March for the Oceans

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By Lilly Tougas

“It’s the human experience, reach people.” -Asher Jay.

“Try and forge an emotional connection with your subjects.” -Mark Brownlow

”You are the media, give your deep knowledge directly.” -Jim Toomey

“Depoliticize compassion.” -John Tartaglia.

These are just a few quotes from speakers at functions during the celebration of World Oceans Day in Washington, D.C. Events were held all around the globe for this special day, which has become so important it is now celebrated for a full week and involves meetings, parties, marches, and speeches to discuss conservation matters.

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My week in D.C. started with the 4th Annual Climate Change Symposium and was opened by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Dr. Jason Link, followed by Philippe Cousteau along with Olivia Blondheim, a member of the EarthEcho International Youth Leadership Council. EarthEcho, founded by Alexandra and Philippe Cousteau, is a leading youth environmental organization dedicated to empowering young people to take action for a sustainable future. They discussed connecting the dots and expanding the audience, sharing three rules to promote awareness. These rules are know your audience, make it entertaining, and engage with optimism. This speech was geared toward youth, but was perfectly fitting for all ages and platforms. Discussions of collaboration filled rooms during coffee breaks, lunch, and after sessions, and workshops went on throughout the week.

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The National Marine Sanctuary event, Capitol Hill Ocean Week (CHOW), was also taking place all week. The kickoff started with welcome notes from Kris Sarri who is the C.E.O. and President of the National Marine Sanctuaries and Julie Lawson, the Director of the Office of the Clean City under Mayor Muriel Bowser. Julie Phillips of the Herschend Family Enterprises led an incredible panel including Asher Jay, Jim Toomey, Mark Brownlow and John Tartaglia. The panel was a great display of how someone can use their talents and interests to make a difference. For example, after returning from a snorkeling trip, John Tartaglia created the children’s show, Splash and Bubbles, which was co-produced by the Jim Henson company. He uses his creative skills to teach people why it is important to love and care for the ocean. Asher Jay, who is a graduate of a fashion design institute, also uses her many artistic abilities to share conservation messages. Mark Brownlow, producer of Blue Planet 2, creates films and spreads his message on a very high platform. Jim Toomey shares his famous Sherman's Lagoon comic strips as a fun way to educate the public about marine conservation issues. With his show Two Minutes on Oceans, he is aiming to educate the younger crowd. During coffee and lunch breaks, participants would gather in the lobby discussing their passions and ideas to help the ocean. Many tables were set up with partner organizations that were eager to share information and work.

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Capitol Hill Day took place on the third day, where participants met with Congress members to discuss important topics. David Helvarg, Executive Director of the Blue Frontier Campaign and author of many books such as Blue Frontier, 50 Ways to Save the Ocean, and Saved By the Sea, organized the inaugural March for the Ocean. Kicking off the march the night before was a sign-making party at Anacostia park, as well as the film fest held on the Washington Monument lawn. Each film had a strong message and educational value. The March was attended by thousands who came from around the world. In conjunction with the Blue Frontiers D.C. March, marches were being held all over the globe. The morning of the march started with a flotilla of paddlers on the Anacostia River, which is also celebrating its Centennial this year. It was an inspiring display of how water connects us all. It was amazing to march past the White House with Philippe and Fabian Cousteau, Captain Paul Watson, Danni Washington, Dr. Wallace J. Nichols, and many other ocean heroes who were all demanding change for our ocean.

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After the March the event continued with speeches from Sea Youth Rise Up, Heirs to the Oceans, and others. Unfortunately, nearby lightning forced the event to close, but the rest of the speakers such as Dr. Sylvia Earle, Carl Safina, and Philippe and Ashlan Cousteau improvised and held recorded interviews indoors. Surfrider Foundation threw a party to end the event. Everyone enjoyed amazing food, music, dancing and raffles to benefit ocean action.

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Many other events were happening throughout the week in D.C. at the Smithsonian, National Geographic, Capitol Hill and other locations. The National Mall was home to a pop-up exhibit that traveled all the way from Germany. The Ocean Plastics Lab which consists of four shipping containers filled with interactive science exhibits and activities aims to raise awareness about the problem with plastics in the ocean, to discuss solutions, and to inspire visitors to be a part of the solution. As conservationists, we are always trying to find new ways to reach as many people as possible. This event was an amazing way to come together and work to protect something we all cherish. Every event has standout moments that resonate with attendees. One of these was a story shared by Julie Phillips during the CHOW event:

            A guy is walking on a beach where many starfish have washed up and are covering the sand. He comes across a gentleman picking them up and returning them to the water one by one. The guy asks “Why are you doing this? It’s pointless, you’re not making a difference.”. The gentleman picked another one up and threw it back into the ocean and looks at the guy and says, “It made a difference to that one.”

If every person carried this mindset, we would have the power to completely change the future of our planet to one we can be proud to leave behind. This is our home and everyone should come together to protect it.

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Ocean Geographic Explorer (OGX) is a diving adventure resource with a special focus on marine photography and ocean conservation. Our content is divided up into six primary categories: Travel, Sea Science,  Equipment, Photography &Video, Conservation, and Lifestyle. We endeavor be a portal for people with all levels of interest in the marine environment  to learn about and become part of a community of like-minded ocean lovers who enjoy sharing their knowledge of and experiences in our fascinating ocean world.

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