World of the damned


A recent sudden passing of an old friend, a NatGeo Live talk by underwater photographer, David Doubilet, and what I saw on my last trip to Lombok got me thinking about whether the world IS indeed really damed to ruination very quickly now.

So on the last trip to Lombok in early August, it was sinister how everyday I was there at the Tanjung Luar fish market, there wasn’t a single shark landed at the auction grounds and apparently there hadn’t been any for the last 2 weeks since before we arrived in Lombok again. Perhaps it really was the full moon and the Ramadan period to be blamed for poor catches, but it was also very likely too that perhaps there just wasn’t very much sharks left to be caught anymore… Looking at the dismal faces on the shark buyers’ faces in the empty auction grounds was certainly very surreal for me. The blood and guts and thousands of sharks that had been slaughtered on this very ground for years now, was hauntingly empty for the first time for me.

But it is in the positive stories that conservationists and the likes should seek after all in spite of the dire straits we are currently in right? I met with Dharma from Wildlife Conservation Society again and it is heartening to hear about how training the shark fishermen into alternative forms of sustainable fishing for squid and skipjack tuna is already underway and how there are plans for a shark sanctuary in South Sumbawa going on. How WCS has been documenting the shark catching situation in the Tanjung Luar for a while now and have plans to propose that 3 species of hammerhead sharks be put on the no catch list alongside the whale shark no catch legislation that is already in place.

There was so many moments on the trip where I felt disillusioned all over again. I could be picking trash off the eastern coast of Lombok on the boat trip one day and the very next morning I will see the villagers in Kuta emptying their pails of trash into the ocean and have all this emotional turmoil in me just watching it happen and not be able to do anything about it (for now only, I hope). When I would be putting knobby starfishes back into wetter grounds with tourists one day and seeing children selling bottles of sand off the pristine beaches of southern Lombok the very next day. At which point exactly did we feel we have the right to take nature and animals as our own to convert into profit dollars? How dare we?

We went for a heartening talk by David Doubilet at NatGeo Live recently and his breathtaking photos of the beautiful underwater filled us with awe and longing, even more so we felt the ache in our hearts when he says we have barely 30 years before all the corals are destroyed in our oceans. Next thing I know, Shell is drilling the Arctic for oil even after 2 failed attempts at seeking out oil spots.

I could go on and on about the depressing state of the oceans but I guess the one thing that shook the core of my being was seeing an old friend pass on so suddenly after having taken ill for just a few days recently. Not just any friend, and even though we never really hung out much enough, this was one special girl whose heart for the oceans and compassion for animals won my respect deeply. It’s the best of us whom we lose, that fills us with immense pain, somehow. As if it wasn’t hard enough fighting a seemingly losing battle against the ills of the world, we had to lose another ocean warrior who knew the oceans deeply and was constantly mesmerized by what it had to offer, one who loved diving under over and over again and could readily wax lyrical about her experiences with its beauty and wonder, for all to be captivated and converted. How does the world lose someone like that and still go on? The shock and immense pain of the loss of a good soul is never easy and leaves me with a greater sense of disillusionment for now. Thank you, Joanna Yong, for teaching about the importance of living life to the fullest most genuinely when you took off on your year long adventures around the world and showed us that nothing is impossible. I wish I knew what’s the reason you had to be taken from us so very suddenly but I want you to live on through a good project, and as I have said on The Dorsal Effect’s Facebook page, I will find the resources and expertise possible to start a coral restoration program in your name at the sites of The Dorsal Effect’s boat trip off Tanjung Luar on the southeast coast of Lombok, just because you believed enough in what I am doing, to come on the boat trip on a very special World Ocean’s Day just 2 months ago and I deeply appreciate the support and encouragement.

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