Now, I know what most of you will think upon reading the title of this post. WTF is she thinking…to each his own, right?
Indeed. This week is my heaven. Being surrounded by so many people, from so many places that have come together for one purpose is absolutely the best thing I could have ever done. Everybody is here because they care about our planet: it’s tangible, you can feel the energy in the crowd…everybody wants to do something. And there are people here from everywhere, literally! Today alone, I met a woman from an island chain off the coast of Australia, the Whitsunday Islands, who started a Marine Debris Removal Program and is trying desperately to get funding for her project. I met people who work for NASA, various branches of NOAA, a grad student at Duke University and one at Hawaii Pacific University…all these people from all walks of life…united over this single issue. Plastic pollution. Marine debris.
What I’m really loving about this conference is the amount of information that’s getting put out there in a way that it’s not overwhelming. There are posters up in the Exhibit Hall (mine’s up until Wednesday!), various vendors, small talks (~15min), panel discussions…everything is succinct, understandable and leaves lots of good messages, but also raises questions and discussion. Today I heard talks ranging from seabird entanglement with plastic fishing gear to a presentation titled “Sleeping with the Enemy! – Can an environmental NGO and the plastics industry work together to prevent marine litter?”. This is the kind of multi-faceted approach that I think is really going to get solutions going. Linking science and industry, science and politics. If we can convince the people that have the power to change things to actually implement change, we might be able to finally do something profound, long-lasting and far-reaching!
It also helps to have events like the one I got to participate in tonight: mingling with conference participants over free-flowing Kona Brewery beers (yes, it is tasty and yes, I have had my fair share of Longboards in the past 2 days), delicious Hawaiian food and a fantastic venue, The Bishop Museum. All-access to the grounds, a planetarium visit and chit chat with people about so many different things…really brings the whole day together. 🙂
Coming into the conference, I expected to talk to people about marine debris and how their jobs and research related to the overarching topic…but during these evening events and breaks in sessions, I’m finding that I’m actually learning culture, geography, history and politics. I’m expanding my world-view through the lens of this conference, and it’s because of marine debris that I get to do that. How awesome is that?! I’m blown away.
I’ve been taking chicken-scratch notes throughout the day, but as it’s 10:45pm HST and conference goings-on start at 8:30am sharp (and because, since I’m in Hawaii, I might as well go for an AM run along the beach ;-))…I need some sleep. I’ll save most of my notes for a later, post-conference post when I can synthesize what all I’ve learned. For now, though, I’ll leave you, my dear readers with an expert from a song that was sung to us this morning by Kalani, the Hawaiian cultural speaker/storyteller/singer, etc. He and his band wrote the song especially for the conference and it was moving. Like…goosebumps-up-my-arms moving.
“There is only one, big blue ocean/It’s the sky above, it’s the air we breathe/And the water, is the deep connection.”