While scientists, politicians and other experts remain unsure about the pandemic’s long and short environmental effects, one thing it’s clearly not affecting is the PADI family’s passion and concern for the underwater world. Even as the world’s still focused mainly on COVID, 19-27 September hundreds of PADI Resorts, Dive Centers, Professionals and Divers stepped away from their new-normals to conduct and take part in ocean conservation efforts as part of the third annual AWARE Week. Using face coverings, distancing and other measures as required, throughout the week divers cleared hundreds of kilos of garbage in Dive Against Debris® surveys and conducted ocean conservation outreaches to communities, and engaged people in other environmentally-focused events – check out some of the action here. Beyond these events, AWARE Week touched the lives of at least 3.8 million people via social and conventional media. On behalf of the entire PADI organization, thanks to all of you who were part of these.
AWARE Week also marked the formal introduction of the five central PADI Torchbearer goals – broad actions that anyone who cares about healthy sustainable seas must be aware of and take, and that I imagine most Torchbearers already do.
1. Stand Up for the Ocean. Famed aviator Charles Lindbergh said, “It’s almost as easy to stand up as it is to sit down,” and that’s certainly true for us. As PADI Torchbearers, we often make a huge difference just by adding our names to petitions for conservation and the environment, writing government authorities, uniting with other groups for common purpose or simply (politely and respectfully) correcting health-of-the-seas misinformation in everyday life. Often, it takes at most minutes, yet it’s how we’ve added dozens of threatened shark species to the CITES protection lists, and it was public support helped get Florida’s ban on shark finning through – on 18 September, the day before AWARE Week started. (And if you haven’t yet, add your voice to the PADI Torchbearer movement).
2. Assume Responsibility. It’s scary to look in the mirror and say “it’s up to me.” It means we’re taking on the role of ocean caretakers and stewards, no matter what others do. If the seas don’t do well, it’s on us – no excuses and no finger pointing.
But while scary and challenging, taking responsibility is an empowering decision –weight on our shoulders gives us traction, metaphorically speaking. It gets us going and unites us as a global community acting on behalf of, well, the bigger global community because everyone needs a healthy ocean, whether they realize it or not.
3. Dive with a Purpose. As PADI Torchbearers, we are the hands, eyes and ears for ocean science, the arms and legs for ocean cleanup and the mouth for the ocean’s voice. Diving with purpose elevates every dive from just-another-sightsee to opportunities we don’t want to waste: surveying, research participation, debris collection, teaching, restoring, documenting.
At the very least, every dive is an opportunity to share what we saw – for better and worse – with the rest of the world through social media. “What [human]kind wants is not talent;” said English stateman Edward G. Bulwer-Lytton, “it is purpose.” Being PADI Torchbearers gives us a purpose in spades – saving the ocean.
4 & 5. Reduce Our Carbon Footprint and Make Sustainable Choices. It wasn’t long ago that reducing carbon and choosing sustainable were not something we did easily. And, while it’s sometimes still cumbersome, as people like you and me speak up, demand and expect it (Goal 1), consumer choices are pushing things the other way. A decade ago, you rarely saw EVs (electric vehicles); today they’re common in many places, and in a decade they’re expected to outsell fossil-fuel vehicles. Similarly, recycle-sourced products, plastic alternatives and dozens of low carbon, sustainable new choices are available – and it’s our responsibility to buy accordingly (Goal 2). This not only drives the demand, but trends sustainable, low carbon footprint products toward lower cost and rising availability.
Again with EVs –prices are declining, batteries are improving (range is no longer an issue for most purposes) and the operational costs are already considerably lower than gas vehicles. It’s expected that by 2022 EVs will be the better choice economically, not just environmentally. Why? Largely (arguably not entirely) because we’re buying more and more EVs.
Sometimes environmental messages rage against the shortsightedness of previous generations – forgetting that hindsight is always 20/20. Sometimes they express despair – forgetting that while there’s a lot to do, things are far from hopeless. I prefer playwright and humorist James Thurber’s perspective when he said, “Let us not look back in anger, nor forward in fear, but around in awareness.”
Seek adventure. Save the ocean.
President & CEO PADI Worldwide