Beginning of the End

There’re a couple of events I have had the privilege of attending that I really felt like I was at the right place at the right time. And this year’s ADEX was one of them. Meeting and listening to Dr. Silvia Earle, Nobel peace prize recipient and 2nd president of East Timor José Ramos-Horta, and people like Brazilian filmmaker Cristian Dimitrus, gave me more than inspirations. It is after time like these I really feel like I learned like a sponge and grew like bamboo.

It’s either a coincidence or the editor of this month’s AsianDiver was following my social media interaction with some filmmakers. 😂 As all this talk about shark fin consumption and sustainable seafood has exactly been my focus for the past few months.

“腹下有翅,味并肥美,南人珍之” (明代李时珍《本草纲目》) There is this sentence mentioning shark fin consumption by “the southerners” in Li Shizhen’s Compendium of Materia Medica all the way dating back to Ming dynasty (1500s), southerners at the time being current Guangdong, Vietnam & SE Asia.

Shark fin consumption, however, has come a long way from being just a Chinese problem. In fact if you go to China now you don’t really see it that much any more. I myself have seen more restaurants in Singapore serving shark fins in one month than in all my 26 years living in China combined. Chinese traditional medicine, like many other traditions, is going through a really tough phase right now in China. There are constant debates going on amongst intellectuals regarding its harm over its value. As for shark fins, with negative media portrayal and celebrity endorsement, it has become a symbol of corruption and has been disapproved by most mainland Chinese for almost 10 years now. (In Guangdong province it is a different story. The list of animals that has been on their menu is even appalling to the rest of China.) This product, together with manta ray gills, are now mostly marketed to overseas Chinese decedents, among whom the traditional heritage is still alive and strong. After living in Singapore and Southeast Asia for over 2 years, I formed a habit of constantly comparing everything with China. It occured to me that Mao forcing China into cultural revolution and the destruction of Four Olds decades ago might turn out to be a blessing in disguise after all. (Many other gems of heritage destroyed during that time is another topic for another day.)

Yet shark products consumption is now epidemic worldwide. The situation is especially bad in Southeast Asia. Go to any Chinese styled restaurants in Singapore, chances are that shark fin soup is a dish proudly listed on the menu, sometimes even as a star dish. In some western countries the shark cartilage supplement pills are also widely available from big supplement brands, from which the source being covered up but no-less questionable.

And the worst of all cases are the HK/Cantonese immigrants in US and Canada, serving shark fin soup on wedding and banquet tables as a status symbol still to this day.

To address the issue we must find it’s real source. Instead of blindly blame China for shark fin problems, the video in the link below perfectly explains the problem in US. And thanks to people like Shawn Heinrichs and @sharkgirlmadison, more truth can be unveiled.

http://projectearth.us/shark-fin-soup-isnt-just-a-problem-in-china-but-also-i-1796519432

With all this being said, at the end of the day, when I look at the piles and piles of dead sharks in all these videos, I can’t help but think that we humans are draining the ocean of all its fish. So even if we leave the sharks alone, they might not even find as much food to sustain themselves any more. As with the prediction of many studies, by 2048 we would’ve emptied the ocean with all its abundance. We have much much bigger problems to worry about than just sharks.

But as a great man once said: All great journeys start from a single step.

A Wave of Change

A movie I just watched over the weekend, A Plastic Ocean, tells the story about how plastics decompose in a million year life cycle and in the meantime how they keep disintegrate into smaller pieces until every species have it in their food & blood. It’s just daunting how few people really cares about this issue. Are we really that short sighted?

But the truth is maybe we are. Like Leo said in Before The Flood, people usually tune off when you start to talk to them about the environment and conservation. But few realise that, the things you are busy dealing with everyday, the things you work hard for, won’t be there any more if we all choose to ignore this warning.

Not long ago I watching Rob Stewart’s Revolution in Asia Dive Expo. Apart from the cute baby flamboyant cuttlefishes coming out of their eggs, the ocean didn’t really stick in my mind after first viewing. Instead, an aerial footage of Canada’s ancient forests being eaten up and polluted by the tar sand oil mines shocked me.

Alberta forests eaten up by tar sand mines (Screenshot from Revolution)

Canadian forests being polluted by tar sand washing (Screenshot from Revolution)

I could not believe what I was seen. It looked almost unreal.

I think if everyone can watch this film then the problem will be solved. Here’s a bit of behind-the-scenes of what’s in the movie:

Unfortunately the good die young. Rob Stewart sacrificed his life for the cause, his life’s devotion to ocean and environment conservation, at the age of 37.

I also read something thought-provoking recently, that I’d like to share:

The environmental problems we have now is really nothing compared to the long geological and biological cycles of earth’s evolution. Millions of years from now on, the planet’s carbon and ecological imbalance will return to normal. Life will thrive once again on earth. But we won’t be the ones writing that part of the story. In fact we might not even last pass the end of this century, if we continue to live the way we do. The earth does not necessarily need our saving, but we really need to save OURSELVES.

It dawned on me: conservation is really just conserving our own species’ future. When our generation is gone, our children will be the ones questioning “why didn’t they do anything back then?” The whole film of Revolution revolves around how people from all over the world protest against environmental issues, among them the youths especially. The young people, the next generation kids, are are ones caring about the future, when WE are doing nothing about it. In the film there’s this 9 year old German kid Felix Finkbeiner who founded a worldwide organization to plant trees and campaigns passionately about it. It gave me hope.