Tag Archives: sea change

What Would Terry Pratchett Say?

Terry Pratchett. Photo: Les WilsonSir Terry Pratchett is an English fantasy novelist and Alzheimer’s sufferer.  Apparently having Alzheimer’s has made him even more famous than the 70 million books in 37 languages that he has sold worldwide.  I’m not sure on that one, but one thing I do know is that he is an all-round legend and his writing has personally inspired me in more ways than I knew…  Until I took on this week’s Writing Challenge.

This week the challenge asked us to talk about a writer whose style has most influenced our writing voice.

Which really made me stop and think.

How do I write?

This blog is about, mainly, marine conservation.  Its tone is generally one of news reportage, awareness-raising, and examination of issues.  It’s called ‘Sea Change – transforming the way we view the world’ not because I have some egotistical idea that what I write will change the world, but because I believe that every action we take to improve our personal (and others’) environment will ultimately make some difference, and because Gandhi said “We must be the change we wish to see in the world”.  Call it spreading the idea of good karma through positive influence, if you will.

I draw on my science background and love of the English language to (hopefully) write with an ‘informed’, informal bias towards the environment and against silly people (although I know we’re all only human in the end).  Sometimes there’ll be a random post about a more personal issue –  the frustrations of ink running out, how awesome my coffee cup is, or why I feel it’s okay to get out of bed on a Monday morning and face the world.  I’m influenced by my surroundings (especially on a sunny day), by my lower-middle-class-upper-working-class English upbringing, by the places I go, the people I meet, the books I read and my own personal opinions.

Which were formed, to a large extent, during my first 20 or so years.  This is perhaps because, as Sir Terry puts it, “Wisdom comes from experience. Experience is often a result of lack of wisdom.”  I know that I certainly haven’t stopped gaining experience… But there is such a lot to learn when you start out, isn’t there?

As a self-proclaimed bookworm, I used to read a whole lot.  These days I manage to bury my head in a chapter or two on the train during the daily commute, but time is limited (there seems to be so much less as you get older, don’t you think?)  However, I still find time for my favourite author of all time, Terry Pratchett.  His witty, cynical, satirical and often downright laugh-out-loud fantasy novel series, Discworld, has had me hooked for the past 15 years (at least).  TP writes with an eloquent, fluent style which somehow manages to portray a flat world balancing on the backs of four elephants who are in turn standing on top of a giant turtle swimming slowly through space as a parody of our own in a funny, sharp and engaging way.  His ideas on, for example, cats (“In ancient times cats were worshipped as gods; they have not forgotten this.”), creation (“In the beginning there was nothing, which exploded.”), and human existence (“The most important problem is we’re trying to understand the fundamental workings of the universe via a language designed for telling each other where the fruit is.”) have inevitably influenced me (I am a cat worshipper, an atheist, and a biologist. Go figure).

And although I’m not nearly as witty as Sir Terry, I like to think I’ve got a good dose of his cynicism, sarcasm and general outlook on life, along with a love of fantasy (on which subject TP says, “Fantasy is an exercise bicycle for the mind. It might not take you anywhere, but it tones up the muscles that can.”)

In writing style, TP originally wrote whole books without a single chapter.  He would separate periods of action between different characters with long paragraph breaks, and occasionally a line of asterisks.  He also tended to use a lot of footnotes.  These days I’ve noticed that chapters are appearing in his novels, but perhaps this is in response to his Alzheimer’s disease, making it easier to keep track of the order of things.  Or perhaps his writing style has just changed.

***

I don’t write novels.  Or at least, I haven’t completed one yet.  If I did I would probably use chapters. In blogging I have been known to use headers (occasionally), bullet points (rarely), and pictures (quite often, to make things more interesting).  But the influence of Sir Terry is still there in the long – and short – sentences, occasional comment that seems pretty random, and dry tone that I have been told sometimes crawls out from the woodwork to make itself heard.

I hope that I write eloquently enough.  Sometimes I even try for humour.  Perhaps I’m less cynical than I think I ought to be, since the introduction of the idea that humanity will inevitably destroy itself (consider: “Some humans would do anything to see if it was possible to do it.  If you put a large switch in some cave somewhere, with a sign on it saying ‘End-of-the-World Switch.  PLEASE DO NOT TOUCH’, the paint wouldn’t even have time to dry.”)  Perhaps this is because I believe that the world is, in spite of everything, a pretty awesome place.  It’s a good thing to notice the negative aspects, the problems we are causing (locally, globally, in nature and amongst ourselves), and the issues which need action.  This will lead us towards a better living environment, and in the end, that’s what we’re all aiming for, isn’t it?

But let’s not lose sight of the big picture.  Burying yourself in cynicism and disillusionment won’t make your world a better place.  Face it, life’s pretty funny.  If Terry Pratchett can find humour in the chaos of society, and quiet dignity in the face of an illness which is whittling away at his mind, I think anybody can.  So let’s go out there and be positive.  Be realistic.  Be hopeful.

Most of all, let’s have a laugh.  I think that’s what Terry Pratchett would say.

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Marine Sanctuaries Welcome

Great news for the oceans

This week the government announced the creation of the world’s largest network of marine reserves in Australia’s Commonwealth waters.  The plan includes some limit on oil and gas exploration – an Australian first – whilst the biggest win was for extended reef protection in the Coral Sea.

 

But what is a marine sanctuary?

In the new plan, marine sanctuaries are called marine national park zones, which is a pretty good description of what they do.  These will be national parks for the ocean.  The difference is that animals within these marine protected areas won’t be prevented from moving out of them – there are no fences in the ocean.

Oil and gas exploration, mining and fishing are prevented in marine sanctuaries.  This means that whales migrating through these areas will be protected from potential human hazards, and fish can grow up without being taken by fishermen before they can breed.

Here is a blog by Tim Nicol from the Conservation Council of WA which describes the benefits of marine sanctuaries: What is a marine sanctuary?.  He describes how sanctuaries protect marine life, underpin sustainable fishing and can even help reverse fish declines.  Marine sanctuaries also make economic sense.

Want to see some evidence that they work in the real world?  Scientists using DNA fingerprinting technology to track dispersal pathways of fish in the Great Barrier Reef have shown that exploited fish populations on neighbouring reefs could be restocked by those in marine reserves.  Other recent research showed that some vulnerable species have small home ranges, thereby making them well suited to marine park protection.  There are many other examples from all over the world: the Philippines, the Mediterranean, the Bahamas, New Zealand, Chile, UK, the USA… the list goes on.  Dr Melissa Nursey-Bray has a great literature review with summaries of these successes.

 

So is this the greatest legislation ever?

No.  Of course it isn’t.  The introduction of Commonwealth marine sanctuaries represents a sea change in how the government views the ocean: a recognition that marine life is under unprecedented threat and that marine sanctuaries can help protect them.  That the oceans are not just something to exploit, but somewhere that needs preserving for future generations, for sustainable industry, and for inherent worth in itself.  Marine protection will now become a mainstream issue, alongside national parks on land.

But there were failures too.  You may have noticed fishermen complaining loudly in the media about the implementation of these marine parks.  They should be celebrating.  40,000 people sent in a submission during the review period for the marine parks plan; 98% of them asked for better protection than designed.  Yet the plan that has been submitted has less protection than the original draft.  Any fishermen that are affected will be compensated.  And marine sanctuaries were not the only zones designated in the new Commonwealth plan: other zones allow a variety of different fishing and/or oil and gas exploration.  Australia’s first ‘no oil zone’ covered only part of the area being considered for drilling.  Many of the marine reserves implemented are too small to do enough good.  Some important places have been completely left out or inadequately protected.  In many ways, there is still a long way to go to get the protection our marine environment requires, and deserves.

Let’s hope this change continues to build so that Australia can become a world leader in marine conservation.  With a third of the world’s national waters under its protection, that’s a title that it surely deserves, and could achieve.

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What is Sea Change

Origin

A sea change is when something is gradually, markedly transformed. The expression comes from Shakespeare’s The Tempest, when Ariel sings:

“Full fathom five thy father lies,
Of his bones are coral made,
Those are pearls that were his eyes,
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change,
Into something rich and strange”

The term is an idiom used in modern culture, sometimes used to describe minor shifts in policy or opinion. However, its real meaning is that of a profound transformation, often for the better.

So why did I call this blog Sea Change?

It just seemed to fit. How else to describe the way we should view the world, and change the world? I am a marine biologist by training, a British girl living in Australia, soaking up the sunshine (hopefully without a cancerous future) and campaigning for a brighter, better, greener world. Or in my case, bluer. I believe we could see a sea change in our lifetimes. In our generation, or the next one at least. Definitely before World War III breaks out, or water and oil and food runs out, or the next great Mass Extinction wipes out everything other than homo sapiens from our planet. Every day the world is changing, and I like to think it’s for the better. This blog is intended to highlight those things in everyday (and sometimes once-a-lifetime) life that make a difference. Scientific discoveries, eco-living values, political failures (and successes), campaigns, communities, and altogether positive news…

This is my first blog, but I’m certainly hoping it won’t be my last. Unless my computer breaks, or I lose my phone, or all technology dies inexplicably… (Which whilst unlikely, could happen). In the absence of complete loss of sanity however, I hereby declare my intent to write about anything and everything, and if possible keeping it to the realms of environmental, sustainable, conservationist ideas, lifestyle and knowledge.

So hello world, welcome, and here’s to creating a brighter, better future for ourselves and for the planet.

Sunrise over the Pacific

Sunrise over the Pacific. Photo by Emma Gates

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