The results for our first annual My Ocean Guardian Journey Contest are in! The judging panel, comprised of the Bodhi Surf Advisory Board, had a tough time picking the winners as submissions were all fantastic. We at Bodhi Surf School want to thank everyone who participated — this was our first year holding this contest and we were stoked to hear about what you guys are both doing and planning. We are proud to be a part of such an innovative, environmentally aware, and responsible network of individuals, and we hope that you keep up the good work in 2014! Below you can read about these six Ocean Guardians and their journeys, in their own words.
Best Actions Winners
Tara Ruttenberg, 1st Place
“Each year, the University of Georgia-Costa Rica runs a 3-week, 6-credit study abroad program in Environmental Anthropology, including courses on the Anthropology of Surfing and Coastal Conservation and Development. This course immerses students in the embodied act of learning to surf and experiencing coastal environments while engaging in participant observation of Costa Rican surf culture, interacting with people across a range of social sectors both local and foreign, and studying issues related to surf tourism, coastal conservation and development in surf destinations in the Guanacaste region of Costa Rica and beyond.
According to feedback received directly from students, the program engenders among participants a new appreciation for the natural environment and local communities affected by surf tourism and development. This, in turn, promotes a deepened sustainability consciousness linked directly to students’ first-hand experiences in the ocean and on the beaches, and through discovering in an embodied way their own connections to coastal environments related to their new-found love of surfing. In essence, the Environmental Anthropology in Costa Rica program fosters a personal and collective ocean-consciousness and desire to support environmentally and socially sustainable practices of tourism and development on the coast.
We are in the process of creating a related project geared toward community development and sustainable surf tourism management in Waitabu, Fiji, which will be a longer-term participatory action research project supporting local communities in ownership of their ocean resources vis-a-vis surf tourism and development.”
Grey Gondella, 2nd Place
“The youth group of my church has a mission into Washington, DC to serve the homeless through food, warm clothing, and most importantly, relationship.
I was asked to be the youth leader of this group when I came home from Costa Rica this summer, and I began to see how large the “carbon footprint” of our work was. It is so important that we take the time to make and bring in hot potatoes, hot dogs, fruit cups, granola bars and everything in between — including plastic water bottles.
I’ve always known about the impact of the plastic water bottle, and I’ve always tried to keep my personal and family use of them to a minimum, but I’ll be honest, I never thought of it in terms of our mission. When I came home, I looked at how many water bottles we always bring in, and realized I was wrong. Through lots of brainstorming with my pastor, mom, and youth group, I contacted Shared Planet Solutions, and told them my idea of switching DC TOP to reusable water bottles. His condition was that I explain to the people we serve WHY we are doing this, and how much of an impact they will make, and keep him updated, which I was happy to do. Those we serve were excited to receive the bottles, and learned that they would only get one or two, and even had some really great insight on ways to make it work, and what kind of bottles we could get! Several of them talked to us about the big impact it would make, and were happy to help us out.
In October, I drove an hour and picked up 50 reusable Shared Planet Solutions water bottles – complete with carabineer, which was a big help for those on the streets. Flora Whitehead, who I had met on my trip to Costa Rica, was visiting me and helped me wash all the bottles, and put them all together. On the second Sunday of November, we filled them all at our church, and put them in a cooler and loaded the bus. We were ready.
The water bottles were greatly appreciated and accepted, and we explained that we would bring some more back next time, but that their goal should be to hold onto the one we gave them, so that we could reduce our footprint even more.
The few times we’ve gone back to DC since then, we have seen some people still holding onto their water bottles, and while the result has not been completely as I’d hoped in terms of them keeping the water bottles, I know that with this mission there will be give and take, and with their situations, we have to give some leeway.
I’m so happy that Bodhi Surf, GLA, and Costa Rica helped me realize how I could bring my Ocean Guardian agreement in line with my project, and gave me the ideas, and really, the means to fix it.”
Malcolm S. Johnson, 3rd Place
“Nelson Mandela was once quoted “education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world” and it is also the most powerful weapon we have to promote marine conservation. However, the biggest challenge with education is that when administered solely within a classroom, the real impact we are having on the ocean is never truly understood. To be a true ocean guardian, one needs to understand the diverse cultures that exist and how the neo-liberal growth model has only resulted in serious harm for our precious ocean. Most importantly, education that gets students into the ocean, teaching skills that let them harness the power of waves, and truly experiencing what the ocean has to offer is essential for the future of ocean health. My BEST ACTION is the educational weapon necessary to turn the tide on marine conservation, known as Groundswell Educational Travel.
GET is the first educational experience that takes students out of their comfort zone into a completely different culture, turns the environment and the ocean into a classroom, and teaches students how to surf and get stoked in a single trip. In early January of 2014, GET had its first trip to Bocas del Toro, Panama in which fifteen undergraduate students, many of whom lacking travel experience and most with no surfing experience at all, learned about the cross cultural interactions of local indigenous communities and the impact of mega-resorts on both the culture and the health of the ocean. Within the first few days, students saw displaced local communities, “pristine beaches” littered with trash, and habitat fragmentation, just to name a few of the learning experiences taking place. Also within these first few days, many of the students stood up on a surfboard for the first time in their lives and learned about sustainable surf tourism as a tool for sustainable development and marine conservation.
Although this action only impacts a small number of students at a time, the stories that they will share once they get home and the lasting impact on their lives that will surely occur makes GET essential to marine conservation. All teachers should consider taking their classrooms outside, whether near the ocean or not, and teach about the impact our culture is having on the environment as well as what everyone can do to help protect our threatened ocean. From hiking to camping, from sailing to surfing, having students truly experiencing what the planet has to offer in challenges and excitement is a powerful weapon indeed. Add an educational course to the mix and you have a recipe for global change that protects the ocean, the planet, and the fading indigenous cultures. Groundswell Educational Travel is my BEST ACTION and is just the beginning of my Ocean Guardian Journey.”
Best Ideas Winners
Andrew Cobb, 1st Place
“I am interested in making sustainable living more enjoyable and accessible in urban areas. I currently live and work in Houston, TX, where there is a need for more healthy food options in such places as food deserts. I believe that finding local options for our needs, such as food, is a great way to reduce carbon impact and help people understand where there food comes from, mainly by lowering transportation costs. I also believe that there are ways that we can grow the food we eat in a earth conscious way. Through practices like organic food growing and permaculture, we can grow food in a way that does not strain the land and is mindful of the other living things in the area. I propose to start an urban farm with others in the Houston area.”
Gloria D. Li, 2nd Place
“This summer, when I went to Costa Rica with Kids’ FUN, I saw these amazing trash cans built out of water bottles on the street and was inspired by them. I decided to bring this creativity and innovation to my hometown in Florida to promote environmental awareness. These recycle bins would be composed of plastic water bottles stacked on top of each other, and I am planning to fill the bottom layer of bottles with sand to weigh the bin down and paint a beach onto the sides to connect it my city’s coastal heritage. As people throw their water bottles into them, I will remove those bottles and make new recycle bins with them. Through this project, I hope to encourage people to be “transparent” about their plastic usage; so many trash cans and recycle bins are opaque, black containers where you can throw your trash away and never have to look at it again. With these see-through recycle bins, people will be forced to look their own consumerism in the face and hopefully decide to choose a better lifestyle. Until then, I hope to send a clear message with my “self-replicating” recycle bins.”
Laura Kavalek, 3rd Place
While on vacation this March, Laura and her family will be hosting a state beach cleanup in Oregon, focusing on picking up plastic bottles, different types of plastic packaging, buoys, and styrofoam.