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A Window to Another World: Using Imagery and Storytelling to Protect Our Ocean

Updated: Mar 13, 2021

By Weldon Wade

At the 2020 Virtual Island Summit, an online conference hosted by Island Innovation, the world was able to learn from four young professionals who are leading conservation initiatives from their small island, big ocean nations around the globe. Each ocean advocate brought a unique perspective on how to engage the next generation in protecting the ocean.

Watch the recording:

Weldon Wade is a commercial diver, founder of Bermuda's Guardians of the Reef, and most recently he has joined the Bermuda Ocean Prosperity Programme as its Communications Coordinator. He is also a 5 Gyres and Padi AmbassaDiver. Weldon is well-known on Bermuda for his passion for the ocean, a community leader who organizes beach clean ups, boat trips, and community outreach. Weldon holds more than ten years of diving experience, serves on numerous boards and committees of Bermuda's conservation and ocean organizations, and was a speaker at TEDxBermuda in 2014.

It became my passion to share the wonders of the ocean with others. When I came back home, at the time, I was disappointed to find there weren’t many Bermudian divers, only tourists. And I realized this was because there wasn’t a sense of community within Bermuda around diving. This inspired me to create my own organization, Guardians of the Reef, which helped bring ocean-conscious Bermudians together to protect and enjoy ocean resources. We dive for debris, hunt invasive lionfish, clean up beaches, and then have a party! Combining my passion for the environment and community unlocked a superpower within me - I found a real strength in coordinating and organizing community outreach for ocean issues.

In Bermuda, we’re such a small isolated island nation, we don’t really produce anything for export. We either use what we have, or import by ship or plane. One of only things we really have to export to the world is the experience I so love: sharing our incredible ocean with others.

However, our ocean is vulnerable. It’s not as resilient as we think it is. The very reef that provides us with protection from storm surge, provides us sand for our beautiful beaches, provides us food, provides us income from tourism, is under threat, from climate change to pollution to overfishing to misuse. We can’t hide away from the uncomfortable reality of these issues because the problems won’t go away on their own. We have to take action to protect the ocean the way that it has protected us.

How do we encourage people to protect the ocean? My answer is to show them. One question I get all the time is people asking, “how can I get involved?” My first response, “learn how to dive!”

Now, I know not everyone can get underwater. I think about my mother and grandmother. How can I get them engaged? One of the best ways to educate people is through using visual art and multimedia. I use social media and photography as a tool to promote the ocean. These days, we’re able to share the ocean with people all over the world through technology, internet, and innovation. That fuels me every day, even in the face of difficulties. If you can get people’s eyes underwater, you can show them a whole other world.

And experiencing that other world is much more meaningful when we have a community to share it with. I truly believe that anything we do to help the environment will only benefit by community engagement - because everything is better when we’re together. Everything is better and easier when we can share our passions and ourselves with each other to do something good in the world. That’s how we learn to care about the environment, and that’s how we better learn to care about ourselves.

To quote Baba Dioum, Senegalese Environmental Engineer and Director of the Ministry of Agriculture; “In the end we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand; and we will understand only what we are taught."”

Watch the recording:

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