So I spent the rest of the day chatting to more brave young men and women with whale calls in the background. Outside the sea was rough and it was raining. Instead of entertaining us on deck, the Southern Right family simply swam with us below the water. They had decided to be our envoy all the way to Durban.
In the pouring rain the deck crew scrubbed and cleaned with high pressure sprayers.
“Weather is immaterial on a ship,” said Penny, the Bosun. (This is the person in charge of the deck crew.)
Work continues regardless. I still had to fit in a few interviews, so was spared this wet work. But this team was able to make fun of anything – there they were in rain gear with waves plashing over the deck, working with high pressure hoses, always with smiles on their faces. This had to be the most positive bunch I had yet come across in my life.
What spark ignites this passion?
One after the other I listened to their stories in search of the spark that ignites this passion for the earth. Of course I relate to it deeply, but I am looking for a pattern. Why are some folk determined to contribute to the resolution of this crisis, whilst the rest can’t be bothered? So I dig deeper into what brings them there and how it started.
Amrit from India wanted to study environmental science due to his love of zoology and large animals. At the Bangalore university he joined the Greenpeace youth movement called Solar Generation as a volunteer. He took leave from college to join an action, where he got arrested at the age of 18! His parents were not impressed. Yet Amrit feels that volunteering for the earth was the best part of his education. After graduating he become Action Coordinator for Greenpeace India and then at 21 joined the ships in 2008.
In India, he said, if you come from a middle class family you are expected to either become a doctor or an engineer. But he wanted something else – he was prepared to take the ‘unsafe’ route of doing what he enjoyed and what was important to him. So he selected the uncharted waters. Taking risks and thinking independently is what green activists are about, I realise.
Doing what’s right makes you happy
“Why are you always laughing so much – people look so happy on this boat?” I asked.
“It’s about doing what you love and what is right for you. And see what happened? The whales came, and we are all heard them.” His eyes twinkle in the hammock of a huge smile. This young man is clearly on target. No, he doesn’t plan for the future, he says. He is not interested in money; he follows what feels right, what makes him happy.
We know how rewarding it is to make a small contribution towards mitigating a serious problem. And then you influence so many others. Amrit’s parents have made small changes too and are helping in their way. Grandpa still wants him to stop. How can he put his life in danger when there’s no clear and present danger to himself? Oh, but that is the point – this is much larger than yourself and just the NOW.
Brain wiring for a new world
Now you are into expansive thinking and the brain connects all the dots – the past, present and future, you and your role in the world. The microcosm of the macrocosm. This is the brain wiring that works for a new world and the greater good. And the rewards lie beyond the material. Since 17 he has been on his own doing what is right – and this is his message to us:
“Environment is such a mainstream subject now. Greenland is ice-free, and the Arctic may also be by the end of the year. We work with very scary numbers and so realise how little chance we have, even if we change our lives. The problems are huge. But then the whales come …and suddenly it seems more possible. A few hundred years ago whales like this could be seen all over the world. And I believe they will come back. Their presence has made me optimistic again that we can bring world change. That things will change.”
Maybe this was the whales’ message – to keep going and to keep believing that our hard work is worth it. The more everyone joins in and does their bit, the better our chances. Whatever you’re doing, don’t feel overwhelmed. Be active in your immediate environment and others will follow your lead. ENJOY being on board and part of the green team.
By Elma Pollard