Sunday night during the Emmys, myself and a group of twenty-two other volunteers gathered at Hollywood’s walk of fame to honor a very different kind of award: Champion Ocean Destroyer. Bestowed upon StarKist for their continued devastation of the ocean, the award was signed by nearly one hundred people disgusted by their wasteful fishing methods while paparazzi stood by with smart phones snapping photos to tweet at StarKist. Other volunteers fanned out among the tourists, Elmos and Spidermen to ask people to take action with us by calling StarKist headquarters to demand sustainable fishing. In just an hour over eighty people made the call.
StarKist is using destructive fishing methods like long lines and FADs that bring in sharks, sea turtles, sea birds and other fish along with the tuna. Sunday’s event was just one in a series of events across the country held last weekend and last month to express public outrage at their needless plundering.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the fact that change doesn’t happen on it’s own. The law of inertia dictates that an object in motion stays in motion and an object at rest stays at rest unless acted upon by an outside force. Likewise, a tuna company using the worst methods of fishing will continue to do so, unless pushed to do otherwise. We are the force that must do the pushing. And if we don’t take action, no one else will.
Our event was the culmination of a strategy training for activists in Southern California that I helped to organize and train. What most stays in my mind following the training was looking at how each action we take adds up and becomes change. It’s the way every major UK tuna company catches fish sustainably now. It’s Safeway and Walmart offering sustainable tuna options for the first time. It’s how in 1986 eighty-seven countries stopped killing whales. These things don’t just happen. They happen because one person picked up the phone and called the company or because one person rearranged their day to go to an event or because one person signed a petition and that happened over and over and over until the person or people with decision-making power changed.
It’s easy to lose sight of this, of how our actions matter. My de facto mode of thought is that if I don’t do something, someone else will. Someone else will make a call, organize an event, stop StarKist wrecking the ocean. But if we continue to live this way – and I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one – then we truly won’t have an effect and someone else won’t do it for us.
The Emmy’s wouldn’t exist either if it weren’t for each little step to organize them down to the servers for the catering companies, the production assistants backstage, or the people who manufacture the trophies. The difference is there are a few powerful people who fund the Emmy’s and pay everyone to be a part of making it happen. In Greenpeace and in organizing for environmental and social change most of us don’t get paid, or don’t get paid very much and the money coming in is from ordinary people like you and me who know that money is a form of action too.
Forty-two years ago a group of twelve people set sail for Amchitka to stop an American nuclear test. If those twelve people hadn’t sailed into the unknown and brought people all over the world to their side Greenpeace wouldn’t exist. And if there was no Greenpeace, well just take a look at our victory timeline. There would be a lot less whales and a lot more toxic pollution.
For the tuna, for the oceans, for ourselves and each other – let’s take action. Sign this petition to stop StarKist from wrecking the ocean completely.