shelter, therefore, without sea otters, sea urchins destroy kelp forests.

 

Main Threats

  1. Hunting to near extinction by humans *what a surprise!* and not being able to rebound properly. Luckily that ended in the early 1900s

  2. Human adjacent issues (ex. Oil spills, pollution, fishing/bycatch)

More on Keystone Species and how They Impact the Ecosystem

     Not all keystone species are aquatic. Some animals are keystone prey, hosts, nutrient vectors (also called Keystone links),or even keystone mutualists! Okay, wait, what the heck are those!? I know, just let me explain.

     Keystone prey are animals that, despite being heavily preyed upon, maintain a large population, such as wildebeest, whom are preyed on by lions, crocodiles, and several other predators.

     Keystone hosts are mostly plants, they provide shelter and sometimes even prey to keystone species; a great example would be kelp forests and sea otters, as sea otters live in kelp forests, however they would not if it weren’t for sea urchins, one of the few that prey on kelp, and prey to sea otters.

     Next, are keystone links (nutrient vectors), grizzly bears eat salmon, grizzlys can go further inland/away from water before eating that salmon; salmon carcasses are left to decompose, this fertilizes the soil around it!

     Keystone mutualists are two or more species that work together to benefit the ecosystem, a perfect example of this would be in Patagonia, where the green-backed firecrown pollinates 20% of their local plant population, while the green-backed firecrown pollinates the plants; the plants feed it, a hummingbird’s diet is almost entirely nectar; this exchange is a win-win experience for both of them!

 

Sources:

https://defenders.org/sea-otter/threats

https://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/keystone-species/

https://seaotters.com/

http://www.marinemammalcenter.org/education/marine-mammal-information/sea-otter.html?gclid=CjwKCAiA6qPRBRAkEiwAGw4SdlY3M4xIYD1Dl4nnV85F0M9mIXfbosBhLAdZOjqaCP-HFi4IjHvO9hoC4ooQAvD_BwE?referrer=https://www.google.com/

 

And Now……This.

Because you deserve this in your life, here are some live sea (and river) otter web cams, that will ensure you have a good day!

http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/animals-and-experiences/live-web-cams/sea-otter-cam?gclid=CjwKCAiA6qPRBRAkEiwAGw4Sdma2rFjFnDe0YxtajbN6rFFWK-EQFmhWPx9QqCXd364h8R99jvoTnxoCYOYQAvD_BwE

http://www.tennesseeaquarium.org/animals-exhibits/river-otter-falls-cam/?gclid=CjwKCAiA6qPRBRAkEiwAGw4SdjRgmRm5O-gGn_ZGzwN3I2CGDkY_rBKTBwg7dO9Tkmtgfxm9Oi71fhoCQKAQAvD_BwE

https://www.vanaqua.org/learn/see-and-learn/live-cams/sea-otter-cam

http://www.seattleaquarium.org/otter-cams

http://www.vanaqua.org/learn/see-and-learn/live-cams/underwater-otter

http://www.vanaqua.org/learn/see-and-learn/live-cams/baby-otter

Ocean Killers

BY SHELLY L. BLACK

 

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But OK, is it just me, or are these THE cutest animals EVER?!

Well if you have half a brain, then you will be nodding 'yes' and smiling at the adorable baby animals.

But we are KILLING these animals. Have you ever had a wrapper and thought "oh how much dammage can ONE wrapper do?!" and tossed it onto the ground?  Well guess what? One peice of plastic can kill something as big as this guy:

 

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4 Ocean killing problems

1). Speedboat strikes

Speedboats going really fast near marine mammals is dangerous because mammals need air. Strikes are scars from speedboats on an animals body. Strikes are so prominent on manatees that scientists can identify individuals by their strikes

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Manatees also known as sea cows, share an order with their cousins. Fort the speedboats there is no time to avoid them. Think about it. If there is an air-breathing mammal in the ocean, it will come up for air (otherwise it dies); if there are any boats around, once again particularly speedboats, it is likely going to get hit.

Of course many manatees die yearly due to this cause; manatees have very few natural predators, so obviously the human race had to mess that up. They could get their tails caught, be striked “normally”, or get a direct hit to the head and die immediately; even if it’s not a direct hit to the head, many manatees die just from the blood loss There are laws and speed limits, but since when did everyone obey and care about the law? These laws barely help, and for a law to be obeyed, it must be enforced!. I believe that boating in areas in which manatees are common, should be banned.

2). Fishing nets/ghost nets

Ghost nets are nets that fishermen abandon that can continue killing for up to 500 years. For marine mammals they are particularly dangerous because marine mammals still need air so they drown.

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Don't let his adorable baby sea otter drown!

3). Oil pollution

Oil pollution literally suffocates the water. It sucks up oxygen and if caught on fire can trap animals.

 Oil spill--Disaster type

Oil spill--Disaster type

If you look up oil spill, it is listed as ‘disaster type’ just like brush fires and tornadoes, and floods.

To save the ocean we need to implant filters and patrols.

4). Sea ice breaking--global warming

If sea ice breaks to early in the year, it is really really hard for polar bears to find food. This is the result of global warnings, there will be no sea ice by 2040, and polar bears gone sometime between now and then. When the ice breaks early it leaves the polar bears stranded in the middle of the ocean!

 A stranded polar bear family, to far to other ice to swim.

A stranded polar bear family, to far to other ice to swim.

We need to take down pollution rates and stop smoke pollution and unclean factory production!

If we don't take action, then that makes us ocean killers.

What's Going On

WHAT WE ARE DOING TO OUR OCEANS

GOLDIE MARINA

The oceans of yesterday teemed with fish and swarmed with marine diversity. But what the oceans of tomorrow will hold is a mystery. Maybe a few worms? Will there even be grass? The question we have to ask ourselves is why? What's the reason? Do we not like our animals? Is there anyone out there who can say they would rather an empty ocean? If you yourself care in any way about nature than you should take a step back and look at what we are doing to our oceans.

OVERFISHING

Have you ever eaten a piece of sushi? Or had a fish fillet or a fish stick. Most people have because fish is a commonly eaten food. What people don't think about is that fish doesn't just fall from the sky. We have to fish for it obviously. But sticking in one bait at a time and waiting isn't enough for a fishing company. So they got new techniques that are more efficient. But the more efficient these new techniques become the more fish are becoming endangered. The more fish are going extinct. Fish is only good for less than a week, that means that it has to be prepared sold and consumed in under a week, and when it's not it's thrown to waste. So more fish is fished, and any animal that's caught and unwanted is thrown back into the ocean. Dead. and that's how we are killing our ocean. More and more marine animals are going extinct, you name it and it's endangered. It is estimated that the oceans are gonna be empty by 2048. That is less than 40 years away and in most of our lifetime. But 40 years is also enough time to stop it. But we would have to do it quick.

WHAT WE CAN DO

First off spread the news. Let people see the facts. Next we should let your senators or who ever is in office hear our side if enough people talk to them about it they will say something. There should be a limit to the amount of fish caught and a law against using certain nets, some species should be left to themselves for at least a few years to regenerate there should be safe places where any type of fish could go to be safe from fisher men. So spread the word and help make a difference. Because this is important and everyone should know.

Shark Fin Soup

SHELLY L. BLACK

One day you find yourself in a popular Chinese restaurant with a hankering for some soup.

“Shark fin is always a favorite!”

“Okay, I’ll take that!”

They bring you a bowl of hot soup, and you devour it.

In your bowl is not chicken, or cow, or anything like that. It is shark (hence the name).

How is this even made, how is this even legal! Well, how is this legal? This is one of many things causing sharks to be endangered, fisheries bring in whole sharks, to do what? To take only their fin. Everything else is wasted! An entire life to only take a fin. What is this? Only 6% of restaurants in China don’t serve it! It is illegal in California, but since when does that stop people? It is still not illegal to kill whole sharks, but it is not allowed to sell the fins. This could be twisted so easily! If we don’t take action, then soon there won’t even be sharks! Just imagine how that would mess up the entire ecosystem, between parasites and birds, it would be a worldwide catastrophe!

OK, if you still would go to China and eat shark, regardless of the shark. Then if you don’t care about the shark, how about you?

In China, people say that it is great for you, but it’s not! Eating shark fin soup risks getting dementia. It contains HIGH levels of BMAA, and BMAA causes degenerative brain diseases. As well as preventing reproduction in men and causing birth defects in pregnant women, it has no health properties, like a normal soup would. If you won’t say NO to shark fin soup for sharks, do it for humans.

Donald Trump recently had shark fin soup. The brain disease is not a threat to him since he obviously already has it. This is also a terrible example for a leader to set! Although you most likely will not be eating Shark fin soup, it is important to know about it, and to:

SAY NO TO SHARK FIN SOUP!

Sources: huffingtonpost.com, rsmas.miami.ed

My Favorite Beaches In SoCal

ZMKF aka DORKY SHARK

Along with finding solutions to problems, we also occasionally do the online equivalent of a newspaper’s lifestyle/travel column! Just kidding. I don’t actually know. Maybe this is just a one time thing. But whatever this is, be prepared to feel an urge to visit the beach!

By the way, by SoCal I mean “Los Angeles county.”

1. This exact spot.

Follow my directions exactly if you wish to be at my special spot. Yes, the whole of Palisades Park is beautiful, but the spot is top of the staircase that aligns with the corner of Ocean Ave and Arizona. You don’t have to go down the staircase, just stand/sit there at the top and look at the view.

2. This jetty.

Marina Del Rey, that’s right. This beach is, to the layman, far from beautiful. I have an eye for things that look lost and useless and industrial and dystopian (which is why I love the port of Los Angeles). I happen to think the view from the little pier is quite pretty. But there is trash everywhere. I would strip down and go into the water to get it myself if I could walk. (Yeah, that’s right! I use a wheelchair. All these places are hence accessible.) It is definitely not the Bahamas. Far from it. The view to the north (and south, I guess) reminds me of two things: one, an ancient harbor kingdom, like Carthage or something from straight fantasy, and two - it reminds me that there is work to do. It is the place I go to think of solutions. It is the place I go to allow a bit (just a bit, don’t worry!) of darkness and bitterness into this ocean-saving work. This little jetty reminds me there is work to be done.

Go to the jetty. I don’t mean to scare you away from it. You won’t step out of the car and suddenly feel depressed. All the jetty does for me, really, is remind me, I can’t ignore what we’ve been doing when I’m looking right at it.

3. Santa Monica Beach 

 

 

This beach is very stereotypically beautiful. It has a long bike path and a few restaurants along it, if you use a wheelchair and really can’t walk (I sort of walk badly holding onto a walker/walls/people) I’m sorry to say you won’t be able to get on the sand unless you have one of those fancy beach wheelchairs (lucky you, then!), but there are “sand piers” (not actual piers), wooden paths that branch of the main one that you can walk/ride down that lead closer to the beach.

Nice place. Pleasant place.

4. Asilomar Park 

This is the opposite of the jetty for me. It is filled with light and happiness and the view of the sunset is wonderful. I discovered it (maybe) a year ago when I was driving around with my dad. It is my absolute favorite place to go. It allows me to be with my thoughts without drowning in them, again, sort of the opposite of the jetty for me. This place makes me feel utter joy. If it gets really creepily hot over there, I might stay away, but if it gets cold...I’m there pretty much no matter what.

All in all, these places will always be my favorite places to be. Global warming will lead Earth to insane extremes and new heights of architecture and design. Los Angeles, for instance, might become a winter destination...or a rare destination. As they say about the mail, "Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds." I might live far away and have Asilomar Park or the jetty as they are now be only memories, but the memories will be good ones. Powerful ones.           

A Letter On Ocean Health From My Generation To My Parents’

ZMKF aka DORKY SHARK

I can’t decide how to start this…

“How dare you leave this to us?” Harsh. Bitter. Scared. Betrayed.

Or,

“Don’t worry, we’ll take it from here.” Gentle. Calm. Optimistic. No blame.

Both seem like good options.

I guess it depends on the person, really, but in general…in general, my generation hasn’t done enough to help heal the ocean either. I hear the millenials are doing well with that. I’m kidding, of course. Age doesn’t really matter.

But time does.

My friends and I are now working on a site, this site, to save 71 percent of the Earth’s surface. (The ocean.)

This site is a general site that contains links to more specific ocean-saving sites, such as marine animal conservancies, or particular scientific/technological endeavors. The fact that no site has acted as a bridge between the public and the progress before now is disheartening, but it makes us feel special. We are the first. Boy, are we – eventually – going to be popular.

Age doesn’t matter. You could be 23, 34, 45, 64 but still rockin it, 73 but still absolutely rockin it…age doesn’t matter. When I say that this is from my generation to yours, I mean:

You were my age once. You guys, and the few generations before you guys, you and your friends and your parents all started learning about these problems as they begun. Please tell me that learning any type of marine science is simply a new thing that only happens in awesome schools (thanks, Mary!), and that you simply never learned about how bad it was going to get. Because if you did learn, if you knew…tell me what happened.

If you’re reading this and you are a teacher, or an actually sustainable fisherperson, or someone who works to replenish reefs, or anybody who’s trying, then this is not a cry for you to never have any free time. I just want you to see I care too. 

If you learned it then dropped it and stayed inland or just never really looked at the beach right next door, this is for you.        

If you have ever asked yourself, “Why the ocean?”

Don’t.

Don’t even ask.

But I’ll tell you anyways.

There’s gotta be something good hidden in 71 percent of your planet’s surface, right?

“Prochlorococcus and other ocean phytoplankton are responsible for 70 percent of Earth's oxygen production. However, some scientists believe that phytoplankton levels have declined by 40 percent since 1950 due to the warming of the ocean. Ocean temperature impacts the number of phytoplankton in the ocean.” – Save The Plankton, Breathe Freely – National Geographic Society

And ya know what affects ocean temperature? Planet temperature! Global warming! Fun, right?

Rainforests are meaningful, and they need to be saved. Just like all forests. But for their wildlife, not for their oxygen production.

Okay, next fun fact about the ocean!

The oceans hold 97 percent of the Earth’s water. We like water, remember? The Native Americans are right – water is life. The ocean, in general, gives us the life we have. The ocean literally takes the heat from global warming for us.

“This excess energy has largely been sucked up by the oceans, which have a huge capacity to store heat. As the oceans store more heat, however, they expand. Scientists have shown that over the past decade, this thermal expansion has caused about one-third of the rise in sea levels.” – Oceans Are Absorbing Almost All of the Globe’s Excess Heat, The New York Times

That, my friends, is something we should be terrified of and grateful for. If it weren’t the ocean, we’d be feeling global warming how it really is.

Third and final fun fact!

The coral reefs are dying…and you may not care now, but oh boy, you will soon. And I will be laughing maniacally and very bitterly at you while looking you straight in the eyes. Coral reefs hold up biodiversity. Name your favorite seafood. I guarantee you that it is tied, by food chain or by geography, to the reefs. Reefs host breeding, feeding, and fighting. The jobs that coral reefs inspire humans to take bring us billions of dollars in income. And if you support politicians who market themselves on bringing people jobs, support the ocean! Millions of jobs are performed in around 100 different countries, around and at the reefs.   

The ocean is important.

The ocean cannot wait.

The ocean is worth your time and effort.

Even if the time is 30 seconds and the effort is sending this article in an email.

The ocean is not yours to own but if it helps, treat it as such.

There are still things you can do.

But if you ever doubt yourself…or simply get tired of fighting to solve problems that seem to keep coming back…or maybe you’re just worried about what’s coming after your time of fighting is over…

I’m here. My friends and I, we won’t excuse your struggles with this but we will cut you some slack.

And we’ll take charge.

Now is the time.

I am here for you, all of you.

I am here for the ocean, the planet, the flora and fauna.

Lastly, I’m here for myself.

I can’t let this go.

I wonder how you did.

Let me point something out to you. You are a good person. Even though you let it go. But while you sit here having a moral or philosophical argument about whether you should take action now, or whether you will make a difference, or whether you ruined your chance…“Hundreds of thousands of sea turtles, whales, and other marine mammals, and more than 1 million seabirds die each year from ocean pollution and ingestion or entanglement in marine debris.” http://www.seeturtles.org/ocean-plastic/ As you would see if you’d read my shark op-ed piece before this one, about 11, 417 sharks die every hour. Oil spills are thankfully not as common as the pessimist would expect, but whenever they do happen, the part of the ecosystem in which the oil spreads is contaminated. The animals need to be cleansed in a way that they can’t do themselves to survive, not even birds or otters. A beautiful, huge, worthy species that you didn’t even know existed is already extinct and has been for 249 years – Steller’s Sea Cow. 26 to 30 feet long, they were wiped less than 30 years after they were “discovered” by “the Westerners.” (Russians, Northern American immigrants who don’t like to think of themselves as immigrants, etc.) “The smallest and the rarest marine dolphin in the world - the Maui dolphin - is on the verge of disappearing forever. There are no more than 47 of these mammals left in the wild, existing in just a sliver of ocean on the west coast of New Zealand's North Island.” https://www.thedodo.com/fewer-than-50-of-these-dolphins-remain-on-the-planet-1168357358.html As you can see, there is much to be done. But we’ll help. And you are a good person. Don’t doubt that.

You might not make a difference. You might. You might find that there’s so much to work on that you don’t know where or how to start. And you might feel like you can’t forgive yourself for ignoring this. But crying about the ocean alone in your room for longer than an hour isn’t going to help the ocean. You may feel depressed about what we tell you. There’s one way to feel better, and that’s to ignore it. You’ve already tried that.

Now try action. Just try. See where it takes you.

I will guide you.

We will guide you.