The TerraMar Project : How I Sea
Walter F. Dufour – Interview
Brief background on yourself: your age, where you’re from, your interests/connection to the ocean, any fun facts about yourself.
I was born to a French father and an American mother in a lovely home by the Mediterranean seaside in Marseille, a vibrant city in the south of France. Today, I am 13 years old and while I grew up mostly in Dallas Texas, I travel quite often and spend my summers in France on the beach at my grandparents’ home. Currently, I am living in the city of San Miguel de Allende, high up in the mountains of central Mexico. I recently launched my own website, quaternatura.com dedicated to nature, culinary arts and ecology. I would like to share a fun fact or two: I am passionate about world cuisines and I also happen to be a water sign, Cancer!
- What first sparked your interest in the ocean? And do you have plans in the future to pursue a career related to marine science/conservation?
Every summer is spent with my father’s family in a small coastal town called La Capte, on the French Riviera. The ocean has been a big part of my life for as long as I can remember: I would swim in the sea for hours upon hours, and observe the maritime creatures. Last summer, I visited the Terramar Project’s website and bought an ocean parcel right off the coast of this small village where my two brothers and I swam. About six months after that lovely summer, my interest in ecology began to grow. I kept trying to “be more green” while reading articles and news reports about the melting ice caps of the Arctic, litter finding its way in the ocean and seismic fracking activity in the ocean harming our beautiful sea creatures who rely mostly on eco-location (such as whales and dolphins). This made me feel helpless and extremely sad, and then I remembered what my mother always told me: “No action is too small … it is simply the thought and care that counts.” This made me feel more confident and helped me begin to make my own difference in the world. My goal for the future would be to become an environmental lawyer/political activist and to fight for the health and well-being of the sea and planet.
- From your experiences traveling around the world, have you seen any differences in the way people relate to the marine environment? For example between Europe and Mexico? And in these marine environments in general? (where have the cleanest oceans been versus most polluted?)
While we enjoyed our time sun-tanning, playing soccer on the beach and snorkeling in the water, it came to my attention that many people have left plastic articles and other forms of debris on the shore. These items could have wound up in the sea, destroying the habitat of the sea creatures and threatening their lives. That is when I decided to take action: With the help of my brothers and my father, we cleaned up the beach and picked up plastic bags from the ocean, returning them to recycling bins, where they should have been put in the first place … instead of in the beautiful Mediterranean sea!
In areas with high-density tourism such as the coasts of Mexico, pollution on the beaches is quite relevant. In Mexico, the states of Oaxaca, Guerrero, Sinaloa and Veracruz are home to the most polluted beaches of Central America. In the state of Veracruz, tourism keeps increasing, thus causing the depletion of the quality of our beaches. What I observed in France is that the government and municipalities are extremely strict with pollution, notably concerning the ocean and seas.
- Do you think today’s youth is more or less engaged in protecting the health of the ocean than older generations?
I truly feel that today’s generation is more engaged and aware when it comes to the well-being of the ocean and the planet in general. From what I can tell from social media and children my age, there is a great deal of activity on these important topics. For example, this is how I contributed to spreading awareness about ecology and ocean conservation: I began studying to find new ways to improve life on our planet. In the month of April, I hosted an Earth Day fundraiser in my apartment building where I offered a custom petition signing service, ranging in topics from ocean conservation to animal rights, for my neighbors, which included recommendations for charitable donations and actions. I also suggested that we switch to using LED lights in the building and reduced our water consummation in our garden and to reduce “24/7” air conditioning which was consuming ridiculous amounts of energy. Within the month, the building took many of these recommendations and replaced all light bulbs with LED and turned off the A.C in the hallway during the late evening.
- What do you think is the biggest threat to the world’s oceans? (climate change, pollution, overfishing, habitat loss, invasive species)
In my opinion, all of these problems are equally as threatening, yet one of the greatest threats is plastic in our seas. What really bothers me about plastic pollution is the fact that it is the most preventable problem our ocean faces. The positive aspect of the problem is the fact that there is still hope that we can reverse the damage. This is in fact is what caused me to become an environmental activist in the first place.
- What’s one everyday thing that you think people could do better to conserve the marine environment?
What we could do better is to become aware of the problems around us, and then repair and prevent. In other words, repair the harm and damage we’ve done to the planet, and prevent these things from happening again or increasing. One rule we all need to keep in mind is to follow the rule of the three R’s: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.
Be careful about what we buy, use and of where we dispose of these items. One simple example is to switch to metal straws over plastic because they are durable and will not end up in a landfill or in the ocean. Another example is to eliminate the consumption of endangered marine species, such as swordfish, and to reduce or eliminate the consumption of carnivorous predator fish such as wild tuna, salmon and shark, that create a balance in the marine eco-system. These types of subjects will be covered in my blog on an ongoing basis.