Education is Essential

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Historian Daniel Boorstin once said, “Education is learning what you didn’t even know you didn’t know,” and that applies to the threats to our oceans and global environment. The threats are not always obvious. Before you protest that they are, let me put it this way. I agree that plastic debris are a major threat, but how can we educate our communities that this is the case? Many people on this planet may not have seen the plastic pollution in the world that we have. Maybe a littered beach, but how do folks learn that it’s a global, not local, problem? It is clear from data-driven temperature and climate graphs that average global temperatures are rising, but how do we help our communities accept that this is an urgent, very real problem – that the upward temperature change rate is unprecedented and has continued steadily since we’ve started measuring it? Similarly, we know that recycling helps, and dumping motor oil on the street hurts, but how do we know?

The reality is that it is difficult to see global problems and solutions alone because they’re too big. We make them visible together, communicating and consolidating what we learn locally into the worldwide mosaic that shows us what’s going on globally. It’s how we know the problems, their magnitude and what works or should work to solve them. The scale of global threats means that education isn’t merely important, but essential in bringing about the social changes needed to restore and protect the environment. Unless we’re taught, most of us can’t know about them, much less our roles in solving them.

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Thankfully, education is happening and it works. In a previous blog, I highlighted PADI Pros who educate youngsters about threats to the seas and teach rising generations to prioritize ocean health – after all, saving the seas is really saving us. And, studies find that teaching conservation can start effectively establishing these essential values as young as age four.

In 2015, the Global Education Monitoring report published by UNESCO (United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization) found that “improving knowledge, instilling values, fostering beliefs and shifting attitudes, education has considerable power to help individual reconsider environmentally harmful lifestyles and behavior.” Educating across age ranges is particularly important amid cultures that have not traditionally needed to worry about the environment, but fortunately, recognizing that today we all have to worry about it, a growing number of countries require environmental education, and it’s working. Among them, India has environmental education programs targeted for learners from preschool through adult. It’s estimated that since 2003, in some form or other, these programs have reached 300 million students. The results have been varied and mixed, but generally good and trending positive, these programs are shaping attitudes about individual behaviors, choices and sustainability.

Admittedly, some have questioned the ability to reshape values past adolescence, but a 2017 study in People’s Republic of China studied the effect of environmental education on 287 older (college age) students at Minzu University, Beijing, and found “notable positive effects on environmental attitude.” Beyond this study, China has demonstrated the difference education can make when it supports, and is supported by, government efforts and policy. Formerly the number one consumer of shark fin soup (shark fin soup accounts for about 73 million sharks killed annually), a Wild Aid report says that since 2011 consumption has fallen 80 percent in China.

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According to the report, declines in public shark fin demand in China resulted from awareness campaigns (education) coupled with the government’s ban on it for official functions and general discouragement of consuming shark fin. Retired pro basketball player Yao Ming is particularly credited with helping through a highly publicized public education outreach in his home country. Apparently, many people living in China didn’t even know what shark fin soup is (the translated name is “fish-wing-soup”), but now surveys show that more than 90 percent support banning it. Although this is good news for sharks, the Wild Aid report also shows that shark fin consumption is still high and increasing in other countries. Why? As many as half of the consumers/potential consumers are unaware that shark consumption is threatening the animals and poses health hazards. The fix? China shows that education – similar campaigns in these countries – would likely be a great start.

This highlights a crucial point: We’re not all scuba instructors, college professors nor school teachers, but we are all educators. Whether it’s a dinner conversation with friends or gently correcting misconceptions in social media, it’s our responsibility as the oceans’ ambassadors to inform and influence others to see and understand the problems, and how we can make better choices to keep Earth sustainable.

Don’t underestimate your influence in doing this – as a diver, you’ve seen the underwater world’s wonder and fragility, and likely some of the damage, first-hand. What you can teach is compelling, and passes the sustainability imperative to our rising generation of educators. As Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

Dr. Drew Richardson
PADI President & CEO

2019: Creating Real Resolutions

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It’s almost a tradition. Each year in January, we resolve to “eat better,” “spend less time on YouTube,” “rotate the tires on time,” or whatever. But by February, we’ve forgotten it. Why? Because most resolutions are really wishes or things we’re told we “ought” to do, instead of commitments from our hearts. So, our daily grind easily pushes them into the back seat.

This year, let’s break from tradition and apply our passion for diving and the underwater world to find some real resolutions. You’ve probably noticed that when people commit to real, important resolutions that they genuinely care about, they get things done. They prove American philosopher William James right when he said, “Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.”

Because we think differently and have different talents, perhaps exactly what you’re most passionate about differs from me – and that’s fine because there are many needs that call on us as a force for positive change. But ultimately, every struggle we passionately commit to either involves nature, other people, ourselves or often, a combination of these.

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Nature

In previous blogs I’ve talked about how divers are already making a difference in the face of the numerous threats to our seas. Globe-wide problems can seem overwhelming, but these divers show that we can and do make a difference if we know their secret – they don’t think broad and wide. They think small and deep. They pick small, focused things that don’t overwhelm, like reducing plastic waste one straw at a time or campaigning to make a local reef a Hope Spot or marine protected area and passionately focus on them. Joining cleanups, volunteering as citizen scientists, coral farming . . . the list is long, definitely not always easy, but doable. So, while no one of us can save the oceans, together we will, working in millions of important ways at the same time. Need some ideas about where you fit in? Start here.

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Other People

You know diving transforms lives, or you probably wouldn’t be reading this. It’s a powerful tool for positive social change. It inspires people creatively, helps overcome social barriers and importantly, creates active ocean advocates. As I talked about in my last blog, diving is a substantial healing force.

Diving is also a rare activity in which a seasoned pro can pair with a first-time novice and both have a genuinely great dive together (try that playing tennis). Diving brings families and friends together, bridges cultures (underwater, we all speak the same language) and teaches teamwork and self-discipline.

“You cannot change anyone,” American author Roy T. Bennett reminds us, “but you can be the reason someone changes.” Resolve to be that reason. Set a goal to tell someone every week (or day!) about why you love diving, and when they like what they hear, how to get started. Diving helps us be better people, and not sharing it is, in my opinion, a bit selfish.

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Ourselves

Don’t dismiss continuing your diver education as a “real” resolution just because you’ll enjoy doing it. Look at it this way: If you’re committed to showing people underwater beauty – or damage – would learning underwater imaging help? If you’re removing debris in cooler water, can you do more if you learn to dive a dry suit? To document invasive and original species populations, would learning fish identification help? Adaptive support diving for sharing diving with people who have challenges? To be in the ultimate position to share diving, look at Divemaster, Assistant Instructor and PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor. And, think beyond diving – CPR and first aid can make a huge difference for someone wherever you are, and learning a new language allows you to be an underwater ambassador to more people and cultures. No matter how much we’ve accomplished or know, there’s always something more to do and learn. Master Spanish painter Pablo Picasso said, “I’m always doing that which I can’t do, so that I may learn how to do it.” Great advice.

As we replace flimsy traditional resolutions with genuine commitments to be a force for good, I’ll leave you with a favorite quote. Rob Siltanen, advertising executive behind some of Apple’s most successful campaigns, said this:

The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world
are the ones who do.

Dr. Drew Richardson

PADI President & CEO

Something We All Need

Cody Unser - First Step Foundation

In 2008, something happened to Leo Morales that most of us can’t even imagine – his leg was amputated to stop aggressive cancer. But what would be lifelong setback for some didn’t deter him. Already a passionate diver, Morales not only went back to diving, he became an instructor and a tec diver. Then he set two records (depth and distance) for divers with disabilities. Then he . . . well, he grew into an impressive and accomplished person by any standard: a PADI AmbassaDiver, Tedx presenter, author and inspiring mentor for hundreds – maybe thousands of people. Amazingly, Morales says that if he could change the past and keep his leg, that he would not. “Scuba diving gave me my life back,” he says. He actually took his life backusing scuba, leveraging it to do more and now gives back more than many would expect. Amazing.

It’s a moving story, but only one example that diving, beyond its force for healing the oceans, heals people – and there are more stories than you can count. Paraplegic at age 12 from transerve myelitis, after the discovering freedom and therapy scuba gave her, PADI Advanced Open Water Diver Cody Unser now uses scuba to help people living with paralysis, and participates in related research, through her First Step Foundation. Losing his legs in a combat zone, PADI Divemaster Chris Middleton, U.K. similarly found the healing power of scuba when he started diving with Deptherapy, and now works with Deptherapy to get more people involved.

And it’s not just physical healing. After serving in Iraq combat and discharged in 2014, US Marine Juan Gonzales had diagnosed Post Tramautic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It impeded having healthy connections with people – particularly his family – but discovered diving through WAVES (Wounded American Veterans Experience Scuba), which uses diving’s healing power to help veterans with physical or psychological wounds. Gonzales says the peace he experiences diving has been a major help in his battle with PTSD.

PADI Course Director Thomas Koch can’t hear, but with scuba, his “disability” turns into an advantage. Why? When his daughter Claire got her Junior Open Water Scuba Diver certification with PADI Course Director Cristina Zenato, they talked as fluently and as much as they always do – underwater, using American Sign Language.

There are hundreds of stories – miracles really – about how, through diving, people have helped, healed and comforted. There are literally hundreds of dive professionals and divers who serve divers with disabilities, and you bring honor and meaning to the dive community as a Force for Good.

But, the truth is, scuba’s healing power goes beyond this because everyone needs healing at times. The dynamics of life can often hurt. There are times when it feels like the weight of the world got dumped on your back. Maybe you can’t sleep and you’re not much fun to be around. Maybe the people you care about most don’t get to see your best, and yet they worry about you. And you see it in their eyes.

Then you go diving . . . and something wonderful happens. The worry world stays at the surface as you descend into the underwater world. Your mind clears. What’s really important can finally break through. Your buddy signals, “okay?” And for the first time in a long time, you really mean it when you reply, “okay!” Maybe it takes a couple of “doses” (dives), but you become you again. It reflects in the faces of those you care about.

My point is this. We share diving because it’s a wonderful experience that we’re passionate about, but we should also share it because it’s a restoring, healing experience. Some of us need it more than others, but that’s something we all need.

Wishing you the happiest New Year,

Dr. Drew Richardson

PADI President & CEO

Our Unshakable Foundation

Happy Diver- Underwater- Scuba Diving

Amid everything the PADI® organization does in a rapidly changing world, we need to always build on the foundation for everything the PADI family does. It’s what John Cronin and Ralph Erickson laid down first when they established PADI in 1966, it’s our foundation today and it will carry us into the future. That foundation is, of course, education: diver training. What we teach and how we teach have, will and must continue to change. But, that we teach will never go away. It can’t, because it’s not what we do, but who we are.

Training is PADI’s foundation, but the heart of it is not the PADI System, eLearning, instructor cue cards and the like. These are powerful modern tools, but in 1966, several years before all of these existed, you could take PADI courses and earn PADI certifications because our training foundation was already there, entrusted where it is today – in the hands of you and your fellow PADI Instructors, Assistant Instructors and Divemasters. Without you, the PADI System – the best education system in diving by a long shot – can’t do what it does so well, much as a Steinway piano can’t sound like a Steinway without a master at its keys.

Even with all the innovations in instructional technology, such as the rise of artificial intelligence and dynamic online learning systems, human teachers still bear the weight of the best education. Innovations are important to keep PADI training relevant in today’s dynamic, personalized online world, but you still need great instructors to have great training. As American author William Arthur Ward explained it: “The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.”

That describes the PADI family – more than 130,000 people who inspire others to learn, to dive and to care. Together we motivate divers to rise to new challenges, to have underwater adventures, to heal and help others with scuba, and to protect our fragile world. PADI Course Directors shape the future by passing our collective -wisdom to a rising generation of dive leaders, who will in turn inspire divers to do things we have not even imagined yet. Everything the global PADI organization does today has its roots in training, and that training has its roots in you, me and the rest of the PADI family.

Aristotle said, around 2,300 years ago, “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all,” and that hasn’t changed – the PADI family doesn’t “teach diving”; we educate the heart and transform lives. That’s what makes PADI’s training foundation solid.

Good luck, good teaching and good diving,

Drew Richardson Ed.D.
PADI President and CEO

This article originally appeared in the 4th Quarter edition of The Undersea Journal.