In Spotlights

Maeve Murphy, Turtle Island Restoration Network

I work at Turtle Island Restoration Network, a registered nonprofit based in west Marin County that works to protect marine life and habitats worldwide. TIRN’s main programs are the Sea Turtle Restoration Project, which works globally; Salmon Protection and Watershed Network (SPAWN), which works locally to protect the largest remaining population of coho salmon in California here in west Marin; and the GotMercury Campaign, which raises awareness of the dangers of mercury in seafood and promotes effective policies to prevent high-mercury seafood from being sold to the public.

I used to have a career teaching English as a Foreign Language. But over time I was becoming more and more concerned about the health of the planet and the harm I saw humans doing to it through the way we live and the way our economies work, especially in the West and in so-called ’developed’ countries. I realized we needed to change our basic way of living on the earth and relating to the environment and wanted to somehow be part of a movement to help bring about that change. Since I was already teaching, I got a qualification in Environmental Education and Heritage Interpretation. This led to several years working in nature study centers and wildlife reserves with school children and the public on programs through which they explore and connect with the environment. From there I moved into advocacy work with a nonprofit in the UK working on household waste issues, a topic I am passionate about. Meanwhile I was also exploring my interest in marine species and their protection. I volunteered for a program protecting sea turtle nesting beaches in Greece, became a certified scuba diver, and also volunteered for an expedition in the Bahamas, which involved daily dives to survey coral reef habitat for a planned Marine Protected Area. I learned a great deal about threats to marine species and ocean health, and when the opportunity arose to work for TIRN and develop skills in fundraising, grant writing and nonprofit development to help endangered marine life and habitats, I jumped at the chance.

All environmental issues are interconnected and important. But the ones I am personally drawn to most are the huge amounts of unnecessary waste we humans living in ‘developed’ societies produce, because it’s so avoidable; and because I love the ocean (and seafood!) so much, the declining health of the oceans and the plight of so many of its amazing creatures, including sea turtles, that are suffering because of human actions. Of course these two issues are related, since waste directly impacts the health of the oceans. We need more ecological literacy; each person needs to really understand how our actions impact the environment for better or worse, and to take responsibility for it. After all we are our environment and it is us. What kind of world do we want to live in, and how can each one of us help create that kind of world? We need to internalize that knowledge and act and live accordingly.

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