"...He prayeth well, who loveth well, Both man and bird and beast.

He prayeth best, who loveth best, All things both great and small;
for the dear God who loveth us, He made and loveth all..."

The Rime of the Anchient Mariner -Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Sea Turtles Are Delicious

It’s true what they say about ‘not knowing something until you have to teach it.’ I’ve been working with a group of fishermen’s wives doing workshops and activities, setting up a syllabus and session plans, and activities etc. Wearing the mantle of a teacher, ecologist (they were calling me ‘la ecologista’ for a while), and authority is fairly stressful. To compensate for the fact that I’m not really any of these titles, I organize, I create, I research, and I learn—and I evolve into a quasi- authority, a teacher, a facilitator, a student; I assert that having a Marine & Environmental Science degree does not make me a Marine Scientist nor an Environmental Scientist, rather I think it made me an environmentalist: I care.

I laugh at myself when I think that during Peace Corps training I freely admitted that I knew nothing about the Water Cycle. Now I proudly think to myself that I and 20 other women know about the Water Cycle, Watersheds, and how the impacts of pollution in one stage affects another…the world is interconnected. My dad would say that this world is a ‘zero sum game’, or in other words: benefits come at the expense of something else (plus one for you) + (minus one for them) = zero. I think these ladies are getting it! We made battery collection bins out of plastic jugs and delivered them to local stores/public places (because none of us would dare through a battery into the trash or a body of water, right?). Today, we talked about Sustainable Development and Community Development, and together picked a project/activity that would make their neighborhood a better place. We voted on renovating a basketball court for August! My fellow volunteer and I are going to request money from the Peace Corps’ 50th Anniversary Event Fund for this project which is meant to promote volunteerism in our communities. This is a great first event, and I think it’ll be a promising and positive event.

I must mention that of all the things I’ve had to learn in order to impart a workshop/enviro-chat, I’ve most enjoyed learning about sea turtles! The following should be required viewing:

1) Sea Turtle Puppet Show- an amazingly well done puppet show that is captivating even/especially for adults. LOVED IT!

2) A Televisa Special Report (in Spanish) on Sea Turtles during the month of October in Ixtapilla, Jalisco MEX. MADE ME CRY, it was so heartwarming.

Basically, sea turtles are a 150 million year old species that take 15 year to reach maturity to nest, always returning to the beaches they were born on. Only about 5 little turtles of the 100 eggs a mother turtle will lay will make it back to nest. Those 5 little turtles have a big bad ocean to navigate through-- from drowning in shrimp fishermen’s nets, being caught by bated hooks, eating plastic bags that they mistake for jellyfish, or ingesting pollution (think oil spills, or mercury). Should they make it back after 15 years, will the lights of a new hotel disorient them, or will their eggs be harvested for sale? The eggs sell for 6 MEX Pesos (60 cents), and people love turtle soup here…though no one admits it. When I asked the ladies what they knew about turtles, besides the fact ‘that they were delicious’, I was beside myself with how much they knew! They say that they know it’s illegal and would not intentionally kill one, but once it’s dead it would be wasteful to not eat it…

A ‘State of the Ocean’ report put out last month forecasts that the sea life will be endangered by the end of the century if the world’s oceans are not given a Protected Status now. It said that the ocean’s plankton naturally absorbs CO2 (and give off O2 acting as lungs of the earth on the scale of the Amazon), and that an increase of CO2 in the atmosphere is causing an increase in the acidity (pH level) of the ocean water. This is affecting the ability of organizisms to make shells CaCO2 (b/c acid dissolves calcium carbonate). A small change like this can have a large change in ecosystems and food chains; for example, increased ocean acidity affects tetrapods’ shell, so if their populations decrease, so will the herring that feed on them; increased acidity causes ‘coral bleaching’, when the coral expels its hosts and dies, which would then mean that the marine life that depend on the corals for feeding, breeding & protection would lose their habitat, not to mention the economic impacts.
After a month and a half here in my new site, I’m so much further along than I was in my previous site in terms of work. In terms of personal relationships/friendships, I will say that it was easier to know people back in the ‘rancho’. People here are just as nice, but I can’t just waltz in to their home and expect them to know who I am...not yet anyway. I would say that my closest friendship is my host-mom, who is admirable in so many ways. Work hours: I didn’t really see myself having workhours in the Peace Corps, but I do. My goal is to make it out to the beach after work as much as possible (this week I only did it once)…diving into the waves and watching the sunset on the beach on a routine basis…nice. I haven’t been waking up for a morning run on the beach anymore…but to know that I can…nice too.