Tuesday, January 12, 2010

How to fight the 'Avatar' Blues

CNN ran a story on January 11 about people getting depressed after seeing the movie 'Avatar' when they realize that the moon planet is ficional and that they can't book a flight there on Orbitz:
James Cameron's completely immersive spectacle "Avatar" may have been a little too real for some fans who say they have experienced depression and suicidal thoughts after seeing the film because they long to enjoy the beauty of the alien world Pandora.
My first inclination is to make fun of these people, but I won't.

If you want to visit Pandora and experience the things that the Na'vi and Jake Sully experience, do these two things:

1. Learn to SCUBA
2. Support the creation and effective management of marine protected areas

I was 27 before I learned SCUBA. My first dive at Obyan Beach opened up a world to me that I never knew existed. Sure, I'd been snorkeling and I'd seen underwater video on TV, but sitting in 60 feet of water on the edge of a coral reef with 100 foot visibility and fish in every direction is a whole different story.

It gave me a whole new perspective on the ocean.

When you dive you can go up, down, left, right, back, forth, hang over an edge upside-down, crawl into a cave, all without having to worry about gravity. This allows you to get to amazing places. During my stint on Saipan I dove the crater of an underwater volcano by looking for a shallow point in the Maug Lagoon with a depth finder and then splashing around on the surface until I could see the cone. When my dive group dropped down 60 feet to the shallowest point we found giant claims, bubble coral, and a white tip shark. At Sarigan I saw giant humphead parrotfish and more sharks. Experiences on Saipan at the Grotto, Spotlight, Bonzai, and Ice Cream were just as memorable.

Some people will never learn to dive, but will likely try snorkeling. Snorkeling can be great. I once went on a boat tour in Oahu where we chased a pod of spinner dolphins around and then went snorkeling with about 10 Green Sea Turtles. It was an amazing day that could have only been better if I had been able to go diving with them.

Some will get a glimpse of this world without getting wet. A few weeks ago I took a ride in a submarine inside the Saipan lagoon with some students from Marianas High School. The submarine dipped to about 30 feet and cruised between some patch reefs teaming with fish. I overheard one of the students sitting next to me say, "It is like 3-D, only real."

No. It is real. And diving beats snorkeling and riding in an air conditioned submarine any day.

James Cameron has said that the world of Pandora was inspired by coral reefs, so why not go check out the real thing? You can learn to dive in three days and once you start you'll be hooked.

Like the kid said, "It is like 3-D, only real."

My second suggestion is just as important as the first if you want to see the real Pandora. The coral reefs and the waters that we dive today and the diversity and productivity we find there are no longer pristine. There is no place on this globe that has not been affected by commercial fishing. Even in Maug, one of the most remote places on Earth, I found derelict fishing gear. And compared to the stories told to me about the island when my father's godfather visited there in 1945, the island and the surrounding waters are overfished.

Marine protected areas have been scientifically proven to reverse this trend (so have wars, which keep fishing boats from fishing for fear of being sunk). But it is not as simple as putting a circle on a map. Protected areas have to be funded and the people using them have to be educated.

So that's just my two cents. If it wasn't 3 in the morning and if I wasn't jetlagged and if this wasn't just for my blog I might spend a little more time on this, backing my claims up and adding pictures.

I hope this helps cure your 'Avatar' Blues and if you're going diving in Florida, give me a call.

1 comment:

ru said...

Hi Angelo,

I love your comment!
I haven't watch CNN, so the story looked like a joke for me. Is there a new stupidity virus going :) I cannot imagine how people can get depressed and having suicidal thoughts after watching a move created on computer....
By the way, enjoy your new adventure in Florida.