The Interdependence Of Life

Today, on my very last full day on Maui, I took another snorkeling tour to an island off of Maui. It’s called Molokini, and I believe that it’s a crater.

The water there is quite deep. The visibility is good. If there were any sharks around, you’d see them-if they didn’t see you first!

The crew told us that the conditions were excellent this morning, with 150 feet of visibility. Some of the other places where I snorkeled might have had a more varied selection of sea life. However, none of them were so clear and bright.

I mentioned to a crew member, that I got a tattoo just the other day, and that I was slightly worried about going into the ocean so soon. A volunteer on board overheard me. His name was Barry. Barry likes to joke around a lot, so when he told me that someone just died from an infection caused by their tattoo, I thought he was trying to be funny. He persisted, and I realized that he was being serious.

I guess a young man had just gotten a tattoo last week, went swimming in Hawaii, caught staph, or some bacteria, and ended up with sepsis. He was in his mid to late 20’s, and he died from it. Pretty shocking.

Barry spoke to the captain about my new tattoo. I was told to put petroleum jelly on it, and to rinse off with their fresh water hose, each time I exited the water. They also provided me with baby shampoo to wash it with.

I gave this piece its title, because there were ecologists on board who spoke about the ecosystem of the coral, and all of the life that depends on it to survive. Coral grows very, very slowly. The coral we see in Hawaii is 100’s of years old.

I won’t go into a lot of detail here, in part because I don’t want to bore you, and partially because I don’t remember everything that the scientist on board said. Something like the survival of coral seems like it wouldn’t be all that important to the existence of mankind. In truth it is, in a sort of round about way.

So many different life forms, including fish and sea turtles, depend on the coral for food, that when it dies, they begin to die off as well.

I know that I’m not the most careful person about recycling. I don’t compost. Often I feel it’s too much of a bother, and I don’t want to do either.

Small actions can make a difference. Sea turtles are still considered an endangered species. Hawaii used to use plastic bags for groceries, like so many other places in the world do now. Apparently they’d get into the ocean, and the sea turtles would eat them. Because they eat jellyfish, the floating bags resembled them, and they would take bites, or eat the entire bag.

This would clog up the turtles digestion, and put air into their systems that prevented them from being able to submerge as they normally do. Many, many green sea turtles have been wiped out for this reason. Predators could catch them more easily, if they could not dive, and were in general lethargic. Fishing boats also could get a hold of them more easily. And many of them just died from ingesting these foreign objects.

In the past 7 years(approximately), Hawaii banned plastic grocery bags, and the turtle population has increased by 53%!

I don’t want to sound preachy, as I know that the realities of daily life can get in the way of recycling, and composting. At the same time, it was startling for me to hear what an impact this ban had on sea life. I could not help but think about all of the things that we do daily, that we don’t give much thought to, that are negatively effecting the people and the animals around us.

From both a physical and a spiritual perspective, we are all connected, and interdependent. I believe that individuals, and countries that are against taking action to stave off pollution, and the destruction of species, are not tuned into this fact.

It was really important for me to hear about the plastic bags and the sea turtles. My new sea turtle tattoo, and the infection the poor boy died from because of his tattoo. What if Barry hadn’t been around? Most likely I would have been fine. But what if I wasn’t? I would just think that I had an infection that could be dealt with later on.

It’s so strange how we can sometimes meet the right people, at the right times. Very serendipitous! It’s amazing how the smallest act of kindness can change a person’s life. Or how limiting plastic bag use can save the lives of many animals, in the ocean, and on land.

Next time I’m doing something that seems unimportant to me, I will honestly do best to take pause to question this assumption. I’m beginning to believe that everything we do and say, negatively and positively affects those around us. Sea turtles, included.

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