A Force for Good: The Researchers

Everyone knows that global environments in general, and the oceans in particular, are threatened. Climate change, coral bleaching, overfishing, runaway plastics – it’s a long list and every day, another study makes the list longer and more daunting. It may seem like everyone’s jumping on the bad news bandwagon, but I look at these reports in a positive, enabling way: the future we don’t want must be predicted to avoid it.

So, besides studying current issues, marine and environmental researchers show us problems before they arise. For example, in August marine scientists Wortman, Paytan and Yao (University of Toronto and University of California, Santa Cruz) released a study that suggests that, beyond warming, elevated atmospheric CO2 would reduce oceanic oxygen, making the deeper depths toxic and significantly damage fisheries through it effect on the food web. Yes, that’s bad news, but thanks to these researchers we know now, while we still have time to do something about it.

And, this leads to the second reason researchers are a crucial force for good. It’s about predicting problems, but also finding the solutions and sharing them. In a previous blog, I mentioned Dr. Vaughan’s breakthrough in coral restoration – shared research that directly addresses a massive global challenge that’s close to the heart of all divers. In Cuba’s Guanahacabibes National Marine Park, biologist Dr. Dorka Cobián Rojas teams with global scientists and “citizen scientist” divers to research causes and implement solutions to coral loss and the invasive lionfish. There also, Dr. Osmani Borrego similarly researches plastic pollution. These are critical research efforts because Guanahacabibes’ reefs are healthy, making them a biological resource oasis needed to find the problems and solutions we need to protect, preserve and restore the world’s reefs and fisheries.

Let’s not overlook “citizen scientist” involvement, because it is vital. Professional full-time researchers like Rojás and Borrego do not have the time or resources to gather all the data and trial the solutions. Solving massive, world-scale problems calls for massive, world-scale participation – in the ocean, that means you and me. As Project AWARE likes to say, don’t let your dives go to waste. Every dive we make can contribute to research. Dive Against Debris, for example, isn’t simply about picking up litter underwater or pointing fingers – it’s part of finding out how we can stop it.

Another effort is Reef Life Survey, founded by Dr. Graham Edgar, which trains volunteer divers to survey marine organisms. More than 200 RLS divers have already surveyed more than 2,000 sites in 44 countries, creating one of the largest global biological databases in existence. Using these data, researchers expect a shift in fish and invertebrate distribution as the oceans warm – a conclusion only possible thanks to these citizen scientist divers.  India.mongbay.com reports that in India, scientists train fishermen and other volunteers to dive (if they’re not already divers) as citizen scientists for involvement in multiple initiatives, and it has another benefit – public support. “The research also gets community buy-in when their people are involved,” the report quotes University of Kerala’s aquatic biology department head A. Biju Kuma. Go online and you can find literally dozens of ways scientists embrace divers like you and me in researching the solutions to environmental threats.

There’s a lot to do, so let’s make every dive count. Join Dive Against Debris if you haven’t already, and/or any other citizen scientist effort. We can be researchers while still making images, exploring or doing everything else we love about diving. And, let’s be restorers who use what we’re learning to rebuild, revitalize and recreate a healthy global environment. Let’s be reachers and teachers who use diving to spread what we’re learning and doing, and pass it to the next generations.

Regardless of what today’s trends are, the future is not inevitable. With 25 million PADI Professionals and Divers helping lead the way, and with a new generation of divers to come, we’re already changing course to a different tomorrow with a thriving, healthy global environment. When it comes to gazing into the crystal ball, I like what author-educator Peter Drucker said:

The best way to predict the future
is to create it.

Dr. Drew Richardson
PADI President & CEO

A Force for Good: the Reachers and Teachers

The planet’s environmental health is the biggest challenge humanity has ever faced. Looking at the innovation, initiatives and social ground swell happening on all fronts, we know we can rise to the challenge through dedication, focus, tenacity and importantly, by working on hearts and minds as well as preservation and restoration. Involving kids – the coming generations who will inherit the Earth – is crucial for our future. Global conservation is making great strides, but a sustainable future demand that it becomes an ongoing mindset that expands and gets passed on.

And, it’s happening, thanks to divers who reach and teach youngsters to share a passion that goes beyond diving to protecting and restoring the underwater world. In Tahiti, the Moorea Coral Gardeners – a growing team of youngsters (and some not-so-youngsters) – freedives to replant coral to reverse damage to Moorea, Tahiti’s incredible reefs (still awesome, by the way). But, they go further, educating local youth about why all the world’s coral reefs are environmentally and economically important, and need preservation. The Gardeners started as a local youth coral restoration project and now, through social media, they touch lives everywhere with an age-spanning team of international professional athletes, actors, and media stars.

The U.S.-based Kids Sea Camp, founded by PADI Instructor Margo Peyton, involves youngsters starting at age 4 (snorkeling) at some of diving’s best and most popular south Pacific and Caribbean destinations. In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, at Kids Scuba Syed Abd Rahman is on a parallel mission, bringing new talent into diving’s ranks by uniting ocean and coral conservation with diver training. Both groups introduce youth to wonderous, eye-opening underwater adventures while embracing diving’s higher purpose as the underwater world’s ambassadors and protectors. Still other divers reach kids wherever they are; in Koh Tao, Guy Corsellis talks with kids at the Koh Tao International Primary School about marine life, how it behaves, why it’s important and how to be kind to the environment.

There are many examples like these, and there need to be more because through involvement, engagement and example, young divers learn that the ocean and coral reefs are not just awesome, but threatened. They learn why and, most importantly, what we can all do about it – and we’re talking about more than coral. Showing our youth the underwater world and coral reefs is the best place to start in building a global culture that lives harmoniously with the global environment. People who experience coral reefs come to care about them quickly – and because these are the world’s environmental barometers, it’s often where we see subtle changes first. People focused in preserving this fragile environment will take on the bigger environmental issues because almost all of them ultimately affect the coral reefs. In other words, to preserve and restore the coral, we really have to preserve and restore the world environment.

Let’s applaud the reachers and teachers who motivate young people to embrace the underwater world, but I challenge all of us to also beone of them. Share your diving experiences with the kids in your life – at schools, youth centers, clubs, neighborhood, home — anywhere you cross paths. Explain why the oceans, reefs and the creatures living there are special and important, and how choices like reusing and recycling make a difference. Offer to introduce them to a dive instructor if you’re not one yet, or teach them to dive if you are.

Then, watch their eyes light up when they see, hear and feel what you and I have come to love so much. It’s one of the most rewarding ways to contribute to a better future.

 

Dr. Drew Richardson
PADI President & CEO

Divers Already Make a Difference

When you hear reports about overfishing, global climate change, coral bleaching, shark finning . . . and the list goes on . . . it’s tempting to question whether the situation is hopeless. Will we have coral reefs in 30 years? Will anything be living in the seas in 50 years?

Yes, and yes. The seas face formidable challenges, but they have formidable allies – you, me and more than 25 million other divers around the world among them. It’s not just that you and your fellow divers can make difference, but that you’re already making a difference through personal efforts like recycling, responsibly consuming only sustainable seafood, reducing our carbon footprints and campaigning to protect endangered marine animals. These are vital efforts, none of which are wasted, with millions (and growing) of divers and nondivers doing these – which is great. But, compared to some outdoor groups, divers raise the bar for environmental stewardship and leadership. Beyond the forefront of conservation and preservation, divers are at the forefront of restoration.

Did you know that, working alongside scientists, divers help grow and replace coral? Use 3D printing to create artificial structures where real coral and coral species can live? Remove debris (like plastics!) from almost every dive site? Replant mangroves, sea grasses and other vegetation vital to coral and oceanic health? Use different methods to protect and repopulate turtles, fish and other species? Gather data we need to identify and implement ongoing and new solutions? Teach kids and cultures what we’re learning and that we do make a difference so that saving and restoring the planet continues, expands and strengthens? These are not small local experiments – these are fins-on-the-ground, proven-results initiatives in action.

The truth is, we face a much bigger threat than the issues facing the seas, and it is this: loss of hope. We don’t want our heads in the sand, but let’s not lose perspective amid the doom and gloom. There are thousands of healthy coral reefs and other dive sites around the world. By staying informed, innovative and engaged, we can not only visit these, but preserve them, learn from them and leverage them to rebuild and restore.

I believe in realistic optimism and hopeful future, partly because the data support them, but also because really, we have no choice. With hopelessness comes inaction, resignation and surrender, which solve nothing. Hope anchors our souls to what’s possible, to action, and to doing what needs to be done. This isn’t Pollyanna – no one expects the global environment to be like it was in 1618 – but it can be vibrant, healthy and growing. A healthy Earth with healthy seas can be the ultimate heritage we leave our children and theirs.

Literally every dive you and I make can be a step towards that goal — with that in mind, remember that 15-23 September is AWARE Week. Please join the 25 million (and growing) divers who are fighting to restore our ocean planet. If you’re not yet involved with an AWARE event, please click the link and join in: http://www.padi.com/aware-week/join.

 

Dr. Drew Richardson
PADI President & CEO

Diving’s Finest Hour

Over the last weeks, the world watched drama unfold in Thailand with the rescue of 12 boys and their soccer coach from a flooded cave. It was an awe inspiring example of humanity at its best, focused on a single noble purpose. Setting aside titles and differences, some of the world’s top cave divers and other international experts selflessly converged there with their skills and resources. The Thai government wisely leveraged this, mobilizing its SEALs and internal resources, enabling the best-of-the-best to collaborate and apply their respective skills creatively and effectively in a difficult, dynamic situation.

To say that I take pride in what the dive community did is an understatement – this was diving’s “Apollo 13” – action and focus propelled by the unshakeable conviction that those boys would not die on diving’s watch. But, unlike Apollo 13, the rescuers had to go into “space” themselves, and the tragic loss of the Thai SEAL, Saman Kunan, highlights the difficulties, dangers and risks the rescuers faced and accepted. On behalf of the global PADI family, thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who was part of this – whether you hazarded the cave with the boys, or hauled cylinders to and from the site. To borrow from the Apollo 13 movie, it was diving’s finest hour. And, it took all of you to make it happen.

 

Dr. Drew Richardson
PADI President & CEO

A Message from Drew Richardson, President and CEO of PADI Worldwide

American author Mark Twain popularized a saying about innuendo, assumptions and conjectured numbers used to prop up slander:

There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.

Twain’s words certainly apply to a recent internet rumor that PADI is up for sale again. It is not. There are no discussions anywhere at any level to sell or buy PADI. The news on this is that there is no news.

Normally, I ignore PADI hate-mongering and chitchat flitting about in social media. The internet spreads gossip faster and wider than at any time in history, but most of us know propaganda and lies when we see them. Lacking substance to stand on, these typically erode quickly, so there’s no need to let them distract us. But in this case, speculation and perjure masqueraded as news (complete with “secret sources” – bless their hearts) so I’m setting the record straight.

As most in the dive industry knows, in 2017 the PADI organization secured support from a strong international consortium of long-term individual and group North American and European investors. This group does not involve itself in PADI’s day-to-day decisions or operations, but fully supports the PADI family’s missions to lead the dive industry and help shape a positive future for our oceans. We’re blessed with a growing group of exceptional managers and employees in international offices, but final authority and responsibility stops on my desk.

The PADI organization will continue to invest in the right products, people and programs that enable PADI Members to succeed by fulfilling divers’ interests, dreams and desires, and that support the PADI Four Pillars of Change, PADI Foundation and Project AWARE and other initiatives that make the world a better place.

For those interested, here’s some nonfiction (I won’t call it news because it’s been true for quite awhile): PADI Members make PADI the strongest brand in diving, and personally leverage the power of divers as a force for strong, positive change in ocean health, conservation and education in more than 183 countries and territories. Honestly, I’m humbled to serve the PADI membership – a positive, proactive family of individuals, retailers, resort operators and divers around the world who are the real stewards, and hands and feet of PADI’s missions. They exemplify where all of us in the industry really need to be putting our effort.

Thank you.

Dr. Drew Richardson
PADI President & CEO

 

Drew Richardson Engages Ocean Community at Blue Vision Summit 

PADI CEO Drew Richardson speaks at Blue Vision Summit

PADI President and CEO Drew Richardson took part in the Blue Vision Summit in Washington, DC, USA, last month, speaking about the enhanced role that coastal communities can play in ocean conservation and stewardship. The summit, which brings together ocean conservation leaders, was focused on strengthening a sustainable “blue economy” and addressing challenges of a changing ocean and climate.

PADI CEO Drew Richardson speaks at Blue Vision Summit

“Unquestionably, there are serious and formidable issues threatening the world oceans. That said, I’m a firm believer in engagement, problem identification and mitigation,” Richardson said to the group of 500 scientists, explorers and leaders in attendance. “My life philosophy is to remain optimistic and focused on a ‘future hope.’ In my mind, there is no other option.”

The PADI organization became involved in the Blue Vision Summit to work collaboratively with individuals and organizations toward improving ocean conservation efforts through various approaches, including education and marine recreation. The summit also provides a platform to influence policy and implement ocean health solutions by connecting with change makers and elected officials.

“It was an honor to attend the Blue Vision Summit and engage with so many passionate and committed professionals,” said Richardson. “At PADI, we are recruiting and engaging millions of new divers, training them well to be confident and comfortable, encouraging and enabling them to seek diving adventures and explore the planet’s underwater realm. Divers receive a clear message to pay it forward as good ocean stewards who protect marine life. We look forward to collaborating with like-minded individuals and organizations to achieve these ends.”

Speaking of PADI’s deepened commitment to ocean health and conservation through the Four Pillars of Change program, Richardson said, “We train nearly one million new divers each year who can engage in strategic alliances, have a powerful voice and get involved in real solutions to drive change. PADI Divers are actively becoming as a force for good and driving toward a healthier ocean on local, national and international levels. The PADI organization is committed to being a global, passionate force that creates a preferred future with healthier oceans.”

Note: Read more from Richardson about ocean conservation and advocacy in this recent Forbes article.    

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