A group of whale watchers observe a humpback whale breaching in the Salish Sea. (Shalu Mehta/News Staff)

Victoria ocean advocates encourage residents to explore connection to ocean

World Oceans Day takes place on June 8

As Canada, and the rest of the world, mark June 8 as World Oceans Day, some Vancouver Island advocates are encouraging residents to learn, work on ocean and waterway activism and really look at solutions to some of the earth’s issues.

University of Victoria environmental studies professor Elin Kelsey is a leading expert in hope and the environment. Six years ago, Kelsey got together with other researchers to start #OceanOptimism, a campaign to shift the current environmental narrative beyond the “doom and gloom” and highlight ocean solutions that are actually happening in the world.

“Ocean Optimism grew out of the idea that the vast majority of ways people learn about the environment is through news which is very oriented on problem identification,” Kelsey said. “It’s important but it means it’s not a complete story. There are all kinds of things in play that are already giving us important results.”

Kelsey said a barrier for the environmental movement has been the belief that fear and shame are the dominant ways to motivate action. However, she says the most recent psychological research shows it ends up causing people to feel apathetic, hopeless and just give up.

“The more powerful way to engage people with these issues is through pride and showing that they are part of a bigger collective,” Kelsey said, noting that many people are already aware of the issues that exist. “The days when you’re just trying to tell people about a problem are well past us.”

READ ALSO: WATCH: 7th annual World Oceans Day makes a splash at Fishermans Wharf

This year is set to be a big one for the ocean as researchers and governments are setting new targets for protected areas, Kelsey said. She added researchers are even assessing the value of one whale in terms of its positive impact on fishing, carbon capture and ecotourism.

In Victoria, local Ocean Bridge ambassador Chelsea Power has collaborated with other youth to lead initiatives in the region to serve the community, oceans and waterways.

Ocean Bridge is a program that brings together 160 young adults aged 18 to 30 across Canada who are all passionate about making a difference when it comes to oceans and waterway conservation. It is an initiative led by the Ocean Wise Conservation Association, a global organization on a mission to protect and restore the world’s oceans.

Power, along with Ocean Bridge alumni Kirsten Mathison, had planned a Salish Sea Bioblitz and speaker series for the week of June 8 to 13 but will be postponing the events to a future date to make space for another social justice cause – the Black Lives Matter movement that has been sparked across the world.

The bioblitz will get people out to the Salish Sea to identify as much biodiversity in the area as possible using an app called iNaturalist. A new date has not yet been set but information can be found at georgiastrait.org.

READ ALSO: Gorge Waterway the focus of Ocean’s Day event in Esquimalt

Power said learning about the ocean and finding ways to protect and restore it is important because it affects people’s lives in tangible ways.

“It’s easy for someone who lives in a coastal city like Victoria to appreciate its beauty but we should be diving in deep to the profound ways the ocean supports us,” Power said. “Two-thirds of our oxygen comes from the ocean, so much of our culture and food is based around it and the economy is dependent on it.”

Kelsey said people should take a look at the solutions that have been created so far to support the ocean and the environment, noting the ocean is the largest habitat on earth.

“There are 8.7 million other species on the planet and majority of them are ocean-based,” Kelsey said.

Kelsey will be releasing a book in October about hope in the environment. It can be found online at Greystone Books.

More information about Oceans Week in Victoria can be found at oceansweekvictoria.ca.

shalu.mehta@blackpress.ca


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