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

PADI’s Mission 2020 Pledge: Join Us!

PADI Mission - Mission 2020

PADI’s long-standing commitment to ocean conservation began more than 25 years ago with the formation of Project AWARE® Foundation. In 2017, the PADI Pillars of Change were introduced to increase awareness of issues affecting our ocean communities, and to mobilize PADI Professionals and divers to act together as a catalyst for positive change. Now, the PADI organization is integrating the Mission 2020 effort to reduce plastics in the ocean into its overall commitment to ocean health and corporate citizenship ethos.

Aligning with PADI’s belief that greater change can be affected when working together, Mission 2020 is a collection of pledges from organizations within the diving community to change business practices to protect and preserve the ocean for the future. With a primary focus on single-use plastics, the project sets ambitious targets of changes to be made before World Oceans Day 2020.

PADI’s Mission 2020 Pledge

As PADI moves towards a fully integrated and digital learning system, we will lessen our dependency on plastics and packaging, thereby mitigating the plastic footprint of PADI Professionals and the million divers certified each year. To broaden our impact even further, PADI is committed to rallying our 6,600 Dive Centers and Resorts to reduce their use of single-use plastics by the year 2020. We invite everyone to make a pledge and to change their business practices in support of a clean and healthy ocean.

“We are passionate about creating a preferred view of the future in healthier oceans. We have a strong legacy of environmental conservation behind us and a robust roadmap for continued progress that will drive our force for good responsibility well into the future. This is the foundation of PADI’s Mission 2020 pledge, and it is our hope that this project will inspire the PADI community to make immediate commitments that will lead to lasting change.’ – Drew Richardson, President and CEO of PADI Worldwide

Why You Should Make a 2020 Commitment

It’s good for the planet – Changing your business practices to reduce plastics is good for the ocean and good for us too. Let’s protect the places we love to dive and make sure they are healthy for future generations.

It will enhance your business – Consumers are proud to attach themselves to a business with purpose. Show your customers that you care about the ocean and they will reward you with their loyalty.

It’s good for the dive industry – If we come together as an industry to protect our ocean planet, we set a good example for other businesses to follow. If a clean, healthy ocean is our goal, we need all the help we can get.

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PADI’s Mission 2020 pledge to reduce plastic with help restore ocean health. Join us in protecting the underwater world we love.

Impactful Ways to Reduce Your Plastic Use

  •  Prevent debris from getting into the ocean! Remove single use plastics like water bottles, plastic bags and plastic cups from your shop and dive boats.
  • Work with your local community to organize joint beach and underwater clean-up events. This effort brings awareness to everyone about how individual behaviors positively impact our environment.
  • Set monthly and yearly clean up goals for your local dive sites. Log the debris on the Project AWARE Dive Against Debris® App to contribute to data collection that could influence new ocean-friendly policies.
  • Protect your local waters and Adopt a Dive Site™. It’s the ideal way to engage in ongoing, local protection and monitoring of our underwater playgrounds.
  • Carry sustainably made merchandise in your dive center or resort. Make sure tee shirts, hoodies and other branded goods come from eco-friendly suppliers and are made from non-plastic materials or from recycled plastic fibers.
  • Make the switch to PADI eLearning® and improve your carbon footprint. Going digital reduces production of plastic materials and removes the need for shipping.

Make a Mission 2020 Pledge

All members of the dive community are encouraged to make a Mission 2020 pledge. And what a great time to align your pledge with your 2019 New Year’s resolutions! Whether sustainability is already a key component of your business model or you’re just getting started, we encourage you to join in by making adjustments (big and small) to your business practices in support of a clean and healthy ocean. See what others in the industry have pledged on Mission 2020’s Who’s In page.

We believe that the global PADI family is a force for good that can help play a critical role in protecting and preserving our oceans for the future if we all make conservation a priority at our places of business.

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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

The Inspirational Diving Journey of PADI Professional Jamie Hull

Written by PADI Regional Manager, Neil Richards

Many people have found hope for their future through their journey of becoming a PADI Professional. We all have had different life experiences and come from different cultures which impact on these experiences. However, we can all testify to diving’s healing power even when nothing else works. This is the structure of PADI’s ethos with one of PADI’s Pillars of Change being ‘Healing + Wellness’. The Healing + Wellness pillar focuses on highlighting how individuals can reach their goals and aspirations when triumphing over adversity, illness or hardships. We have all decided to become PADI Professionals but each of our journeys were different. For some the journey was relatively easy and straightforward, whereas for others it was difficult and full of challenges. Someone who experienced a more challenging journey was Jamie Hull, a former UK Special Forces Reserve.

Jamie Hull- PADI Professional

I recently had the pleasure of sharing time with Jamie, one the most inspirational human beings, who has had to overcome huge adversities, challenges and roadblocks to reach his goal of becoming a PADI Instructor. His extraordinary courage, drive and passion came about after a life changing plane crash which left him with third degree burns on over half of his body. Jamie has had to rebuild his life after several years of hospital treatment, skin grafts and countless operations. He is currently applying for his PADI Course Director rating, committed to teaching divers who are also experiencing challenges. He hopes to help these divers overcome their physical and mental hurdles to become PADI Instructors, just like he did.

Back in October, PADI staff conducted a PADI Adaptive Techniques Instructor course in Thailand, which Jamie joined. Jamie was asked to share his experience with the group of PADI Course Directors. He was able to help everyone understand the type of compassion, empathy and patience that is required to teach the course.

We have asked Jamie a few questions so that you, as a PADI Professional, might also adapt the way you teach your various diving courses when you feel needed.

How did diving affect your recovery?

 Following a 60 percent third-degree burns injury in 2007, my skin was far too damaged to contemplate going back into open water as a diver, let alone to teach others again. I was terrified that the salt water would have a further damaging effect upon my skin, so I naturally avoided taking any such risk. In fact, it would be five long years of recovery and rehabilitation before I entertained the idea of giving it another go. I felt like I had lost all my former confidence to dive again, so it took a lot of courage for me to don a wetsuit and full scuba kit and take that big giant-stride off the back of a Liveaboard in the Red Sea. However, to my absolute joy and astonishment I quickly realised that my skills remained in-tact and, moreover the salt water soon became my saviour: it helped to accelerate my physiological and skin-cellular healing in ways that I had never imagined. The quality of my skin soon began to improve with every subsequent dive, exhibiting less dryness immediately.  Any tender areas of my skin were soon rewarded with stronger integrity and steadily began to feel more dexterous, and supple. On a psychological level, this was all the evidence I needed.  Through diving, I began to feel more confident in myself and it definitely improved my self-esteem following injury.

What does diving give you that other sports do not?

There is something entirely different about scuba diving regarding the effect that is has on my whole being. For starters, I find a tremendous sense of peace and tranquillity from diving in the ocean: just to experience the unique and unequivocal sensation of breathing underwater helps me to feel somewhat more relaxed every time I make the descent. I feel it can be greatly therapeutic in helping to cleanse the mind of stress. For me, it could be described as spiritual, whereby the ocean helps me feel at peace and at one with the world.

What are your future plans in diving?

 Diving with PADI has actually been a focus and passion of mine from an early age, having initially tried it as a young backpacker on the Great Barrier Reef, Australia.  I knew then, that I wanted to maintain an interest in diving for the rest of my life.  Following the injury, and with regard to the benefits that I experienced first-hand from diving, I then decided that I wanted to develop myself further as an Instructor.  My personal goal now is to become a PADI Course Director, as I have an underlying wish to be involved with and help others to achieve professional diver ratings within the industry.  Specifically, I would like to work with other wounded service personnel and people with physical or psychological disabilities, in order to help them achieve as diving professionals and experience the benefits of working within the diving industry as I have been able to.

What can others learn from what has happened to you?

By sharing my own story and testimonial, my hope is that people who have sustained injuries, or perhaps acquired disabilities in life, may feel inspired to give diving a go – by realising how accessible and inclusive a sport it really can be. Others can learn by embracing the challenge, by following a safe and structured approach to learning, utilising adaptive techniques, in order to achieve the required standards to become divers themselves. For some – as was certainly the case for me – they may well require a little more time to practice skills and learn techniques that will best suit them as individuals. For in my personal experience, as someone that sustained severe muscle loss and nerve damage to both lower limbs, but was still able to continue diving, what I do know is this, ‘Where there’s a will, there’s a way’. So for others, that may be considering the sport, although perhaps unsure whether it’s possible for them due to injury or disability, they might just be pleasantly surprised what the sport of diving can do for them. Many can therefore choose to embrace diving in their lives and experience the remarkable healing benefits of the ocean environment.

We can all learn from Jamie’s story; ‘when the going gets tough, the tough get going’. Part of what we do as PADI Instructors is help people realise their dreams and then we help them achieve them. With perseverance and determination, goals can be achieved and new compelling stories can be born.

For more information on the PADI Adaptive Techniques Specialty course or the PADI Adaptive Support Diver course contact your PADI Regional Training Consultant.