3 Ways This Surf-Loving Coalition Is Trying to Save Our Oceans

Surfing offers people an almost spiritual connection to the water. #globalgoals

This fall, the United Nations is preparing to launch its 17 Sustainable Development Goals—an extraordinary action plan to solve the world’s biggest problems by 2030. Over the coming months, we’ll be connecting with The Local Globalists: 17 nonprofit founders, entrepreneurs, and social innovators who are working every day, wherever they are, to turn one of the U.N.’s #globalgoals into reality.

Goal 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas, and marine resources for sustainable development.

If you want to save the world’s oceans, put down the sad, guilt-inspiring acoustic guitar soundtrack and instead give people a real connection to the majesty of surfing and fishing, and to the beauty of our planet’s largest ecosystem.

At least that’s the approach of Nik Strong-Cvetich, executive director of the nonprofit Save the Waves Coalition, which works with coastal communities around the world to protect and manage their coastlines and natural resources, tackling issues like coastal development, water quality, climate change/sea level rise, coral reefs impact, and more. “Overall,” he says, “our mission is to preserve and protect the coastal environment with a focus on the surf zone. The surf zone is a very special ecosystem, [and we can use] surfing as an entry point into this larger dialogue about the need for coastal conservation.”

For a vivid illustration of this, check out their beautiful and inspiring short film The Fisherman’s Son, a portrait of the extraordinary life and surfing career of Ramon Navarro, Chile’s first professional surfer. The film describes a Save the Waves success story in which Navarro was instrumental: Together they worked to block construction of a pipeline in a popular surf spot in Pichilemu, close to Navarro’s home, that would have spewed sewage directly into the ocean. Far from being a sappy or cloying beg for people to donate money or take political action, the film shows unbelievable footage of Navarro in utter harmony with the sea, diving for fish with his father and riding massive waves. Navarro’s exhilarating, inspirational surfing becomes the vehicle through which audiences can appreciate the ocean’s beauty and power, and understand how local people and sea life depend on its health for their lives and livelihoods. “From a sustainable development point,” Strong-Cvetich says, “surfing is actually a pretty low-impact form of tourism. In places where your coastal economy is based on fishing and tourism, surfing doesn’t denigrate the resources.”

Save the Waves uses three main programs to accomplish its goals. World Surfing Reserves is a UNESCO-style program that “proactively identifies, designates, and preserves outstanding waves, surf zones, and surrounding environments around the world,” in the words of its website. A program called Surfonomics helps local communities determine the economic value of their surf spots and supports them in protecting these valuable resources. “We measure how many folks are coming, how much are they spending, what are they spending on,” Strong-Cvetich says, adding that they then present their findings to local decision makers. “I think most governments don’t understand that these hippies actually bring in a lot of money to a community,” he says. The third program that the group maintains is Endangered Waves, which supports communities whose coasts are threatened by providing them with Save the Waves’ contacts, experience, and media reach.

“We have a list of surf spots around the world that are endangered or facing an environmental threat,” Strong-Cvetich says. “We keep people informed and take on campaigns. We have three campaigns running right now.” They are Lobos por Siempre, a campaign to protect Chile’s Punta de Lobos as a private reserve and create a land trust; Save San Miguel, aimed at helping to create the first state park in the Mexican state of Baja California; and Clean Cowells, focused on cleaning up the California surf spot of Cowell Beach in Santa Cruz, which Heal the Bay says has the worst water quality in the state.

Save the Waves also uses video to get their message out. “We have a film festival, which enables us to tell these stories and have direct outreach to people who are interested in travel and surf and the environment.” Strong-Cvetich says. “There’s two types of people—data people and story people. When it comes down to it, it’s all information—stories are actually data, and data is one way of telling a story. The film festival is a really engaging way to have people understand the stories we’re working on.” This year, the festival is traveling to seven international locations, including venues in California, Mexico, and Chile.

Save the Waves has had many successes. In the Peruvian beachside town of Huanchaco, they helped stop illegal dumping, and on the Portuguese island of Madeira they helped stop developments that would have destroyed a surf zone. “In my mind,” Strong-Cvetich says, “surfers are the canaries in the coal mine, and they detect things that are going awry on the coastal environment before anyone else does.” This is why he’s thinking of creating an app for surfers to report coastal threats. “If there’s an oil spill,” Strong-Cvetich says, “a surfer can take a picture of it and be able to geo-tag it, populate it on the map, and all of a sudden we have this very powerful group of people that are on the front lines to be able to make a difference.”

Why is surfing such a compelling way to inspire people to environmental action? Strong-Cvetich feels that surfing offers people an almost spiritual connection with the water. He muses, “You can go diving and interact with the ocean, but you’re kind of like an alien, right? You have this life support system and you’re looking through the glass, sort of like you’re not supposed to be there. Whereas with surfing you are interacting with the ocean as it meets the land. You’re moving forward and backward and laterally and up and down, and that sensation of moving through space and being able to go all those directions puts you really in tune with your surroundings. You’re harnessing the power of the ocean to move in a way that you don’t get to move in your on-the-ground life. You’re paying really close attention to the elements around you and you start to learn the characteristics of the place, what all the factors are that make it different from another place. You have an appreciation for what makes those little nuances, which builds a natural constituency for the protection of those places.”

via Collection of the New-York Historical Society / Wikimedia Commons

Fredrick Douglass was born into slavery in 1818. At the age of 10 he was given to the Auld family.

As a child, he worked as a house slave and was able to learn to read and write, and he attempted to teach his fellow slaves the same skills.

At the age of 15, he was given to Thomas Auld, a cruel man who beat and starved his slaves and thwarted any opportunity for them to practice their faith or to learn to read or write.

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via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

On April 20, 1889 at the Braunau am Inn, in Upper Austria Salzburger located at Vorstadt 15, Alois and Klara Hitler brought a son into the world. They named him Adolph.

Little did they know he would grow up to be one of the greatest forces of evil the world has ever known.

The Hitlers moved out of the Braunau am Inn when Adolph was three, but the three-story butter-colored building still stands. It has been the subject of controversy for seven decades.

via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

The building was a meeting place for Nazi loyalists in the 1930s and '40s. After World War II, the building has become an informal pilgrimage site for neo-Nazis and veterans to glorify the murderous dictator.

The building was a thorn in the side to local government and residents to say the least.

RELATED: He photographed Nazi atrocities and buried the negatives. The unearthed images are unforgettable.

For years it was owned by Gerlinde Pommer, a descendant of the original owners. The Austrian government made numerous attempts to purchase it from her, but to no avail. The building has served many purposes, a school, a library, and a makeshift museum.

In 1989, a stone from the building was inscribed with:

"For Peace, Freedom

and Democracy.

Never Again Fascism.

Millions of Dead Remind [us]."

via Jo Oh / Wikimedia Commons

For three decades it was home to an organization that offered support and integration assistance for disabled people. But in 2011, the organization vacated the property because Pommer refused to bring it up to code.

RELATED: 'High Castle' producers destroyed every swastika used on the show and the video is oh-so satisfying

In 2017, the fight between the government and Pommer ended with it seizing the property. Authorities said it would get a "thorough architectural remodeling is necessary to permanently prevent the recognition and the symbolism of the building."

Now, the government intends to turn it into a police station which will surely deter any neo-Nazis from hanging around the building.

Austria has strict anti-Nazi laws that aim to prohibit any potential Nazi revival. The laws state that anyone who denies, belittles, condones or tries to justify the Nazi genocide or other Nazi crimes against humanity shall be punished with imprisonment for one year up to ten years.

In Austria the anti-Nazi laws are so strict one can go to prison for making the Nazi hand salute or saying "Heil Hitler."

"The future use of the house by the police should send an unmistakable signal that the role of this building as a memorial to the Nazis has been permanently revoked," Austria's IInterior Minister, Wolfgang Peschorn said in a statement.

The house is set to be redesigned following an international architectural competition.

via Chela Horsdal / Twitter

Amazon's "The Man in the High Castle" debuted the first episode of its final season last week.

The show is loosely based on an alternative history novel by Philip K. Dick that postulates what would happen if Nazi Germany and the Empire of Japan controlled the United States after being victorious in World War II.

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via Mike Mozart / Flickr

Chick-fil-A is the third-largest fast food chain in America, behind McDonald's and Starbucks, raking in over $10 billion a year.

But for years, the company has faced boycotts for supporting anti-LGBT charities, including the Salvation Army, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and the Paul Anderson Youth Home.

The Salvation Army faced criticism after a leader in the organization implied that gay people "deserve to die" and the company also came under fire after refusing to offer same-sex couples health insurance. But the organization swears it's evolving on such issues.

via Thomas Hawk / Flickr

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes explicitly announced it was anti gay marriage in a recent "Statement of Faith."

God instituted marriage between one man and one woman as the foundation of the family and the basic structure of human society. For this reason, we believe that marriage is exclusively the union of one man and one woman.

The Paul Anderson Youth Home teaches boys that homosexuality is wrong and that same-sex marriage is "rage against Jesus Christ and His values."

RELATED: The 1975's singer bravely kissed a man at a Dubai concert to protest anti-LGBT oppression

In 2012, Chick-fil-A's CEO, Dan Cathy, made anti same-sex marriage comments on a radio broadcast:

I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, "We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage". I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.

But the chicken giant has now decided to change it's says its charitable donation strategy because it's bad for business...Not because being homophobic is wrong.

The company recently lost several bids to provide concessions in U.S. airports. A pop-up shop in England was told it would not be renewed after eight days following LGBTQ protests.

Chick-fil-A also has plans to expand to Boston, Massachusetts where its mayor, Thomas Menino, pledged to ban the restaurant from the city.

via Wikimedia Commons

"There's no question we know that, as we go into new markets, we need to be clear about who we are," Chick-fil-A President and Chief Operating Officer Tim Tassopoulos told Bisnow. "There are lots of articles and newscasts about Chick-fil-A, and we thought we needed to be clear about our message."

RELATED: Alan Turing will appear on the 50-pound note nearly 70 years after being persecuted for his sexuality

Instead, the Chick-fil-A Foundation plans to give $9 million to organizations that support education and fight homelessness. Which is commendable regardless of the company's troubled past.

"If Chick-Fil-A is serious about their pledge to stop holding hands with divisive anti-LGBTQ activists, then further transparency is needed regarding their deep ties to organizations like Focus on the Family, which exist purely to harm LGBTQ people and families," Drew Anderson, GLAAD's director of campaigns and rapid response, said in a statement.

Chick-fil-A's decision to back down from contributing to anti-LGBT charities shows the power that people have to fight back against companies by hitting them where it really hurts — the pocket book.

The question remains: If you previously avoided Chick-fil-A because it supported anti-LGBT organizations, is it now OK to eat there? Especially when Popeye's chicken sandwich is so good people will kill for it?


Oh, irony. You are having quite a day.

The Italian region of Veneto, which includes the city of Venice, is currently experiencing historic flooding. Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro has stated that the flooding is a direct result of climate change, with the tide measuring the highest level in 50 years. The city (which is actually a collection of 100 islands in a lagoon—hence its famous canal streets), is no stranger to regular flooding, but is currently on the brink of declaring a state of emergency as waters refuse to recede.

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