Michael McCabe served intermittently as Acting Country Director of the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic and Haiti from 2001 – 2006, and was responsible for training and supervising many staff and volunteers. He shared the story below to all incoming volunteers to show how little actions can add up to make a big difference.
“Once upon a time, there was a man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work.
One day, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself at the thought of someone who would dance to the day, and so, he walked faster to catch up.
As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a child, and that what he was doing was not dancing at all. The child was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean. He came closer still and called out “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”
The child paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean.”
“I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?” asked the somewhat startled man.
To this, the child replied, “The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them in, they’ll die.”
Upon hearing this, the man commented, “But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can’t possibly make a difference!”
At this, the child bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, he said, “I made a difference for that one.”
“It is estimated that over 90% of the world’s biodiversity resides in the oceans.
No matter how remote we feel we are from the ocean, every act each one of us takes in our everyday life affects our planet’s water cycle and in return affects us. All the water that falls on land, from the highest peeks to the flattest plains, ends up draining into the oceans. And although this has happened for countless millions of years, the growing ecological footprint of our species in the last century has affected the cycle in profound ways. From fertilizer overuse in landlocked areas, which creates life-choking algal blooms thousands of miles away, to everyday plastic items washing up in even the most remote areas of the globe, our actions affect the health of this, our sole life-support system.
By taking simple steps, such as paying a little more attention to our daily routines, each one of us can have a significant positive impact on the future of our planet and on the world our children will inherit.
In short, it would be much healthier for us to learn to dance nature’s waltz than to try and change the music.”
Fabien Cousteau, aquatic filmmaker and oceanographic explorer, grandson of famed oceanographic explorer Jacques-Yves Cousteau.
Simple things you can do in Cabarete (and around the world) to help save our oceans
Problem: 80% of pollution to the marine environment comes from the land.
- Pick up a piece of someone else’s trash every day.
- Pick up after your dogs, especially on the beach.
- Reuse, reuse, reuse. It is the best form of recycling in the world. Dominicans reuse. Learn from them.
- Do not purchase plastic bottles or accept to-go food in Styrofoam boxes. Remember organic and compostable products cost more, so be willing to pay for them. Many business owners take on significant financial loss by doing the right thing.
Problem: Coffee is the most chemically treated agricultural product on the planet. If you aren’t drinking organic coffee, you’re likely exposing yourself to a dose of pesticides with every cup. The most common chemicals used in coffee production are synthetic petroleum-based fertilizers that slowly destroy the soil’s fertility and seep into the oceans. Additionally, the production of coffee is causing rapid deforestation. That’s because coffee grows naturally under the shade of the rainforest—not in direct sunlight. AS THE SECOND MOST TRADED COMODITY IN THE WORLD, the reckless coffee industry has developed sun-resistant coffee tree hybrids that now comprise about 70% of the world’s coffee production. As a result, rainforest is being cleared at alarming rates to make room for the new, sun resistant coffee trees.
- Drink certified shade grown, organic coffee. Ask your favorite restaurants to supply organic coffee.
Problem: Lobster fishing is the backbone of the fishing economy in the Caribbean. However, in recent years, the dwindling catch has both governments and fishermen worried.
- Since 2010 there has been a ban on lobster fishing during the species’ reproductive season, March 1st-June 30th.
- Please support local fisherman and restaurants by purchasing lobster July – February only.
Problem: Massive commercial overfishing. The global fishing fleet is 2-3 times larger than what the oceans can sustainably support. Several important commercial fish populations have declined to the point where their survival is threatened. Unless the current situation improves, stocks of all species currently fished for food are predicted to collapse by 2048. Furthermore, each year, billions of unwanted fish and other animals – like dolphins, marine turtles, seabirds, sharks, and corals – die due to inefficient, illegal, and destructive fishing practices.
- Support small-scale fisheries and sustainable aquaculture practices, which have cultural ties to the land, not commercial fishing.
Most restaurants in Cabarete buy from local fishermen, so ask where the fish is coming from and feel good about eating local fish when you are in Cabarete.