Whoever you are, whatever your job is, you can make a difference.
Geert Vons, artist, tattooist, artistic director of Sea Shepherd and general director of Sea Shepherd Netherlands, entered Mirabilia in Bologna by chance. He bought a pair of books and left us his contact information, which I used to ask him for an interview, given the theme of this issue, so we met one afternoon at my place to get acquainted, talk about whales, but above all about responsibilities. Because what was supposed to be an ordinary interview about an international non-profit organisation with the aim of taking care of the Ocean and of the fauna that inhabits it, became a very interesting chat about reflection, about education as a search for information, about responsibilities, but most of all about the importance and the effects of every single one of our actions, for better or worse, on our lives and on what surrounds us. A subject which goes far beyond the will to protect the world, a reflection, the one he proposed me, who led me to believe that I am important as an individual and that the power is still in my hands.
We all live on the same planet – he told me – we share the same earth, the same sky, the same sea, therefore I don’t feel I am different from you, and I don’t believe I should care less than the others do about our destiny, and about our planet. We all have a responsibility towards what surrounds us, towards those who welcome us, and to take care of all this, to look after all this, does not mean to be fanatic or radical but only intelligent people who understand that everything has consequences and above all everything has limits. Unfortunately, there is a lot of ignorance in the world, and we are not always able to understand the consequences of our actions. A trivial example: where does the milk we drink come from? From the bottle? Or from the cow that produces it because she is pregnant and has to feed the calf? And if we drink the milk for the calf, what is he going to drink? It doesn’t seem difficult to understand the consequences of drinking milk, does it?
Every one of us, if we spend ten minutes thinking, reflecting, we all can understand what is right and what is wrong. It is our responsibility to understand that we have responsibilities. Life isn’t easy for anybody, but this doesn’t exempt us from reflecting and act accordingly.
Why worrying about global warming? I believe that, as a human being, as an individual, I can have an effect on the consequences of global warming in the world, in my own little way I can slow down or accelerate global warming. The crucial question is: what can we do to make people understand that we all have some responsibilities towards our planet and those who inhabit it?
If you cut down a tree, a big and beautiful oak, to make a table out of it, even if you plant it again, it will never be the same. To replant trees and forests is better than nothing, but it would have been better if we didn’t cut them down at the beginning.
There are many things we do to destroy our habitat, to destroy the animals that inhabit it with us, and to destroy ourselves. Sometimes I think that if somebody came to visit us from the space, and looked at us, they would say that there is no intelligent life on this planet, just because of how we treat it, our home…
What could I do to help Sea Shepherd, to be part of it? – I asked.
You are already doing something for Sea Shepherd, you are already working for us. You are getting information about it, you are asking who we are, what we do, and you are going to write an article about us that will be read by other people. You are already helping us. Whoever you are, whatever your job is, wherever you live, you can make a difference. Every one of us can take on the responsibility of our planet, and you do not even need to name Sea Shepherd, you can just talk about the Ocean, about fishing. I want to tell you a beautiful story told by Rutger Hauer, the Dutch actor and activist:
“One early morning as I was walking along the beach I discovered a figure at a distance moving like a dancer. As I got closer I noticed that the figure was a young girl, maybe 9-10 years old, and she wasn’t dancing. She was reaching down to the shoreline picking up small objects and throwing them into the ocean… As I came even closer, I said ‘Good morning, what are you doing?’. She paused a little out of breath, looked up and said, ‘Throwing starfish into the sea’. ‘Why are you throwing them back there?’ I asked, and she said, ‘The sun is getting hot and the tide is going out, if I don’t throw them in, they’ll die’. I couldn’t help saying ‘But there are miles of beach and hundreds of starfish, d’you think it makes a difference?’ She gave me a very serious look and bent down picking up another starfish. She threw it into the sea, and as it splashed into the water she said ‘It makes a difference to that one…’.” The Rutger Hauer Starfish Association
We are an open door, for everybody, because everyone of us can do something.
Geert Vons was in Italy to present the book of Sea Shepherd published by Skira, the official photographic book that contains their first forty years.
Sea Shepherd was founded in 1977 by captain Paul Watson when he left Greenpeace to find a more effective alternative to their strategies. Sea Shepherd is an international non-profit organisation whose mission is to protect the Oceans of the world from devastation and from the massacre of marine life and the destruction of its natural habitat. Sea Shepherd employs the strategy of direct action to investigate, document and operate when it is necessary to show the illegal activities on the high seas to the world and stop them. There are laws that protect Oceans but there are not enough forces and resources to ensure that they are respected. Our best weapon to fight against the interests of politicians, against the economic interests – that are the only reason for the disaster surrounding us – are the media, so let us film, record, show what happens with hard evidence and oblige law enforcement officers to act. On paper everything is fine but reality is much different and there is no respect for anything, it’s like the Wild West, there are too many economic interests.
Sea Shepherd has been accused of being a terrorist association, but it can’t be true for three simple reasons:
1. Sea Shepherd is not a secret association.
2. Sea Shepherd doesn’t use terror nor any kind of weapon to reach its goals.
3. All the people who work for Sea Shepherd have an identity.
There are more than twenty offices in the world, but each of them is independent, and we try to be as transparent as possible, everything is based on good faith and on trust, and all annual reports are public. We are pragmatic people, and not visionaries, we try to produce even tangible facts.
I was supposed to write an article who could tell you what Sea Shepherd precisely is, dealing with its life, death and miracles – above all, miracles – but as Geert himself has told me, you can find all information on the Internet.
40 Years • The Official Book
200 pages with 180 colours photographies
28.5 x 37.3 cm