You could also call this a Tribute to Harry's World, Saipan's recently crowned Best Blog...or you could call it a last minute attempt to slap something together for August's Carnival of the Blue, hosted by Malaria, Bedbugs, Sea Lice, and Sunsets.
The ancient Chamorros, the people who populated the Marianas in the days before the Spanish invasion, relied on their natural resources to feed their families. With a few exceptions, like lusongs made in the Northern Islands, everything they needed to survive on a day to day basis was right here on the island or just offshore.
This is not true today. We rely on fossil fuels to power just about everything and most of our food comes from somewhere else. There are also so many people living on Saipan these days that to feed all them with resources extracted locally would lead to an ecosystem collapse.
There is no way that we could return to an economic system dependant on our natural resources...or could we?
On June 5th, 2007, a date which will live in infamy, Harry Blalock, a talkative, bald, half-blind diver and radio talk show host, posted his first blog. All of the pictures I have posted here are either ripped from his blog or from his Smugmug account.
I don't want to give Harry too much credit, but that is the day that I think we will eventually point to as the day that Saipan started to properly market her underwater wonders.
Our plan is simple: We are going to do it online, working together as people with a stake in our future, and we are going to do it for a fraction of the cost we have paid for promotion in the past.
This Wednesday night, over tacos and beer, a group of locals, divers and non-divers, are going to get together at Oleai Beach Bar and Grille and figure out how to build on what Harry's World, The Saipan Blog, Beautify CNMI, and the We Love Saipan Network have started.
We are going to redefine Saipan. We are going to figure out a way to market our oceans to promote tourism and create sustainable businesses in the CNMI using tools that are available to us on the Internet...for FREE.
Walt and I have been preaching the importance of Internet presence from pretty much the second we stepped foot on this island. With The Saipan Blog and We Love Saipan popping up in the top of search engine results, the rest of the island is starting to take notice.
Harry is one of those people
Harry's blog follows a simple formula: he writes about his mundane day to day life (i.e. installing cat doors) and his weekly dives. This alone makes for some downright horrible blogging, but his saving grace, the thing that made him Saipan's Best Blogger, is that he peppers all of his posts with the most spectacular photos of Saipan's underwater creatures.
The World, literally, has taken notice. Harry's photos are going to be featured in two upcoming books about diving, one of the books dedicating an entire chapter to his photographs, and he has led two visiting tourists on dives as part of his Axe Murderer Tour Company.
He noticed that he had stumbled onto something. People were taking notice of our blogs. People wanted to see the things on our blogs. They wanted to do the things we were doing.
Although we didn't know it, we were advertising the Marianas.
What if we could turn this interest into something tangible? What if we could create a business plan and actually start a business?
This is not necessarily a new idea in the Marianas, but it is one that requires you to change the way you look at our natural resources, our land and our water. In the past, natural resources were thought of in terms of extraction. We remove fish from the ocean and we grow edible plants on the land to feed our families.
Times have changed.
Today, I can create a business where I bring Japanese tourists SCUBA diving. I can take pictures and sell them for a profit. If I sell them online, I can generate income while I sleep. I can write a book about the life living in the ocean...or I can just publish to a blog with Yahoo Publisher or Google Adsense ads.
Like the ancient Chamorros, I would be living off the bounty of the reef, I would just be doing it in a different way. Like the ancient Chamorros, our economy and our way of life would still be based on our natural resources, we'd just be using them in a different way, one that can support more people, allow for the diversification of our economy, and allow us to continue to practice our culture into the future.
I'd like to call it Ecotourism 2.0.
Well, if you are interested in getting in on this from the ground floor, please come to our Meetup this Wednesday at Oleai Beach Bar at 6:30. The password is "Fidelio."