I had another round of school presentations yesterday, this time at Marianas High School. I presented to several different classes, a language arts class, a history class, a homeroom, a journalism class, and two classes that I forget.
My first presentation was kind of rocky; the kids just didn't seem to care. I thought to myself, "this is going to be a long day," but things got better with each class, especially after I pulled a play right out of the Brad Ruszala School for Charming Filipina Girls Playbook and sang a few lines while prepping my computer.
I tried a different presentation style today. I only used the computer to play a couple of Youtube videos. I played some of the news stories from KSPN and I played this video of Megaladon, telling them that one of our supporters is convinced that he lives in the trench.
Then I started off by asking who, with a show of hands, had been to Managaha, Tinian, Rota, Guam, and then the Northern Islands. I'm always amazed that there are kids who have lived on Saipan their entire lives, these are high school aged kids, remember, who have never been to Managaha. I've swum there before, for Christ's sake! Twice!
And we're back...
About three quarters of the kids have been to Guam, half have been to Tinian, fewer have been to Rota, and out of the 150 or so kids I spoke to yesterday, five had been to the Northern Islands. Two had been to Pagan. Three had been to Anatahan. None had been to any of the islands within the proposed monument, nor did they know anyone who had ever visited.
When I start talking about the monument I ask the students what they have heard about the proposal, "Is it a good thing or a bad thing?" Most of the them have never heard of the monument, but I did get a good mix of "Good" and "Bad."
Then we have a discussion.
Why is it bad?
Because it would take away our land. It is nothing but a federal takeover. People would be barred from feeding their families. We wouldn't be able to fish.
Why is it good?
Because of conservation. Preservation. Jobs. Tourism. Federal funding. Enforcement dollars. Positive media attention. Improving our international image. Bigger fish. Pride and world wide recognition of our islands and our people.
The students, in every situation, identified these things on their own.
After that, I stopped the discussion and gave a short talk on the geology and the biology of the region, using the Scientific Case for a Mariana Trench Marine National Monument as my reference.
I started off by talking about how this area sits on the convergence zone of two techtonic plates, the Pacific Plate and the Philippine Plate. I discuss how this convergence is a geologists dream land, with the Mariana Trench, emergent lands, underwater volcanoes, seamounds, lava, mud volcanoes, earthquakes, and so on. Then I tell them that this diverse geology has resulted in undiscovered untold biodiversity.
There are pools of boiling sulfur where flatfish thrive, chemosynthetic bacteria living on top of photosynthetic zooxanthellae living symbiotically with coral, mud volcanoes where life may have started, habitats ranging from shallow tropical coral reefs down to the deepest darkest place on Earth, and let's not forget the beak whales and other 19 species of whales and dolphins already discovered in those waters.
Then I ask again, "Good thing or bad thing?"
I encouraged the kids to come up with their own conclusions.