I Heard You, Greta.

I Heard You, Greta. September 26, 2019

I think it’s the sound of being underwater that I love the most. The noise of the world dulled and cloudy as though far away, the liquid sound of bubbles and the surface meeting air and objects and other swimmers. It’s quiet, peaceful, relaxing. It’s beautiful, too. In the ocean, as the sun’s rays burst into the deep, they illuminate little air bubbles escaping from fins and snorkels and sea life. Like glitter ascending to the heavens. Feeling suspended, near-weightless and floating in this zen soup is one of my favourite things in the world. I love the ocean and every little creature in it.

Me, getting ready to snorkel with my mom and brother in Rarotonga. Copyright Courtney Heard.

There was the purple octopus I spotted while free-diving for shells in French Polynesia with my dad. The unconfirmed shark I launched myself into a boat to get away from in the Andaman sea, in Thailand. I loved the giant clams at the Great Barrier Reef that I would dive down to and startle so they’d slam shut and send a cloud of ocean debris up toward the surface. There were the wild dolphins we fed in Monkey Mia, Western Australia and the stingray that swam alongside our boat out to Dunk Island in Queensland. I swam with enormous sea turtles in Akumal in the Mayan Riviera before it turned into a tourist trap. Even though it stung me, the jellyfish I spotted in a bay off Rottnest Island was beautiful. There were rays that swam around my feet by the dozen in Exmouth; the moray eel that peeked out from under dead coral in Mexico; the sea snakes that scared my dad in Moorea; the electric-blue man o’ war jellyfish that dotted the beach in New Zealand. 

I spent my entire life worshipping at the altars of the oceans, my feet encased in flippers. As a child, I’d suck the salt out of my hair as I lay on the beach watching the waves crash into the shore. I’d stare out into the vast blue, and my torso would inflate with contentedness. No water would scare me. It always filled me with an overwhelming imperturbability. Nothing could ever get under my skin when I was with my ocean.   

That is, until I got older; until I started to see reality. 

I was 13 when I snorkelled Hanauma Bay in Hawaii. All I saw was dead, grey coral and masses of people abusing what was still living.

I was fifteen when I went to the Great Barrier Reef. It was 1992. On the boat out to the reef, we were spoken to about the dying reef. They told us not to touch the coral, but of course, as I free-dove to startle giant clams, I would see one or two of my shipmates standing on the reef, utterly oblivious to the fact that they were killing something alive.

I was fifteen as well when I rode a longtail boat down the canals of Bangkok and was warned not to let the water splash me or I would get sick. 

In Bali, the less popular beaches were littered with garbage that had washed ashore. In Playa Del Carmen, I donned my scuba gear, and all I saw was dead, grey coral as far as I could swim on one tank of oxygen. In Akumal, where I swam with the giant sea turtles, I’d have to scoop candy wrappers and chip bags out of my way. 

Me, diving in Phuket, Thailand, 2006. Copyright Courtney Heard

You know me as a heathen, a lifer atheist who hasn’t had a religion a day in her life. If I had to choose something to worship, though, it would be water. I am intimately connected to the water. Every single body of water. I feel it. My heart aches for it. I have deep, passionate, bonafide love for water beyond any words that I am capable of conjuring. 

I love the ocean, and I have seen it dying. I don’t know all the scientific talking points about climate change or marine pollution, but I have seen my ocean dying. I have swum in it as it gasped for help.

I recently went back to Akumal a couple of years ago. Unfortunately, it seems, the more we know about what we are doing to the ocean and its creatures, the less we seem to care. I walked out onto the beach there, and it was a sea of hundreds upon hundreds of people. Where I used to lay sprawling on the beach, amongst maybe a dozen others, you couldn’t even see the sand for the people. 

My life has been one big education on what we are doing to our oceans and so, the other day, when Greta Thunberg asked how dare we, I knew she was talking to me. 

I have known about this for years. I sat through a lecture about it on a dive boat out in the Great Barrier Reef with my neon pink snorkel hanging alongside my face. I was told before we jumped into Hanauma Bay with flippers on. I saw the loss of life at the bottom of the Caribbean in the Mayan Riviera. 

I knew our oceans were dying and I’ve done nothing. 

Indeed, Greta. How dare I?

It’s not that I don’t care. I care deeply. It boils down to two things, really, and I would suspect these things are the same for many other people:

  1. It doesn’t seem real. It is real. I know the science has been “crystal clear for thirty years”, but the climate crisis is something I find near impossible to wrap my mind around. The urgency is not felt because I can’t imagine the consequences. It feels like a movie. Again, I know it’s all true, but it’s hard to really understand what that means because it’s just so monumental. 
  2. The feeling of absolute and utter futility – though my rational mind tells me that if everyone who felt it was futile just got to work taking climate change seriously and making personal life choices that benefit the oceans and our environment, then we might make a difference. But right now, it feels futile. I don’t know very many people for whom this is even an issue they vote on. 

Neither of these is an excuse. So, it’s hard to imagine? Suck it up and do it anyway. It feels futile? Maybe it wouldn’t if you took the first step? 

So, Greta, I want you to know that I heard you. I know you were talking to me and I heard you. I will, in this upcoming election and all that follow, be voting for my oceans. I will be voting for our world. I will be making changes around my house to reduce my carbon footprint, and I am going to use my platform more to talk about climate change. 

One day, I want my son to be able to enjoy the sights of the Great Barrier Reef. I want him to see the sea turtles I swam with when I was pregnant with him. I need for my son and grandkids and great-grandkids to be able to carry on their family’s worship at the altars of all the oceans of our world. 

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Michael Neville

    I I’m retired from the Navy. I spent literally years of my life at sea. I remember being in the middle of the ocean, hundreds of miles from land, and seeing trash of various kinds floating on the waves.

  • Jim Jones

    The Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins With a Single Step

    We have to take that step.

  • Thanks4AllTheFish

    If you divide total trash by the population, the average American would produce about 2,072 pounds of trash per year total. How much garbage does America produce? Collectively, out of the 254 million tons of trash Americans can produce in one year, we recycle about 34.3 percent of it.

    Think about it. Each American citizen contributes about 5 pounds of trash every day. Is this sustainable in our ecosphere?

  • Jim Baerg

    I’m more concerned about ocean acidification than global warming. Everything having to move uphill & poleward is tough, & lethal for some species, but the acidification will kill a lot more species. So the only geoengineering schemes worth consideration are the ones that take CO2 out of the air & water.
    As for getting off fossil fuels. If your plan for doing that doesn’t include building lots of nuclear power I don’t take it seriously.
    See this for how much CO2 is released per kWh of electricity generated & click on the region to see what power sources are being used.
    https://www.electricitymap.org
    Spoiler alert: the regions that are consistently green use mostly hydro & nuclear.

  • Jim Jones

    Let’s not forget all the frozen gas like methane ready to be released from the ocean floor.

  • The right is losing their shit about Greta and the Mach for Our Lives because it is a sign that the youth are not buying into any of their GOD GUNS GUTS MAGA GA GA shit.

  • guerillasurgeon

    Went on a glass bottom boat in Jamaica once. I was expecting to see sea life, but all we saw was sand and the occasional tire. They seem to have eaten everything else.

  • fark

    Sorry but this Greta cunt gave a ham-fisted performance, so fucken cringe worthy, the poor lil bitch is so full of her own importance. Her parents really did a number on her, or maybe it was her mother, dad most likely absent.

  • Judy Thompson

    We’re doing it to ourselves, collectively, and blaming everyone else. Sounds downright Christian, if you ask me.

  • DDRLSGC

    Wrong, it is the adults like Trump and the Koch brothers who are so full of themselves and their parents really did a number on them.

  • Wile F. Coyote

    Every time I see Greta on video, she demonstrates solid knowledge (from the lay perspective of reading and comprehending the consensus of the professional climate science community) of the topic she speaks on, her sentence structure/vocabulary/grammar demonstrate a highly educated and disciplined mind, and she never makes claim assertions — any that I have heard, at any rate — which are not absolutely unimpeachable based on available empirical evidence.

    Her performance is noteworthy also for how she tailors her tone for the specific audience/occasion per moment. Because of this, conservative ideologue opponents are limited to spurious ad hominem, which grows more vindictively vicious as her impact and stature with a planetary audience increases. It’s all you got to fight back with, fu ck.

    Oops, sorry. Excuse me — fark.

  • Becky Hale

    I appreciate your sentiments, it does feel futile, and it is imperative that we start now, each doing what we can. We don’t need the latest fashions, stop buying clothes we don’t need, most of us don’t need the latest crossover, SUV or truck, buy something small and energy efficient. If you have any yard at all you can compost, you can plant a tree or donate to the organizations that can and do plant trees (check out Cooleffect.org, we can cut back our travel, and when that isn’t feasible we can buy carbon credits, but your laundry and dish soaps from places like Dropps (they deliver in cardboard — no plastic, etc) Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. When you eat out, bring along your own “doggie bag” or take home container, then enjoy the leftovers at lunch the next day. At first it feels odd and kooky but pretty soon you’ll notice others following suit. The time to start is now.

  • Tim Howley

    And you are a moron. But you are probably inbred too.

  • Jordan

    All of the things you mentioned doing are good, but the most important thing is to join with other people in collective action. Join an organization or a movement. Greenpeace, 350.org, Extinction Rebellion, Sierra Club, Climate Reality Project… pick your flavor and get on board.

  • Cozmo the Magician

    Since almost every living thing* on the earth requires water, it really is (almost?) the source of all life so makes more sense to worship it than any invisible sky people.

  • Cozmo the Magician

    sigh.. censorbot…

    And &#8203there &#8203you &#8203have &#8203it &#8203folks. &#8203The &#8203TRUE &#8203voice &#8203of &#8203the &#8203right. &#8203Call &#8203a &#8203 15yo &#8203girl &#8203’​cunt’ &#8203make &#8203some &#8203veiled &#8203hits &#8203at &#8203her &#8203family &#8203(dad &#8203absent? &#8203Bullshit!)

    Not &#8203SINGLE &#8203word &#8203about &#8203her &#8203message. &#8203No &#8203disputing &#8203her &#8203claims. &#8203Nope, &#8203just &#8203attack &#8203her &#8203and &#8203her &#8203family &#8203because &#8203the &#8203special &#8203little &#8203snowflake &#8203cant &#8203deal &#8203with &#8203the &#8203fact &#8203that &#8203climate &#8203change &#8203is &#8203real.