The opinions expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect those of Marine Science Today or its employees.
Arriving at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood Airport feels a little bit like arriving 20 years closer to the end of the world. Something about the swampy air and number of people with severe sunburns makes climate change feel just a bit more tangible and immediate. I can’t help but picture Florida when I think about our climate warming over the coming decades and centuries. Some people may find that reassuring, though I, for one, do not.
As a current resident of the Pacific Northwest, I inhabit a certain kind of bubble when it comes to environmental awareness and action. It’s a bubble I take entirely for granted until I exit to visit family on the east coast, and a bubble I am always grateful to return to. We recycle, we compost (heck, we even shame people who don’t!) and our Governor is trying to pass an aggressive carbon tax on polluters to fund public transit.
As a long-term Marine Science Today volunteer (by way of being sister to the CEO), I was extremely excited about the opportunity to promote MST at the Tortuga Music Festival. The admittedly skeptical environmentalist (and seasoned music festival-goer) in me was pretty wary about how much conservation could really be promoted at a music festival.
As it turns out, Tortuga did a lot right. First of all, the quality of the organizations represented at Rock the Ocean‘s Conservation Village was top notch. MST was easily the smallest organization there, and we gave it our darn-dest to keep up with our better-known and extremely accomplished peers (think Oceana, the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, Project Baseline). I know Emily is really looking forward to giving a lot of those impressive organizations a feature in MST’s Ocean Organization Spotlight article series over the next few months.
Secondly, the emphasis on recycling and waste reduction was inspiring. Festival goers were openly encouraged to bring their own water containers and Clean Vibes offered attendees rewards for picking up garbage and recycling. Clean Vibes “is a company formed and dedicated to responsible on-site waste management of outdoor festivals and events.” Their mission is to “actively encourage and promote recycling, composting and proper waste disposal.” There was even a creative sculpture or two designed to collect cans to encourage people to combine creativity and conservation.
When you take what you are trying to protect and conserve and make it your event venue, there is a lot at stake. While we witnessed hundreds of people recycling, bending down to pick up cigarettes, and generally participating responsibly in the revelry, not all was orderly and respectful. Our friends at Sea Turtle Oversight Protection (STOP) had a hard time preventing inebriated attendees from crossing through their freshly planted sea oats. They hope to keep planting sea oats with the help of festival-goers on the Fort Lauderdale beach each year at Tortuga.
While a music festival with a “mission is to raise awareness for ocean conservation” might make some conservationists skeptical, I wish more experience-oriented organizations would work conservation messaging into their programming. I believe there is a particularly ripe opportunity at family-friendly events. The most inspiring part of this Tortuga experience was interacting with the kids that played ocean trivia with us. Many of them knew a lot more about marine life than their parents. They were open about discussing climate change, enthusiastic about learning more, and dying to know what they could do to protect sea turtles, dolphins, coral reefs, and their other favorite marine life. As conservation-minded organizations we should all push to interact as much as possible with children, our hope for the future!
Overall Tortuga was a superb experience. We engaged hundreds of attendees to promote MST’s vision of an informed public that acts to protect the world’s oceans. Hearing someone say, “Wow, I never knew that before!” is pretty darn rewarding. Hopefully the organizers, and conservation partners like Marine Science Today, will keep working to deepen the conservation messaging and opportunities for engagement. I also hope that more music festivals (like some of my favorites: Bumbershoot, Boston Calling, Osheaga), will take note about this kind of opportunity to engage in some corporate social responsibility and take up causes of their own. Somehow, in my own version of the end of the world (Florida), I found a new and inspiring take on one of my favorite activities.
Copyright © 2015 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.