There is a close relationship between environmental conservation work and helping people. In many cases, like that of the Galapagos Islands, the restoration of habitats and rebuilding of populations leads to an increase in ecotourism that benefits a local region economically. In other cases, conservation directly impacts a community’s ability to find food, to farm, and to enjoy their own backyards. Conservation also has a watershed effect… literally. As habitats are cleaned up, the entire ecosystem improves, and that includes fresh water sources. Polluted bodies of fresh water harm humans just as much as they harm animals. If a community is located on the seashore, deep sea conservation efforts often have an immediate effect on the shallow fishery. More healthy fish means more food for humans, and it means a healthier economy to boot. The food chain is a complex system. When it is disrupted at any point, that disruption has a domino effect down the chain in both directions. Conservation projects teach us that humans are part of that chain. We suffer when it is disrupted too.
Blue Ventures isn’t just an ecotourism company or a volunteer organization, it’s a social enterprise. It works with local communities to conserve threatened marine and coastal environments, protecting biodiversity and relieving poverty in the process. They focus on ecotourism, sustainable fisheries management, aquaculture, and blue carbon. Their conservation projects directly affect the local economy (as described above) but they go one step further, providing scholarships for children to attend school and providing marine science training to Malagasy science graduates. Their marine expeditions welcome volunteers from around the world: people on career breaks, students taking gap years, and interns. They put their volunteer force to work with their field research teams. They believe in sustainability and responsible travel.
I think the Blue Ventures model epitomizes true sustainability. They empower local communities to take care of their own ecosystems by teaching them about conservation and management. They are also incredibly innovative: they study every aspect of the marine environment to devise new and clever ways to protect it. They are working closely with local communities at every stage, making sure their techniques are low-cost and easy for local people to maintain. They have ongoing projects in Madagascar and Belize, two of the most biodiverse places on Planet Earth.
Blue Ventures is also a model organization when it comes to social media marketing, reaching potential volunteers through their computers and smartphones. Their ultimate ambition: to change the way people view their relationship with the sea. Granted, you don’t have to be a social media expert to change the world. But Blue Ventures shows through their example that social media is a powerful outreach tool that truly can move mountains – or, in this case, oceans.