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[Bali life] The inertia: The Importance of Experiencing Environmental Issues Through Surfing - Part1

Updated: Feb 20, 2021

Yesterday I wrote about an online event I did where I talked about my life in retrospect. I suddenly remembered that I had written a similar article in the past and submitted it to a Surfing Magazine. I wondered what was going on, so I looked it up and found it was exactly 7 years ago that day. It's funny how coincidences work. It was also the year of La Niña, and the content of the article I wrote still makes sense, so I'll post the article here with the reference as if it was written by me (^^). It's a bit long, so I'll split it in half.

The Importance of Experiencing Environmental Issues Through Surfing

For the environmental researcher, it is important to experience environmental issues in a real-life setting and, perhaps even more important, to take action on these issues. In that respect, surfing gives us a rich experience. If you’re a surfer, you live within the rhythm of the ocean and the weather. This makes you sensitive to changes in the environment and passionate about environmental issues. Also, to be able to convincingly explain the results of your research to civil society and local government, it is important to experience them in reality.

With regard to environmental issues, what researchers and surfers have in common is that work and sport is a part of their lifestyle. There could be other professions that are integrated into a lifestyle, but because I love these two activities, I would like to discuss how real life experience is important for your profession and passion while comparing the common points of the two. In particular, I will try to explain the advantages of having to experience environmental problems as a lifestyle through surfing for environmental researchers and other people who are passionate about their work and the environment.

As well as a sport to enjoy at the beach, surfing is also a lifestyle for those who live by the sea and are close to nature. Surfers do not necessarily have to be people who possess a professional surfing status. This is not strange if you consider surfing as a lifestyle rather than a sport. Therefore, there are many surfers who are serious about environmental issues and coastal protection but are not professional surfers.

People involved in environmental issues have many things in common. When I looked up “Environmentalist” in my English-Japanese dictionary (my mother tongue is Japanese), I found two definitions: 1. People who study about environmental issues, and, 2. People who live based on the principle of environmental protection. Being passionate about environmental issues does not only mean research work, it also means a living a lifestyle devoted to the environment. I am a researcher working on environmental issues, but I was also a practitioner for an international development agency as well as an adventurer traveling across Australia on a bicycle, and searching for empty waves with a tent and surfboard in Indonesia, New Zealand, etc. Analyzing environmental issues via a think-tank and working directly on environmental problems through international organizations and NGOs as well as protesting against coastal pollution as an activist are desirable careers for a researcher on environmental issues. It is essential to feel and experience environmental issues and to take action on these issues in reality. In that respect, surfing gives us rich experiences.

Environmental researchers and surfers are connected through a lifestyle that protects the environment. It is important for surfers and researchers to incorporate environmental issues into their lifestyle. Why do we love to surf? A swell comes from the ocean and raises a liquid wall or tunnel at the moment that it dissipates, and we enjoy riding it. However, if the seawater is dirty and the beach is a full of garbage, we do not feel refreshed and no longer enjoy being in the water. Sometimes, excessive coastal development eliminates waves. Therefore, surfers are sensitive to environmental issues.

So what is the purpose of researchers working for environmental issues? They live in the domain of science, and science comes from the term, “to know,” in Latin. So, the answer is “to know” the environmental issues and explore solutions. There will be several possible solutions and the solution you select will depend on the environment you experience through your lifestyle.

For example, a researcher in contact with the natural environment through surfing is receptive to environmental problems and will recognize that installing breakwater blocks blindly in the name of coastal protection will change water currents and may eventually destroy sandy beaches and the ecosystem of local plants and creatures. Such researchers will understand better why development should not be too fast.

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