On June 8, people everywhere celebrated World Oceans Day, but I, along with about 300 others, began our celebration a few days earlier. NRDC’s LA Leadership Council co-chair Kelly Meyer generously hosted a benefit for NRDC’s ocean initiative at her beautiful home on California’s coast.
To kickoff the festivities, Kelly, world-renowned big-wave surfer Laird Hamilton, his wife and fellow athlete Gaby Reese, and Dave Kalama led 260 surfers and other ocean lovers in a ceremonial paddle-out where they joined together to create a giant human peace sign floating atop the vast Pacific. Paddle-outs are a traditional Hawaiian custom to commemorate a loved one or important event. This paddle-out honored of our oceans and served as a powerful reminder of the work we must do to protect and preserve them.
The plight of the world's oceans and NRDC's work to defend them continue to play a prominent role in NRDC’s more than 40 years of advocacy. Early in my career at NRDC, I worked in the oceans program, and have found my career come full circle this past year when I served on the President’s National Oil Spill Commission. As a commission member I repeatedly toured the Gulf Coast and witnessed firsthand the impacts the spill had on the wildlife, wetlands and all the fisherman and communities who depend on the Gulf waters to sustain them.
Kelly, Laird and Gaby also ventured down the Gulf last summer, and it’s clear from my conversations with them that the disaster had a profound impact, serving to reaffirm their ongoing commitment to protecting unique habitat from offshore drilling and other industrial activities.
It’s a fight that continues on, as some in Congress have recently tried to weaken offshore drill rules and simultaneously expand drilling in some of our most precious waters.
But the news is not all bad. Bringing our unique strengths to bear, NRDC recently helped create the first-ever national ocean policy last year – a Clean Air Act for the sea. Now, we’re working to put it into action.
We will work also to defend the fragile Arctic as sea ice melts, industry moves in and ocean acidification intensifies. There’s still hope for the Arctic; it presents an opportunity get it right, to balance preservation industrialization is a sustainable way. But the time is running out and we need action.
We’re working to end destructive fishing practices worldwide and rebuild endangered populations. One way we’re doing this is by helping to create marine protected areas - underwater national parks where ocean life can thrive. One of these parks exists not far from the human peace-sign that was formed last Saturday – making it the location a particularly fitting spot for paddlers to embody how we can live in harmony with our environment.
The evening that followed the paddle out was equally inspiring. Longtime environmental advocates Jason Mraz and Jeff Bridges and Nikki and Rich graced partygoers with amazing musical performances. Kelly Meyer and Laird Hamilton spoke, as did event co-chairs and Leadership Council members Colleen Bell and Dayna Bochco.
It is due to their hard work and generosity that the benefit raised awareness to help protect our oceans from further destruction and advance ocean stewardship. We’re only beginning to understand some of the most urgent threats facing our oceans, especially when it comes to ocean acidification and the affects of climate change on our underwater ecosystem. It’s events like these that reaffirm my faith that together we can make a difference and tackle even the most daunting of environmental problems.