A date with seagrass

Halophila ovalis (source: Seagrass Watch)

Halophila ovalis (source: Seagrass Watch)

I hadn’t been out on my board for a while, guilty I know and despite the less than perfect conditions I just had to get out. Even for a short paddle as my heavy eyes would rather be closed than carefully manoeuvring a 9’6 board so that I didn’t fall into the murky water. There were a few close calls. Damn those jet skis.

So I decided to let go. Something I had been working on throughout the previous week. Letting go of the challenges, clashes and hassles of everyday small business or home life. Instead, embrace the it is what it is, which is a challenge for someone who sees the world through rose-coloured glasses and confined within a spreadsheet to ensure all my interests get well-balanced attention. Sigh, the life of fully-occupied person [not busy].

It wasn’t long until I ended up drifting back to the shore to where the seagrass and other debris had ended up. Drifting closer and closer every wave.

There I was laying on my pink-flower trimmed bamboo board with my eyes closed listening to the windier than expected wind and with that the easterly waves that kept me cool. Every now and then I placed my hands into the warm water only to be wrapped in seagrass, the only flowering plant that lives under the sea.

That’s the beauty of being a coastal scientist. In my mind I gave myself a short education session to fully-acknowledge the species of seagrass that were now catching on my board, which was a delight more so for the fact that it had been collecting twigs, leaves and dirt at home – all summer. I could see two kinds of seagrass and one of those was my favourite. Halophila ovalis or more affectionally known as Dugong Grass – Dugong’s favourite food, yet none to be see.

It was a shame that I couldn’t share this experience with a Dugong or anyone else other than myself and my now relaxed persona. The reality is that life and life on the waterway is busy. Sometimes too busy for me and definitely too busy for a shy mammal like a Dugong.

Instead, it was just me, a less busier person and the Halophila ovalis. If only I could be seagrass for a day and let the wind, waves. tides and currents take me on a course.

But yet again, I would probably end up where I was, laying on my board and letting life unfold as it should.

Fear of breakthroughs

Dubai, United Arab Emirates, one of the 'Top 11 worst beach destinations in the world

Dubai, United Arab Emirates, one of the ‘Top 11 worst beach destinations in the world

Don’t you hate those moments in life when what you believe in comes crashing down? Yet, you know deep down “the universe is unfolding as it should” – shall I quote Max Ehrmann, Desiderata.

That moment happened last year when a coastal colleague and dear friend, Dan Ware from Griffith University sat me down and explicitly said that there is no such thing as integrated coastal zone management (ICM). Despite the realms of reports, plans and strategies that have led us to believe that there is and can be an “integrated” approach to protect beaches, waves, coasts and oceans.

The reality is that the truth has been spoken and widely documented although not entirely as explicit as Ware might say. That being despite the good intentions of ICM politics and people are the key drivers of coastal decisions. This might be OK (good enough) if management didn’t exist. But management does exist and unfortunately politics and people can’t be translated into manicured Ghant charts scientists and engineers who are classically trained to solve the dynamic nature of beaches, waves, coasts and oceans attempt to follow.

With no disrespect to the good intentions of the Rio Summit 1992 when ICM was born, it is refreshing to hear coastal leaders speak the truth and from the heart. As Ware wholeheartedly expressed this afternoon at Griffith University’s TEDx Talk, our fear of the coast, the truth of the coast and love for the coast should be the drivers of coastal decisions. And more importantly to move beyond the myths and silos that plague the limitations and challenges of ICM.

If you read the between lines it’s not all bad news. It’s simply a story that has halted progress, creativity and innovation. If you like happy endings like I do, it’s time to move beyond the stagnant SWOT analyses that limit new discoveries. It’s time for change. Global change.

Just as I was saying to my supervisor this afternoon: ‘where there is a will there is a way, and where there is a dream there is hope, and where there is passion, there is a vision’.

My passion is healthy beaches and happy communities. And my vision is happy beaches.

It takes a breakthrough to discover what can be and what should be, although, it takes courage to tread in the waters of fear. I overcame my coastal fear last year and that is when I discovered beach happiness.

I will forever be in debt to Ware for his passion, courage and knowledge to inspire change – change on a global scale.