Topics » Food Sustainability » How One Lecture Made an Ocean of Difference
T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies

All the health information in the Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate Program has been invaluable to me in my life and in my work as a writer and conscious lifestyle educator. However, one of the program’s lectures that had the most impact on me personally was actually not about health per se — it was about a precious resource on our planet.

As I listened to Cornell professor and oceanographer Dr. Bruce Monger talk about the state of our oceans, I felt sick to my stomach, and a lump rose in my throat. At the rate we’re going, he told us, our seas could be barren by 2048. Barren? I rewound and listened to it again. Could it be possible? I sat in shocked silence as I confirmed what he said.

Living most of my life near the Pacific Ocean (and my earliest years summering at the Atlantic), I have a special connection with sea life. I bring my young children to the San Diego-area seashore weekly, where they marvel at all the tiny creatures in the tide pools, and my husband surfs with dolphins and sea lions. When I heard Dr. Monger’s lecture, I knew I needed to spread his urgent message and help save our precious oceans, but I didn’t know how.

The opportunity arose, serendipitously, a few months later, when my kids and I came across two starving California sea lion pups on our local beach. I looked out toward the water and saw the fishing trawlers closer to shore than I ever remembered seeing them before, and that sick feeling I had when listening to Dr. Monger’s lecture returned to me full force. It was time.

The following weeks led to me learning about the crisis of the California sea lions – a record number of pups were washing up on Southern California beaches, malnourished and dying. My 7-year-old daughter and I decided we needed to do something. She created a fundraiser for the Pacific Marine Mammal Center (PMMC) in Laguna Beach, which rescues, rehabilitates and releases sea lions. And I did what I do best – started writing articles.

Haven completed the Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate Program, I had a doorway to contact Dr. Monger and interview him for a piece I wrote for The Huffington Post, in which I made the connection between eating fish and the crisis with sea lions and our oceans. I love connecting for people how choosing a whole food, plant-based diet has such a bigger impact than simply on our own health – it has countless benefits for us and beyond us. When I can illustrate this with specific situations like the sea lions (whose food supply is impacted by overfishing), I see people’s lights turn on.

More than 1,100 people “liked” that Huffington Post article, and my daughter raised over $900 for the PMMC with her fundraiser. (She also recently gave a TEDx Talk about it.) We’re making a small difference in spreading the message about our culture’s diet and our ocean life, and we’ll continue to do more. I’m so grateful Dr. Monger’s lecture was included in the course, and I hope more students will speak out on this issue as well.

“Every drop in the ocean counts.”
-Yoko Ono

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