If you were to ask me who my hero’s in life were, I would have a tough time answering. I have different people that I respect for their contributions to the world of conservation and the obvious always spring to mind; David Attenburgh, Sylvia Earle, the entire Cousteau family, Ove Hoegh-Guldburgh, Callum Roberts, Charlie Veron. They are all people that would not have made me the conservationist I am today. Their teachings and works are truly inspirational. And although these people, among others have had a huge impact on my career direction, it is often in other places that I find motivation on a day to day basis. In this way, I suppose a few of my biggest inspirations are NFL Coach Marty Schottenheimer, Ernest Hemingway, Stephen King, and Winnie the Pooh. Now that sounds odd, even to me, but let me explain.
I have always been a sucker for a good motivational speaker. During my university rowing days, I would always listen to the Al Pacino ‘Inches’ speech from Any Given Sunday to get me into that fighting mode on race day, activating the Adrenalin. Even after having watched it many times, it can still make my neck hairs stand on end. “We can stay here and get the sh!t kicked out of us, or we can fight our way back into the light, we can climb outta hell, one inch at a time.” “Life is a game of inches” he says. Recently I was rereading the Tao of Pooh. It’s a funny little book that tries (very successfully) to explain Taoist teachings through Winnie the Pooh. The author, Benjamin Hoff, explains that when he first started to write the book, many people exclaimed that it was “preposterous” and “where would you even begin?” To which he replied, “A thousand-mile journey starts with one step.”
Now individually, one would never really think to pair a film about American Football with Winnie the Pooh and Taoism and yet those two quotes go so well together. Basically, “start at the very beginning, and take it one inch at a time.”
So let’s apply that to conservation.
It is becoming truer every day that there is plenty to do to reduce the impact that humans are having on the environment but while working for The Reef-World Foundation we are trying to protect coral reefs by encouraging dive and snorkel operators to follow a code of conduct. Despite it being a proven way to minimise the risk of environmental damage, I work with naysayers, people with motivation but ultimately low capacity to change, people lacking motivation but with high capacity to change and those who go all out to ensure that their environmental conscience is clear, regardless of the actions of others. With each stakeholder, and each task, I start at the beginning and take it one inch at a time
And sometimes it gets too much. Every now and again it is nice to work with people who share in your mission to better deal with those people who seem determined to oppose everything you know is scientific fact. And in this way, ignorance truly is bliss. The most motivated people I work with are often also the people who are having their water pipes dug up for being an ‘environmental activist’ or going to bed at night feeling their efforts are just too small a drop in the ocean. These “enlightened ones” are often the people who are unhappy with the current global/local situation while the naysayers continue in their blissful ignorance.
So really it comes down to two camps. Are you motivated to change, or are you living in ignorance? In the Shawshank Redemption, Andy DeFresne says to Red, “You either get busy living or get busy dying”. In the warped way my mind makes connections, to me, that means, you either get busy trying to make the world a better place or you end up being part of the problem. And for my final motivation, I refer to The Old Man and the Sea by Ernst Hemmingway. It doesn’t matter what other people think of you, it is about getting up and fighting for what you believe in till the very end. There will always be people trying take away the things you fight hardest for, but the only thing that matters is how hard you are willing to fight back (in the book, its sharks fighting the old man for his hard-earned fishing catch).
And once all is said and done, rest well, because tomorrow is another day!
PS. Actually, having rewatched that Al Pacino Speech about 5 more times, just go ahead and watch the whole thing, right now. And be part of the team that fights for that inch