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Make Your World Bigger in 2016 #mywbpledge

25 Jan

‘And I asked myself about the present: how wide it was, how deep it was, how much was mine to keep.’ – Kurt Vonnegut Jr

Those of you who follow me on Twitter (You don’t? Seriously? Why not? Find me here: @ThatPaulCoxon) will know I have been talking about Discovery Channel’s Make Your World Bigger pledges (#mywbpledge) for 2016 quite a bit over the last month.

This is the second year for the Discovery campaign, having already inspired lots of people in 2015 to get outside and out of their comfort zones to do something incredible, something they would not normally do and something that they have always wanted to do. In short, people made their world’s bigger and, in 2016, the pledges are back, better than ever…

Here’s what Discovery Channel has to say about the campaign:

At Discovery we think there’s always more to know, explore and experience: life is about collecting moments, not things. Because every moment, insight and experience makes us grow.

Not just the big stuff, like exploring the limits of outer space, or the depths of the ocean. (Though we do that too.) But everyday stuff, like taking an alternative route to work. Talking to someone different in the office. Trying a new dish at lunchtime.

To try, succeed, fail. And move on, all the better for it.

Every day we go in search of surprise and wonder. It’s not just our job. It lies at the heart of what we believe and how we live our lives. It’s in our DNA.
And to the millions who share our view, come and join us. Make Your World Bigger. – Source

There’s probably something sitting unfulfilled at the back of your mind, something you have wanted to do for as long as you can remember, but haven’t been able to either because of time or money. If this sounds like you, why not make your pledge today, simply go on Twitter and tweet your pledge along with the Hashtag #mywbpledge.

Discovery will be taking the top 15 pledges and opening them up to a public vote with the top 3 pledges after voting set to receive £5000 to make their world bigger in 2016. You’ll need to be relatively quick though as the competition closes on Sunday 31 January.
Find out more about the 2016 campaign here: Make Your World Bigger in 2016.

The ever-increasing borders of our world

One of the things I am most grateful to my parents for is showing me, by inspiring me to read and travel, that the world is a huge place and that, if I wanted to, there would be opportunity a-plenty to explore it. They dearly wanted their son’s world to be bigger than theirs had been growing up and I’ll always be thankful for that. One of the many things my wife, Lara, and I have in common is a shared desire to see new sights and experience new things, which has meant we have been able to pursue experiences our parents could only dream about.

This desire to expand our horizons is a big part of how I see myself, truly an integral part of my DNA and has led us to some truly wonderful places and experiences all over the world, from volunteering to re-build medieval castles in the South of France to tours of the ancient temples on Bali, to the Mayan ruins of Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula and, most recently, the middle of a Manta Ray feeding frenzy in the Maldives. These are the stories, with associated pictures and video, that I hope one day will inspire our own children to make their worlds bigger and to be positive advocates for nature and the environment.

Even though we have seen so many far flung places, met so many wonderful people and done so many things that never cease to cause spontaneous smiling just by their thought, I too have a list of things that I have always wanted to do but so far have not managed to get round to, which brings me nicely on to my pledge:

My #MYWBPledge

My pledge is this:

In 2016, I’d like to find the opportunity to spend a few days swimming, free diving and filming up close with a pod of wild Orca.

This is something I have wanted to do for as long as I can remember. I’ve had more the a few dreams involving being in crystal clear waters surrounded by a pod of Orca swimming all around and beneath me. These are my flying dreams.

I’ll be honest, swimming with Orca is something that I’ve always thought about in the same vein as a desire to visit the moon ie something that would be fantastic but astronomically unlikely (excuse pun) to ever happen to me. I thought it so unlikely when I recently penned my ‘Big Fish Bucket List’ I left it off, assuming it impossible. Space is the proserve of astronauts, swimming with Orca that of the marine scientist (infrequently) or so I thought, until recently.

Two documentaries, The Cove and Blackfish, blew the lid off the practice of keeping cetaceans (whales and dolphins) in captivity. Venues such as Seaworld went from being viewed as harmless forms of entertainment to being seen as cruel (often grotesque) circus shows discarding animal wellfare in return for a quick buck. Consumers became more aware of opportunities to swim in the wild with cetaceans and eco-tour operators began to spring up in many locations to meet this need.

In the years after the release of The Cove, there have been thousands of eco-tour operators springing up to offer tourists and adventurers opportunity to swim with dolphins in the wild and on the animal’s own terms. Similarly, since the release of Blackfish a small number of the marine scientists who previously held the monopoly on swimming with Orca have begun to open their research trips up to small numbers of paying tourists affording them opportunity to swim in close proximity with the animal’s whilst helping to fund vital research. It is one of these trips I hope to join.

The questions everyone has asked

Everyone I have spoken to about my pledge has asked me the same question: isn’t this a bit dangerous? Won’t you be scared?

You’ll have probably noticed I’ve been careful to use the term Orca rather than Killer Whale, which comes loaded with some pretty heavy meaning. There is no escaping that Orca are a top Apex Predator, huge, fast and incredibly powerful. There are well documented accounts of Orca hunting and killing large sharks, but the staple of the Orca diet is much smaller prey such as Salmon and the like. There have been no attacks on humans by wild Orca and 99% of Orca aggression towards humans comes from captivity situations where there are likely extenuating circumstances.

While I would be cautious and respectful around such powerful animals I do not imagine being afraid and my pulse quickens a little just thinking about it.

The other question I’ve been asked is: Why now? That one is simple, last year losing Tristan and almost losing Lara made me realise how precious and short life is. Added to this, is the very real fact that Orca are critically endangered as a species, by the time we have children and raise them to the age where they might seek out their own Orca experience, there may not be Orca left in our oceans.

Some of you will be reading this and thinking: I could never do that, not brave enough. You’re wrong, we can each do a lot more than we think when we give ourselves permission to dream. My Mum used to say, you only regret the things you don’t do. Let’s make our world’s bigger and foster fewer regrets in 2016.

Can you help?

If you are a marine scientist working with Orca and think you might be able to accommodate me on one of your trips and help me to realise my dream of swimming with them, I would love to hear from you. Likewise, if you have had this experience and can give me some tips, get in touch.

Check out the pledges

Please take some time to have a look at some of the many pledges that people have already been making on Twitter, who knows it might inspire you to pledge to do something incredible this year. I have been really impressed by both the scope of challenges that people have set themselves and the reasons that have inspired them to do so. Read the pledges.

Okay, so you know the drill, if you don’t like these thoughts, maybe stick around, I have others.

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We have a plastic problem Or let’s start with 1 thing #startwith1thing

24 Jan

By 2050, the volume of plastic in our oceans will have surpassed the volume of fish…(USA TODAY Article)

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I’ll say that again: In 35 years time, there will be more plastic (that is definitely not supposed to be there) in our oceans than there will be fish (who definitely are supposed to be there).

If you ever encounter anyone who says humans haven’t really had too detrimental an impact on this planet, write them this fact down on a piece of paper, wrap it lovingly around a housebrick and beat them around the head with it until they fully appreciate the error of their ways.

It gets better, this estimate comes with the staggering qualification that it is based on humans not increasing the amount of plastic pumped into the oceans yearly. Already, there is a concentrated patch of plastic waste in the Pacific that covers at least (at least!) 700 000 square kilometres (Km) and that many researchers claim covers a space closer to 15 000 000 square Km. In short, we have a plastic problem in our oceans.

It’s quite easy to glaze over when big issues like the environment are discussed. More times than I could count, I’ve heard the reasoning: ‘what can I do? If big corporations and governments won’t curb their polluting, what impact can I have?’

While I have a little sympathy for this thinking and while it’s certainly a fact that big industry, corporations and governments need to act (and act quickly) to address the dire issues facing our environment, there remain things that we can do as individuals to help.

The recent documentary, Racing Extinction, showcased how by ‘starting with 1 thing’ individuals can make a huge difference to our environments. Check out the site here: Racing Extinction

One of the big plastic problems in our oceans comes from plastic microbeads, the tiny globes found in a range of products from tooth pastes, to detergents and face washes. Very few sewage plants were designed to filter these beads from waste water meaning about 95% will eventually reach our oceans. Once in the oceans, these microbeads are eaten by unsuspecting fish and, ultimately, end up entering our food chain. Although we already know this plastic is having a huge impact on marine life we can only guess at what effect it might have on us with increased exposure through the fish we eat.

Many countries (and some States in the US) have already moved to ban all products containing plastic microbeads and it is thankfully likely that a worldwide ban will be forthcoming over the next 5 years as many more wake up to the damage they cause. Until this ban comes in, why not start with 1 thing today and go through your products to see if you have any thst contain plastic microbeads and throw them out. In future, you could try and avoid products that contain them as there will always be alternatives.

Find out more about plastic in our oceans: The Story of Stuff – Ban the beads

I’ve also written this related post on: Why balloon releases are dumb

And this one: On why you should boycott captive Dolphin swims

Part of the reason the oceans matter to me are incredible experiences like this: On swimming with Manta Rays in the Maldives

It’s better to light a single candle than to stand and curse the darkness.

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