A month ago, I found myself feeling stumped (no, it wasn’t just that one time): I was due to give a little talk to a group of student leaders about art, science and marine conservation messages, in a few days. I was asked over two months before that, so I felt good about the probability of having something ready before the day….but the day was drawing so close 😬

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In the midst of the usual brainboggles from writing my thesis (+ deciphering draft feedback), keeping an eye out on the surf, and working on other projects, I realised that I have barely made any drawings this year. That has to take a backseat now whilst I am prioritising my thesis, launching my previous art projects, and connecting with people around me while creating time to spend in, or near the water that surrounds me.

A few of my favourites from the 100 Painted Seashells project, and #OceaninaDropNZ

A few of my favourites from the 100 Painted Seashells project, and #OceaninaDropNZ

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Instead of building a polished speech, I thought about why I began doing what I’m doing, brought a few of my painted seashells down to Goat Island beach, and sat there on the sand (love it when you can deliver a talk in bare feet) in a circle with a group of bright young minds who probably know more than I do.

Story circle. Auckland Council Young Leaders Programme. 2018.

Story circle. Auckland Council Young Leaders Programme. 2018.

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Whilst the other group went off to snorkel in the waters of NZ’s first marine reserve, where I am very lucky to have called home, play and learning-grounds, I asked what each person’s favourite water activities were, and when they got their best ideas. I also shared that I am very grateful and lucky to call this country home, where many people love, know and are connected with how priceless their natural wonders are.

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I felt fortunate: to have been able to step into marine science research ( my project looked at ways to grow multiple native marine crops, in a way that recycles nutrients and waste). I also felt excited and petrified, about these new looming mountains before me (it felt like I had already been treading water for a long time before that). The thing that really stood out for me was the colourful multitudes of doom and gloom messages, often knowingly designed to upset and yes, increase responses, click rates, guilt donations, viewership, and awareness through fear..I felt like switching off, really. Certainly, there are plenty of problems, and yet perhaps the useful 80-20 ‘rule’ could be applied to how we choose to share a message, with 80 % that is solutions-oriented.

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I wasn’t there to teach them how to do art; I was there to acknowledge what art and the water have done for me: they have been so crucial in my life: refreshing, nourishing, enthralling, sustaining, teaching, and inspiring. It was in those moments where I had the best ideas; it was through playing in the surf, in the seaweed gardens, with lines, colours and words. They were in themselves the ideas, and yet it put me in a space where I liked the other things in my head, even if it was something small, like, the next step in how I am looking at my data. It also helped to put me in a space where I could filter out the doom and gloom messages, to focus on what was really important: solutions ( which is more ‘next step’ than ‘eureka’).

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I encouraged the students to think about what they wanted to put ‘out there’. As student leaders taking action in their communities, if they had just one thing, one moment, one message: were they going to choose to ‘tell people off’, or share, and show the ways we can combine resources and ideas to make a difference, using what excites them.

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So my main message was: take time, to take care of yourselves, keep doing those water activities you love, because it will be so crucial especially when you’re busy. This makes space for you, and those solutions you seek.

Solutions inspired by sunshine and sand. Auckland Council Young Leaders Programme. 2018.

Solutions inspired by sunshine and sand. Auckland Council Young Leaders Programme. 2018.

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The gorgeous students continued on their three-day programme, which had begun with a visit to Manukau Harbour to identify issues to tackle. At their visit to Goat Island, they experience what happens when you protect an area from fishing, and finished with hands-on group activities + discussions about ocean acidification, fishing size limits (and how long it takes some fish to grow to legal size), marine debris, and appreciation for what they were trying to protect.

Auckland Council Young Leaders Programme 2018.

A local feathered resident presides over a group discussion. Auckland Council Young Leaders Programme 2018.

 

The last day of the event involved the students pitching to stakeholders their ideas on how to take action for the Manukau Harbour. I’m excited to see what community projects they come up with  

Auckland Council Young Leaders Programme 2018

Auckland Council Young Leaders Programme 2018

 

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xo Candace

🐚🐬🐟 Experiencing Marine Reserves NZ X 👣Auckland Council Sustainable Schools Young Leaders Programme💭 X Candace Loy 🐌 X #BlueMind 💙 X #OceaninaDrop x Goat Island Marine Discovery Centre 🐧🐋🐙

*In early Feb my friend Stefano and I went to the Sustainable Coastlines Flagship, to support our friend and microplastics researcher Ana Banana, who was giving a talk at the PURE New Zealand workshop (thanks Raquelle). It was there that I met Cate, who had heard about the 100 Painted Seashells project I did last year, through Rebecca. Thanks for inviting me to be a part of this fun, enriching experience!

Photo credit: Auckland Council Young Leaders Programme

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