Though we stand in awe of its unfathomable abyss, the ocean is not actually full of limitless bounty. It cannot absorb the detritus of human activity indefinitely, as those of us that live, work, and play on the water can attest firsthand. But if we humans think we’re too small to hurt the ocean, how can we ever believe we’re big enough to save it?
Things are changing, but not quickly enough to outpace the danger. The old strategies of consciousness-raising and activism are crucial, but they’re not enough. If we are to turn this tide, we’ll need more, much more, and it can feel overwhelming to the point of paralysis. Blue the Dive’s (BTD) one objective, to protect the ocean, is too important for wasting time on strategies that don’t work. Their mission statement is also the basic outline of their game plan, and states that BTD is:
A collective move forward to promote a strong unified voice for ocean protection driven by the dive community.
Blue the Dive is a movement based on solutions, and one major obstacle to change is the belief of the average person that their efforts are too small to be meaningful. The reality is that the momentum we need can’t come from anywhere else. BTD places a high emphasis on the micro-decisions of the individual–choosing a refillable water bottle, using your dollars to support eco-friendly businesses, even just putting trash into proper receptacles instead of in the street where storm drains can take it right into the water system.
The ocean itself provides the perfect model of the power of collective action, in the humble little plankton. These tiny organisms are hard for the casual observer to even see, but added up together they comprise the greatest biomass on earth!
To that end, BTD proposes that for now we focus on three attainable goals to start shifting our culture toward the Be Blue Norm. Individual divers can help protect the ocean by choosing sunscreens that are safe for reefs, by perfecting our buoyancy so they don’t physically damage the environment while we dive, and by forgoing single-use plastics like drinking straws and water bottles.
At the dive-shop level, owners can reduce their reliance on plastic packaging, improve the energy efficiency of their day-to-day operations, and educate their staff in eco-friendly dive practices (which they can pass on to their customers). For shops that have those strategies in place and are ready to take a bigger step, BTD’s partner the Ocean First Institute offers a comprehensive Blue Certification. This program is designed to provide dive shops with practical methods for bringing their regular operations in line with the goals of ocean conservation and sustainability, and to communicate that commitment to customers.
BTD is a collective, and while they aim to provide a unified front in the fight to save our most precious resource, they recognize that success will depend on everyone having a seat at the table. Conservation is all of our problem, though it is often difficult to get a consensus about what that means. Traditional styles of activism can be monolithic and polarizing, and are definitely falling short of success so BTD is trying a different, all-inclusive approach.
If we expect everyone to work together toward a common goal, there must be room in the conversation for everyone’s needs and concerns. Recreational divers and spear-fishers engage differently with the ocean, but we need them both onboard in order to be as effective as possible. By tweaking, modifying or adapting problematic practices rather than calling for their outright elimination, we keep more hands on deck working for change. As board-member Mehgan Heaney-Grier notes, “We’re all going to have to compromise on something.”
In the year since DeeperBlue.com first got the chance to hear their message, BTD has enjoyed an overwhelming response. Looking into the future, BTD is working to maintain that momentum through sponsorships, partnerships, and the development of a solid network around the country. They are currently fundraising and grant-writing to secure the funds to hire a full-time project coordinator. Right now, all of their efforts are entirely managed by volunteers with full lives and day jobs, who can’t be as responsive as a dedicated manager could. As board member Vicki Goldstein shared, they hope to establish leaders in various geographical regions who can provide opportunities for engagement and invite ever more people to be part of the conversation.
The take-home message is that it all counts–every decision, every diver, everything that moves us closer to a culture that treasures and protects the ocean as a matter of course. Pragmatic and driven, the folks at BTD know that it’s crucial to involve everyone, and that doing so will require making sure that participation doesn’t seem impossible. They’re all about the triple bottom-line: People, Planet, Profit. So bring your struggles and success stories, your big ideas and your little ones. Sign the pledge, donate outright, or volunteer. BTD wants you to come with whatever you’ve got and join the movement. After all, it is not only our passion and livelihoods, but ultimately our very lives that are at stake. There’s not a moment to lose.