[Coral-List] Education of the masses

Joe Cavanaugh joe.cavanaugh at gmail.com
Mon Aug 4 13:18:07 EDT 2008

I too, have followed the "education of the masses" dialogue and it has
brought up an idea I had about 2 years ago on how to engage our average
everyday citizens of the world if you will,on the importance, beauty, and
economic and intrinsic value of coral reefs. My idea is based on a couple of
premises, namely that people mostly care about what has some tangible
connection to their lives and if they can then feel empowered to protect and
nurture what it is they feel connected to, they will act to do so.  I did
not get this idea up and running in time for ICRS or for IYOR, so it may be
time for me to lateral it off to the Coral-list to think about since it is
related to the current education and outreach discussion.

What I initially thought of  was to build a dive event around IYOR and
ICRS that focused U.S. and world attention on our main coral reef ecosystem
for the continental U.S.  Like it or not, much world attention focuses on
how we act in the U.S. towards myriad issues such as the environment, human
rights, energy use, and on and on. During the past 4 years I have lived and
worked alongside the Florida Keys reefs and have seen my fair share of
abuses of this wonderful resource despite all the conservation efforts of
many dedicated individuals and agencies. In thinking about how to
proactively engage the greatest number of people, I thought about creating a
100-mile conservation scuba dive and snorkel relay event to conserve
Florida's reefs. I originally wanted this event to culminate in the 11th
ICRS with the coral reef world gathered briefly in S. Florida.  But sadly,
this idea came too late for me to garner the support needed.

But my thinking now is that this event would be a biannual event to raise
much needed funds for coral reef conservation, science, enforcement,
monitoring, education, and channeling support in terms of fundraising and
public participation. Also, I think we need to look to events that can bring
in new recruits to not only coral reef conservation but the joys of
science.  I know we can all agree that inadequate public support for coral
reef conservation science in particular and science in general wherever we
live is due in part to a lack of understanding what it is we know and don't
know about our reefs and why everyday people should care.  I have seen
through my work at R.E.E.F. the joy that people share when they can actively
engage in conservation efforts and it is with this in mind that this event
could reach many citizen scientists and armchair explorers alike. The
central idea here is to create an event with a sense of public urgency in
helping coral reefs, solicit sponsorship from corporations and individuals,
create a documentary with interviews from major user groups and resource
managers in addition to creating archival footage from the event.

I created a preliminary template (below) with the help of my former
colleague, Leda Cunningham, that has some nuts and bolts to it but is very
much a working outline.  The main goal here is to create a significant
fundraising event ($500,000) for S. Florida reef conservation.

Below is a start at least on an event that could provide significant
fundraising, education, and outreach opportunity -

Goal - Raise national awareness about the challenges and hope for the future
of Florida's coral reefs by garnering mass media attention through a
boat-based scuba diving and snorkeling conservation trip as part of the
International Year of the Reef (this won't happen in time obviously but can
market differently for future date).

*Program Overview *

*1. Field Team*

A team of volunteer divers and snorkelers surveys the Florida reef track
beginning in the Dry Tortugas and working north, arriving in Ft. Lauderdale
to coincide with an event such as the 11th International Coral Reef
Symposium (again, coordinate with some other notable coral reef event).
Volunteers will conduct a variety of surveys on fish, coral and other reef
biota using available citizen science methods (REEF, Reef Check). At
designated intervals, team members switch out, passing a 'torch of
conservation' to the next group. The team should be diverse in terms of
gender, ethnicity, geography, and 'real life' occupation and should include
K-12 and university students.

*2. Telepresence*

Coverage of the trip is available in real time through a dedicated website,
including interviews with the field team and experts nationwide and
interactive sessions between team members and the general public. Perhaps a
notable celebrity or two would conduct interviews and document the trip,
serve as spokesperson/people for the event. There are many scuba diving,
marine enthousiast celebrities that might be interested in a project of
appropriate scale.

*3. Partnerships*

*Florida*: REEF, FKNMS, NURC, Parks, FWC, SEFCRI, TNC, WWF, Reef Check,
local dive shops

*National*: NMSP, NPS, dive industry, corporate sponsors

*This is preliminary list. Each partner should play a specific role based on
its core strength, e.g. REEF can put together the field team and survey

*4. Media*

Coverage by print, broadcast, internet and radio media solicited by PR firm.
The end product could be a documentary of the event.  Create a buzz to
revisit the surveyed/videoed sites periodically, probably not annually but
perhaps every 2-5 years.  This will give the general public a chance to
"see" the changes themselves in particular sites, a shifting baselines
visual. Think of one of Jacques-Yves Couteau's last documentaries where he
revisited pristine sites that were however many years later either gone or
decimated. Viewers could not help but be impacted by that documentary.  But
I am thinking more along the lines of a charitable fundraising event like
the walks for M.S. or breast cancer but one that the public could actively
participate in from online and through sponsorship.

*5. Fundraising and Promotion*

Team seeks sponsorship in the style of *Relay for* *Life* or other charity
sporting event. Promotional items like t shirts, hats, bumper stickers, and
dive gear may be available. Major fundraising effort results in significant
funds available for continued and new Florida reef research and conservation


Key Messages

   - Coral reefs are important to overall ocean health and a national
   - Florida is home to the largest coral reef in the continental U.S. and
   the third largest in the world.
   - Coral reefs face several anthropogenic threats, the impacts of which
   are increasing due to climate change.
   - Conservation is happening at local, regional and national levels and
   there are success stories.
   - Everyone can contribute to conservation by volunteering, supporting
   grass-roots work and contacting elected officials to convey their concern.

What's in a name?  Oftentimes a lot, and I think this type of event would
need a catchy title, especially if revisited periodically. Here are a few
ideas, keep in mind this is for a U.S. event.

REEF America; Reef to Reef;  Reef Dive Relay; Dive into Florida's Reefs;
SCUBA – Show Concern for our Underwater Beautiful Areas; Scuba-thon; SOAR
(Save Our American Reefs); 1st Annual Reef Sustainer Event; Reef Stewardship
Event; Partner to Save our Reefs, Reef-athon; Sustainable Seas.

The above template could be refined for other countries/regions, of course
with different stakeholders and cultural refinements for the media.  I would
like to be a part of such an event but for myself, it's most important that
this type of event occurs, whether or not I have anything to do with it. We
need to find ways to inspire the next generation as Couteau did for my
generation, yes, but we also need to empower the general public to care
about our reefs and make the multiple small changes in their lifestyles
necessary to make a difference.

I applaud this dialogue on the Education of the Masses, some really great
ideas shared.

Joe Cavanaugh
Dir. of Field Operations

"Let us be grateful for people who make us happy; they are the charming
gardeners who make our souls blossom."
Marcel Proust

2008 - International Year of Coral Reef (IYOR) http://www.iyor.org/

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