My Ocean Story

Posted by: Kelsey Schueler

My ocean story starts in diapers. That’s when my dad introduced me to the Atlantic ocean for the first time. Every year since I can remember, we spent a week on Ocracoke Island in North Carolina’s Outer banks. Many things have changed in my life over the years, but the special place in my heart for this beach never has. The campground hasn’t changed much either- still cold showers and the same hierarchy of good camping spots. There is nothing more soul refreshing than sitting in those dunes to watch the sunset or diving into the cool waves after a sweaty bike ride around the island. For me, the ocean is not only relaxing and beautiful, it is where I recharge on family memories no matter how far away they are.

My dad at our campsite during my trip to Ocracoke last summer before I moved to CA.

The story goes well beyond Ocracoke. I spent the greater part of my childhood camping across the country with mom, dad, sister, and sometimes the dog. I learned at a very young age that nothing worthwhile in this world can be seen from a car window. You have to get out and explore. From the wetlands of the Chesapeake Bay to the stunning beaches of New Zealand, there is no sensation more satisfying than dipping your toes in the water for the first time each summer. Now that I am relocated to the West coast, I realize that Californians might not be able to relate to this. But I think we can all relate to that incredible feeling when you are looking out over the ocean. The ocean is a vast, infinite future, but at the same time it grounds me in my past and connects me with my family. It’s an incredible sense of having roots and wings at the same time.

If you haven’t guessed already, my parents are environmentalists. For me, conservation is a family value. It took me a long time to acknowledge this, but here I am studying environmental policy to conserve the places where the land meets the sea. More importantly, I am focusing on social-ecological linkages: the role humans play in these ecosystems, and the role these ecosystems play in our lives.

However, these coastal ecosystems, where the water and sea meet, are disappearing quickly. We’ve lost over 90% here in California, and the story is the same all around the world. The threats are complicated and no one solution can work by itself. Conserving these places full of biodiversity and family memories involves science, policy, storytelling, restoration, and (as working with Ocean Champions has taught me) politics. Good legislation doesn’t happen easily. Even the best science and policy are nothing without strong allies in Congress. No matter what approach you prefer, top down or bottom up, legislation is critical to conservation.

Great ocean policies start with great ocean champions in Congress.

I look forward to taking this political knowledge with me to Washington D.C. next year to ensure that one day my children can feel this link between the ocean, themselves, and their families.

A storm rolls in over the brackish marshes of Ocracoke Island

Date Posted: April 11, 2013 @ 12:54 pm Comments Off

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