SEA Currents: Corwith Cramer
November 19, 2018
Love is Risky
After a wonderfully exhausting day in the sun yesterday, our class was happy for a rest this morning. We have managed to keep sunburns to a minimum, although everyone is sporting a new “toasty” glow. It seems a common theme in our class to fill every minute of our time here in order to make the most of each day. In Woods Hole, we met Eddy, a member of the crew on the research vessel Alucia, who told us that we “can sleep when we’re dead.” But, even reluctantly, I think we can admit the value in recharging for a bit (if only to go full steam ahead again a few hours later). Several of us enjoyed a morning yoga class while others took the chance to sleep in.
These first few days in Grenada have been, quite literally, filled with experiences I’ve only dreamed of since I was a child. Having never been anywhere like this, the real landscapes I see now before me are the same ones associated since young childhood with images of island vacations on tv advertisements and flyers for cruise ships. And now that I’m here, I’m so eager to replace this dream version of Grenada with real experiences and conversations.
A great opportunity to do just that arose this afternoon, when we met with a group of St. George’s University students who are part of a conservation group called ECO (Education Conservation Outreach). They spoke about the outreach work they do in Grenada, especially with young children, in order to spark scientific curiosity and a love for the ocean early on. We presented snacks to our ECO friends, some of which were more of a hit than others. We learned that “ants on a log,” (celery with peanut butter and raisins) was more humorous than tasty to most. The sunny afternoon went quickly as we snacked and chatted on Dodgy Dock.
My group spoke with three women who study marine biodiversity and conservation. We talked about our current SEA research projects and future passions. A few of their anecdotes about entering the field of marine conservation stuck with me. They spoke about a reef restoration project they had recently been a part of, and mentioned that just when the coral were growing and doing well, the whole site was either struck by an unaware vessel or perhaps entangled by fishing gear. Because of one careless act, their hard work and the potential benefits of this new reef were wiped away. This sort of story illustrates just how emotionally draining this career choice can be. The students seemed to think that coral reef conservation is perhaps the most heartbreaking of the marine conservation specialties. So much so, that one student said she would go into the field of waste management instead.
We can only hope to harness the intense desire we feel to protect these environments in a productive way and to motivate others to do the same, despite the inevitable setbacks. Unfortunately, I think a strong passion for conservation goes hand in hand with some heartbreak along the way. Perhaps the best we can do is to lean into that weight as a reminder of what’s at stake. During our time at Woods Hole we shared favorite childhood lessons to live by, derived from nursery rhymes. One of these lessons, which the class has taken ownership of, is that “love is risky.” Even as we find that this holds true in the field of marine conservation, and that setbacks are disheartening, we cannot shy away from whatever makes our heart hurt—we have to do the opposite. The other lessons which came out of this fateful conversation were “no bullying,” “food web,” and “friends of the ocean.” I have no doubt that these class rules, which we often call upon, will all take on new and deeper meaning as we continue to learn and laugh together throughout Caribbean Reef Expedition.
See you soon!
Laura Blum, Middlebury College