If one person can make a difference, just imagine what a group can accomplish.
When I was very young, I was taught that we are all going to die, and life is our short window of opportunity to change the world.
Many people go through life having a fun childhood, getting a good job, raising a wonderful family, and then die content. This is the glorified image of a successful life. These people are happy, and they give their children the opportunity to have a happy, successful life as well.
However, these are not the people that are remembered for years after their death. Albert Einstein did not settle for this “successful” life, and he is one of the most well-known people in history; his name is synonymous with ‘genius.’ He might not have been as happy as an ordinary person, but he definitely affected the world more than most. He recognized his gifts and used his 76 years on this planet to accomplish incredible things. Without Einstein, who knows what our world would be like?
But you don’t need to completely abandon a normal life to be remembered…
Rachel Carson was an average marine biologist and writer. She wasn’t a genius; she wasn’t in a lab all day. She was simply conducting research projects with her colleagues and writing papers. But one day in 1957, she heard about the USDA’s fire ant eradication program, where pesticides like DDT were sprayed over large areas of land. She believed these chemicals were causing major environmental issues, many of which she witnessed firsthand. So over the next 4 years, she set out on a mission to find and share these issues with the world.
On September 27, 1962, Rachel Carson published Silent Spring, arguably the most important work of conservation writing ever created. This book changed the way we look at our effects on the natural world, and spawned the environmental movement itself.
Photographer Art Wolfe shows just how much of a difference she made:
Rachel Carson remains my biggest inspiration, and without her, I have no doubts that I would not be doing what I am today. People like Einstein and Carson are proof that one person can make a difference in the world. Personally, I know I will not be satisfied with my life if I don’t have a lasting positive effect on this planet, specifically for the Vaquita. Fortunately for me, I am not alone in my desire to save this little porpoise. Now, more than ever before, we have a huge army of passionate individuals who will not let the few remaining Vaquitas slip away. If we all can show the same initiative, determination, and innovativeness of people like Rachel Carson, the Vaquita will be one lucky porpoise.
One person that is making a difference for the Vaquita in a unique way is Guillermo Munro Colosio, more commonly known as Memuco. He combines his incredible artistic skills with his compassion for nature to portray messages in an extremely compelling way. Some great examples are his Vaquita murals in Puerto Peñasco, one of the three fishing villages surrounding the Vaquita. He also creates infographics for endangered species, as well as paintings. He is a huge Vaquita warrior, and we love him and his work.
To put the Vaquita’s current situation into perspective, imagine this:
You have a jigsaw puzzle. The picture on the box is simple and beautiful. However, when you open it up, the pieces are tiny and there are way more you thought. And you only have half an hour to complete it.
Not good, right? The Vaquita’s situation appears simple (the picture on the box): remove all gillnets. However, there are countless tiny pieces to the puzzle (fishermen, money, wildlife trafficking, government, etc.), and time is running out. There could be 86 Vaquitas left, and that could even be an overestimate. The point is, we are so close to the point of no return, that every little action has major consequences. Currently, there is a harmful algal bloom, called a red tide, going on in the Vaquita’s range. This may seem like bad news, and it could possibly be toxic to the Vaquita, but there is a huge upside: all fishing operations are on pause due to the danger of consuming contaminated sea food. So basically, it is like a ban that doesn’t even need enforcement. However, the red tide will fade away sooner or later, and the fishermen will be back on the water.
Luckily, strides have been made in the form of the new 2-year ban, which at least gives us a law to enforce starting in March. However, we still need to keep the pressure on the Mexican government to follow through with the ban. There need to be major short-term actions carried out immediately, and then we can worry about the long term. The most positive news is that the Mexican government says they are planning on using high-tech aerial drones to monitor the Vaquita’s range for any illegal fishing, which will relay the information back to enforcement so they can stop the illegal activity before it is too late. With the recent possible extinction of the Chinese Bahaba, many wealthy Chinese people have turned their attention to Mexico’s Totoaba, a very similar fish, for their “medical” needs. As we know, this recent increased (yet illegal) demand for Totoaba has left the poor Vaquita in the crossfire. Two more species are on their way to extinction mainly because of some ridiculous traditions. This demand needs to end, or else even strong enforcement on the water may not be enough to stop relentless poachers and cartels from killing both species, albeit one accidentally. Andrew Wright takes a closer look:
This will be a historical next few months for everyone in the Vaquita world. Thankfully, we don’t have to be helpless witnesses to all this. Don’t buy any seafood from the Gulf of California, Mexico, and make sure your local Chinese food restaurants aren’t selling Totoaba swim bladder soup. Keep signing the petitions to keep the pressure on, and I promise you, we really can do this.