Women making a difference in the world of conservation are driven by their passion. They work tirelessly to implement programs that educate, inspire, and raise awareness for their cause. Ghislaine Maxwell is one such woman who campaigns internationally to protect our oceans.
I am mesmerized by her enthusiasm, her passion for the underwater world, and her ability to bring together a community that shares her vision. She does all that through her nonprofit, Terramar Project, which she admits “was formally launched in 2012 and was a work in progress throughout 2011.”
Ghislaine is soft-spoken but firm in her convictions to bring about change through education across a wide spectrum of projects: Global Ocean TV (GOT) The Daily Catch, Ocean Passport and others (visit Terramar’s site for the full list).
Her first introduction to the oceans, which “captured her heart and her imagination,” she credits to the venerable Captain Jacques Yves Cousteau.
Ghislaine says, “I started scuba diving at the age of nine and later spent many years traveling around the world participating in exciting research and adventures on the sea. They ranged from counting sharks in remote atolls to looking for Amelia Earhart. It was through these adventures around the globe that I came to experience firsthand the fragility of the ocean and the many assaults that are endangering it.”
“The changes I have seen in just a few decades are devastating. Giant amounts of trash and plastic swirling in the ocean, humongous industrial fishing trawlers with nets so large that twelve Boeing 747’s can fit in the mouth that kill every living thing within its grasp — humans are changing the fine balance of life in the ocean. Twenty-five percent of all marine life rely on coral reefs, and many reefs have declined by more than half and most Caribbean coral reefs will disappear in the next twenty years.”
She is very well aware of the statistics on overfishing, ocean acidification and climate change.
I find myself disheartened by the figures Ghislaine provides, but I recognize she is correct; she is educating us about facts we may not wish to hear. I believe knowledge is power and action speaks louder than words, which is what Terramar Project strives to impress upon us. We need to act now to save our oceans and we need to know how to go about it.
My first question: Why did she decide to start Terramar Project ?
“I felt that there could be a novel way to connect people to the ocean and the connection could lead to action, and action could lead to change. Nearly three quarters of the planet is covered in ocean and about two thirds of that is considered high seas, also known as international waters. The idea of the Terramar Project is to connect you to this part of the world by giving the high seas a flag (an identity), a daily newspaper, a TV show (a voice), and an ocean passport (ownership) to enable the individual to send a message saying that he/she wants the ocean to be sustainably managed for generations to come.
“I am most passionate about the ocean and the creatures that call it home. I strongly feel the need for better, more sustainable governance for the ocean to address the myriad of problems, from plastic pollution and overfishing to ocean warming and acidification — before its too late. We risk the ocean returning to the microbial soup it was millennia ago. If you are not connected to the ocean, if your livelihood does not depend on it or you do not live by the sea, it’s easy to forget or ignore the immense value it provides to all life in earth. To think that it is so vast and mysterious that its problems are too big to confront and that one person cannot do anything to change the trajectory is wrong.”
I ask Ghislaine about her vision moving ahead. What inspires her?
“I wake up everyday and think of new ways to help the Terramar Project’s partners and friends of the ocean carry the message of how important the ocean is to our lives. Seeing Terramar grow every day and seeing the difference Terramar makes inspires me to want to do more and think of new and creative ways to inspire people to join the ‘I love the Ocean Movement.’ It sends a powerful message to lawmakers that our ocean is vital to our way of life, and it needs to be protected. I would like every politician to have a view and a stand on the ocean and water-related questions. No politician should be able to say that climate change does not exist and use this as an excuse not to deal with consequences on the world.”
I am curious about experiences that have made the most impact on her life and how they may have contributed to her creating the Terramar Project.
“On my first submarine dives (she is a certified submersibles pilot) I was excited thinking that when I got to the bottom of the ocean at over 1000 feet down I might discover a new species or a sea monster but I did not… I saw a plastic hanger and not one single fish! I cried, and I knew that I wanted to do something active and positive to make the ocean a central issue. There is incontrovertible proof of man’s impact on the ocean; ocean runoff has created more than 450 dead zones in the ocean.”
We must not give up hope. I wonder what your vision is for our younger generations?
“I think the ocean, its values, and its importance to our daily lives should be taught in school. It is not just a place to go to the beach in the summer. Education and awareness within our communities is key so that fish and other creatures that call it home can be protected. That is the only way generations to come will be able to fish and enjoy the ocean as I have. Marine parks and better fishing practices can help the ocean and its marine life. If the young people of today become passionate about the ocean they will be the torch bearers, explorers, innovators, and leaders of its future.”
Ghislaine Maxwell is a powerful voice in our conservation community and a true ambassador and citizen of our oceans. I encourage all exploring women to join her in her efforts.
Until our next adventure, pack away your wrinkle cream and put on your traveling boots…