At the end of my entry yesterday, when I mentioned our Wednesday dinner/blog arrangement for the year, I wrote that Wilf and I are aiming to eat a wider variety of sustainable seafood in 2014. And although this did not transpire last night (more on his culinary creation later), it did get me thinking about New Year’s resolutions. (If you don’t want a pep talk, skip the next two paragraphs.)
Like many, I don’t really like the term ‘New Year’s resolution’. I absolutely believe that change is good, but having a resolution implies that something needs to be fixed, that last year wasn’t good enough, that you’re doing something wrong with your life. Not only is that an unfortunate outlook, for the majority of people, it’s also wrong. The other interesting thing about resolutions is that for some reason, once you’ve made them, it seems like if things don’t go as smoothly as you would have liked (e.g., you miss three workouts in a row, you keep postponing the tuna painting you want to start, &c.), then you’ve failed. For me, this typically happens around January 10th. (Which means that come January 11th, I feel great about life again.) But I think that the biggest problem with resolutions is that they feel like an obligation. Which is why I like to use the term ‘goals’ instead. It’s less finite, and much more motivating. What I also tend to find is that goals are constantly being created, regardless of the time of year. It’s like you’re building on an already wonderful and appreciated you. Ok, well maybe that’s a bit much…
Nonetheless, regardless of the terminology, you have to be willing to work hard and make sacrifices if you want to meet your goals. It’s not rocket science but you do have to give a shit. While I’m not a nutritionist or personal trainer, I can guarantee those 20 lbs you want to shed won’t just lose themselves based on sheer willpower. It might sound shocking but if you stop buying cigarettes, I guarantee you’ll smoke less. If you alternate a weight routine with running every day, and cut refined sugar and booze from your diet (while also eating the proper balance of protein, veggies, and whole grains) I guarantee you will lost weight and get in shape. Physiologically, this is how our bodies work. But making those switches is incredibly challenging because it’s out of habit and too much too fast. Anyhow, as mentioned, I’m not a specialist so commenting further on fitness and diet seems a bit out of place. Nonetheless, once you’ve set some realistic goals (superficially motivated or otherwise), genuinely putting in the effort to reach those goals is the most important part. Wow, this is starting to sound a bit too much like O Magazine… Just bear with me…
Ever since I read, The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein, I have been intrigued by the sport of car racing. Formula 1 to be specific. As luck would have it, Wilf and I found a documentary about Ayrton Senna (watching the trailer comes highly recommended) on Netflix last fall. It was wonderful. And so, after being further inspired by watching Rush (twice) and another F1 documentary on the flight home, I’ve decided to learn about F1 this year. And just to clarify, as it stands right now, I know fuck all about car design and racing. I couldn’t care less about Nascar or Indy 500. I don’t even know how to change a tire. I know I don’t have the time or money to read all the material available and to travel to any of the races. So, instead of making a crazy ambitious goal of learning everything possible about the sport, I’m going to be realistic. Wilf bought me a beautiful F1 magazine last night so that will be my starting point. When it’s done, I’ll get something else to read. I’ll follow racing news online when I can, and do my best to catch all the races on TV (even this may prove tricky). This new interest is something I’m willing to dedicate a small but concentrated amount of effort toward when I can.
And so, since my friends and fam often ask how to help save the ocean, I decided last night to provide a short little list of simple suggestions for anyone who is serious about incorporating this daunting task into their list of goals for the coming year. (Emphasis on the ‘serious’ part, because as was just discussed, executing these goals can be a bit tricky, and they won’t simply happen on their own.) I’m sure anyone who knows me personally will have heard this spiel before, but hopefully it will be a catalyst for those who haven’t. Lastly, if all five suggestions seem too overwhelming, don’t do them all half-assed— just pick one but really stick to it.
1. Educate yourself on sustainable seafood. Especially if you eat a certain type of seafood regularly, figure out whether it’s a good environmental choice or not. (Right here I’ll say that most of the time, shrimp is a no no, and wild-caught salmon is a more environmentally friendly choice than farmed.) I know this suggestion is probably getting redundant from me, but I still think it’s the most important thing you can do. As I discussed in my post on eating bluefin, I think it is important to understand the environmental cost associated with all we do in life, and make informed decisions based on all available information. To help make it easier with regard to seafood, download the free OceanWise app (or an equivalent from Seafood Watch, SeaChoice, or MSC) for your phone, or print the pocket guide from their website. I know these guides can be a bit confusing. Even I find them confusing sometimes. They contain a lot of info and some species can have multiple suggestions based on where they are caught or what gear was used, so make sure you take the time to know exactly what you’re buying. If you’re getting a frozen product, look for helpful stickers or labels on the packaging as a starting point.
2. Read at least one book about the ocean in 2014. Depending on how often you have time to read for fun, this could even be once a month. Basically make it as often as you want. There are so many different aspects to ocean health, from climate change, to sustainable fisheries, to pollution—hit up the environment or wildlife section of the bookstore and find something that sounds interesting to you. Odds are, it won’t be overly scientific. (Try something by Carl Safina, or Sylvia Earle for an easy gateway into marine conservation themes.)
Whatever you choose, keep in mind that marine research is ongoing so some stats or examples might become outdated, and some authors might include their own personal opinions or give a biased view of an issue. Just try to be open minded and ultimately you’ll come to see the big picture. If that seems too much, try a coffee table book! Just make sure you read it and look at it from time to time. If you’re more of a magazine person, consider subscribing to something like National Geographic, which features several stories on current ocean issues and cool marine species every year.
3. See more marine life. Get a membership to your local aquarium or marine life centre (so long as you feel it is education-centric and does not inhumanely exploit its animals.) Take your friends. You don’t have to go weekly, but if there is a new exhibit in town, check it out. Prefer to see them in the wild? Consider giving whale watching* a go this summer. More interested in fish and corals? Take a dive course. I know diving is really expensive but it is also skill and activity that you can retain and enjoy throughout your entire life in any ocean. If you think it might by up your alley, give it a little further research.
4. Join a community-sourced fishery (CSF) program. If you eat a lot of seafood, consider buying it from a local, independent fisherman’s CSF rather than the grocery store. I only heard about these initiatives a few months ago, but I think they sound really awesome. (They are pretty much the marine version of the more prevalent community-sourced agricultural programs.) For an annual membership fee, CSFs provide a weekly (or monthly) share of fresh, locally caught seafood. From what I’ve seen, they aim to be incredibly transparent organizations and focus on providing not only high-quality sustainable seafood, but an exceptional level of customer service as well. If you’re in western Canada, check out Skipper Otto’s CSF. For anyone back east, look into Off The Hook. (I know there are more CSFs south of the border and also in Europe, so hit up Google to help you find one nearby.)
5. Get social. Follow the facebook and Twitter accounts of at least ten marine-centric organizations. As much as I kind of like the old fashioned book approach (#2), I get that social media is far more efficient at delivering information quickly. So, why not start getting your fix this way? And obviously don’t just subscribe to them, but actually read their posts and click the links provided when something interesting catches your eye. As a starting point, I’d recommend subscribing to some of the following: Ocean Conservancy, Blue Planet Society, OceanWise, Sylvia Earle, any of the Cousteau family, Mission Blue, Vancouver Aquarium (or your local aquarium), Carl Safina, Sea Monster, SeafoodWatch, Wyland Foundation and Deep Sea News. If you’re particularly curious about shark conservation, or coral reef research, or reducing sea turtle by-catch, try to follow some groups or NGOs that deal specifically with those issues. With the availability of information in today’s world, there is something for everyone and ignorance should never be an excuse!
Take home message: start learning. I firmly believe that learning leads to caring and caring leads to a broader understanding of the issues at large, ongoing participation and a sharing of your knowledge. Small steps can make big changes so don’t think that these little suggestions carry no weight. No one is perfect, but aim to do what you can, when you can, and encourage others to do the same.
For dinner last night, Wilf made mizorenabe (a.k.a. snowball soup). Basically it’s a winter meal from Japan that consists of a soy and sake broth with veggies and pork balls, topped by a heaping pile of daikon radish (which is meant to look like a pile of snow). I was a little skeptical initially while he was making it as he put about a kilo of ginger in it, but all the flavours really complimented each other and nothing was remotely overpowering. I guess I’d use the term delicate if that can be applied to a soup? At any rate, the specific recipe he used was in Japanese so I’ll share an English version from here instead. Overall, it was super quick and easy, very tasty, and comes highly recommended for a cold January night.
*Always double check that the companies you choose adhere to local standards in whale watching practices and environmental responsibility.