Posted tagged ‘business’

Why Am I Doing This?

October 16, 2011

The following post is an excerpt of one that appeared a year ago in the feeble first iteration of this blog, created on Tumblr.  Over the ensuing year, I’ve created and moderated the Aquaculture Means Business group on LinkedIn, where I’ve had the privilege of getting to know a lot of people who know an awful lot more about the business of aquaculture than I do or probably ever will.  I now feel better prepared to begin delivering on my goal of bringing together people, ideas and resources in support of  a sustainable, profitable global aquaculture industry.

With that disclosure behind me, here I go again.  Wish me luck!

Why Am I Doing This?

Answering this question is as good a place to start as any.

I love the ocean, always have. In particular, I love to eat things that come out of the ocean. Several years ago, when my doctor told me I should eat more fish to help my “good cholesterol”, I thought, “Hot damn! Medical advice I may actually follow!”

I’d long known the world’s oceans were being abused, but it was only in recent years that I began to understand the extent of the problem and its interconnected causes.  What pushed me over the edge was the book Bottom Feeder by Taras Grescoe. Like most people, I was aware of the mercury issue (though part of me thought, “Wasn’t that in the ’70s? No one talks about it anymore – probably was just one of those overblown health scares that crop up from time to time!”); I knew plastics in the ocean were a problem, but I kind of vaguely thought it was just the occasional seabird or turtle getting snagged in a plastic six-pack holder (sad, but hardly something to get all activist about); and aquaculture — well, I thought farming fish was just a really cool idea, but why would anyone buy farmed fish when the ocean was just teeming with them?

Then I picked up Bottom Feeder. I won’t go into detail here, but let’s just say I promptly gave up shrimp, salmon, and tuna. As I read more on the subject — especially The End of the Line by Charles Clover — I began to wonder if I could ever eat seafood in good conscience again. And the more I learned about the global food industry, the more I wondered whether I could ever eat ANYTHING again.

It took a series of conversations with people like Casson Trenor, of Sustainable Sushi fame, and chef and sustainability activist Barton Seaver, and others, to persuade me that, yes, it is possible to enjoy seafood in ways that make you part of the solution, rather than part of the problem. But it is not easy. I filled my pockets with Seafood Watch cards that I passed out with cult-like zeal to friends, family members, and strangers. I began researching concepts for ocean-friendly businesses.

Aquaculture, I came to believe, has to be part of the solution — however, I quickly learned that my view was not shared by some of my environmentalist friends. At a premiere of the film version of The End of the Line I thought a fistfight was going to break out when one of the viewers suggested during a post-viewing Q&A that the film had given fish farming short shrift.  To be sure, there are major issues concerning feed and waste — some of the same issues that turned me off of shrimp and salmon after reading Bottom Feeder — but I do believe these are issues that can be addressed.

Many of the environmental problems we face were created by business, and I have always believed business must play a role in solving them. Activist passion and the profit motive have to learn to become allies, rather than adversaries. Those of us who care about the oceans have to put our money where our mouths are. Consumers have to learn to make food-buying decisions based on more than price and to hold businesses accountable for the social and environmental impacts of their practices. Businesses have to do more than use words like “green” or “sustainable” in their marketing materials.

More to the point, though, business must return to its roots of satisfying existing needs, rather than artificially creating new ones.

That, in part, is why I’m doing this.


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