Berkley University just published a story entitled, ‘How Positive Media Can Make Us Better People’, based on research of an idea I’ve been thinking about for a while. Just as ‘you are what you eat’, this research suggests we are what we watch and that media has the role of determining whether we feel uplifted or inspired. Seems like a no brainer right?!
Prior to entering the world of scuba diving and conservation, I worked as Public Relations Exec in the UK Tech Sector. There were good and bad aspects to this job. The bad? Having to read every newspaper and watch the news all day, every damn day! Never have I felt so bleak! Bombarded by negativity, all I wanted to do was dig a very big hole, round-up my loved ones and hide away from a grey and hopeless world. Instead I bought a ticket out of there and followed a long-held dream to become a Scuba Dive Instructor.
So this research struck a chord. And 7 years on, yes, my lifestyle has changed, but I am not immune to this prevailing trend of the negative. In the conservation sphere it is rife. Please note at this point, I am not assigning blame, nor being judgmental. How can you hit people hard and get a reaction, especially in this new world where people’s attention spans are limited and we are looking for the next catchy headline or dopamine hit (If you have made it this far, I thank you!). An arresting image or a devastating statistic is what we need to get people to care for our cause – right? Wrong.
It’s my belief that this approach is sending people into a state of apathy. They see so much negativity, that they believe that they are powerless to help and retreat further into a narrow world of self-preservation. So what are the other options?
I wish I had coined this amazing splice, but I must pass credit on to my friends over at Borneo from Below, who are flying the funservation flag. Broadly defined, Funservation is the art of engaging people in important issues whilst having fun and inspiring them. Hope, rather than hopelessness.
The Borneo from Below team have been doing this in their online series, which looks at the marvellous underwater haven of Borneo. It features presenter, Bertie, often doing silly things, whilst talking about important issues such as the seahorse trade, ocean plastics and turtle protection. The films are designed to make people want to get in the water, see what’s down there and consequently becoming guardians of what they see.
Here are just a few examples of other great ‘Funservation’ initiatives out there.
Putri Siren – a Bali based company that makes mermaid tails (that I am a part time mermaid for) runs ‘Mermaid Days Out’. The idea is to get young ocean lovers in tails, splash around and engage them with fun talks from conservation groups to inspire and encourage them to protect our oceans.
Hannah Mermaid and Shawn Heinrichs – This mermaid/photographer combo have created a series of breathtaking images, showing marine megafauna, such as mantas and sharks, in new and unusual settings, leading us to question humans’ interactions with these animals.
Check out the sensational Manta’s Last Dance at the link below.
Bayplay, based in Victoria Australia, gets people out in the seas, showing them the beauty and fragility and creating loads of oceans warriors in the process. Their mission: ‘To provide marine based adventure activities to educate visitors and locals about the beauty of the Mornington Peninsula and how we can preserve it.’
As Jacques Cousteau said, we only protect what we love. So let’s keep positive, think not just about the problems, but the solutions as well, and enjoy the natural world. I’m all onboard for a funservation revolution, so I’ll leave you with a joke.
What did one beach say to the other beach? Nothing, they just waved.
Jo Marlow is a grassroots conservationist and part time mermaid. Contributing to the ClearOceans movement and consulting for A New Day in Lamakera, Jo believes in fighting for what she cares about, and having a good time whilst doing it.