The first one, the experience of someone confronted with the indifference towards death that is so imbued in our society.
The second one because I needed to soak myself in hope, after reading the first.
Death, senseless death of living beings (be it humans or non-humans) is part of our routine. We see it in each movie, TV show, novel, comic. If this weren't enough, day-to-day death is served to us with lunch and dinner in the news.
It feels as if death has become such a trivial event for us, instead of being something that changes our lives completely (be it somebody else's death or our own).
Even young kids are exposed to the concept that deaths is unimportant, and if you don't believe me just watch "kid movies" as Kick Ass or leaf through any manga.
Today I had to remind myself that time and space are just a concept. Only by doing so could I send my love and my tears to that life that was taken so senselessly.
I love you baby shark.
I have shed tears for your suffering.
I remember you baby shark, you are now part of me.
I think of all living beings whose lives are ended in such an offhanded way, as if your lives were not important. Because they are to me.
And I thank both people who shared their experience with me, and were brave enough the first to confront the indifference of a society towards your death, the second to do something for changing that.
Even if it be will hard, I will send my love to those people who were with you on that beach, little shark... In a little while.
The Day a Dozen Parents and Children Killed a Baby Shark
for a Selfie
By Johanna Zelman
on The Dodo
A recent summer weekend is smoldering in my memory. My favorite New York beach was checkered in rows of splayed out towels by the time I had caught the bus to the train and crossed the nebulous line where gravel turns to sand.
I was digging the sunblock from underneath my nails after a heavy slathering session when the beach’s buzz level of crashing waves, music and chit chat rose in volume. The heightened voices were coming from the water’s edge, where over a dozen parents and children had gathered in a tightly packed circle, their hands jammed toward the sky, gripping cell phones and snapping photos.
I continued picking my nails, assuming it was another piece of trash mistaken for an animal; a plastic straw confused for a crab leg or glass shard misidentified as a jellyfish.
The commotion continued, and curiosity got the best of me. I nonchalantly weaved between the blankets, just so happening to meander in the direction of the crowd. I leered over the hairy backs and damp towels flung around necks to see a man clutching a baby shark by its tail. He was grinning, delivering a thumbs up to his wife.
"Angle it a bit more in front- no babe, in front of you," his wife directed. "Yeah. No, you’re blocking it. In front of you."
The man jolted the shark by his tail, front and back, left and right. "Like this?"
"Yeah, that’s good."
"Get a few."
The shark wiggled his torso and gaped his mouth open and shut.
A boy grabbed at the shark. "Let me hold it! I want a photo."
The man maintained a grip on the tail. The boy squirmed up next to the shark, smacked a hand on his side in a declaration of ownership, and extended his other hand gripping an iPhone to snap a selfie.
"Shouldn’t you put the shark back in the water?" I asked. My voice was swallowed in the murmurs of excitement. I asked louder, "Shouldn’t you put it back?"
Panic arose from the circle. "No, I didn’t get a photo with it yet!" "It’s my turn first!" A group of kids and adults alike began more desperately clambering for a grip of the shark.
A big man with thick muscles and deeply tanned skin won the grab-off with two hands on the animal. "Joey! Hey Joey take my picture!" he shouted to a friend.
The shark’s torso stopped wiggling, and he slowly gaped his mouth once, and then let it hang open. "You guys! I think the shark is dying," I exclaimed.
A few heads turned my way, then returned back to taking photos. My cheeks began to burn as I stood in front of the man, my hands waving, blocking the cameras. "This shark is dying. You guys are literally killing this shark for a photo, can’t you see that?" I asked. A sea of cameras, iPhones and iPads stared back at me. The crowd waited for me to move so they could resume their important work of proving they saw a shark. Dead or alive, it didn’t matter. It’d be liked on Facebook and Instagram either way.
I clamped my shaky hand on the thick muscled man’s greasy shoulder. "Let it go," I declared in a voice higher than I knew I was capable of. He turned to his friend. "You get the pic, Joey?" and upon Joey’s nod, he shrugged. "Fine."
"No, wait!" Another man yelled, grabbing at the shark. "I didn’t get a turn!"
"You are literally going to kill this shark for a photo!" I argued.
He looked down at the shark dangling from his hand. "It’s already dead," he shrugged.
The shark’s mouth lay agape, his gills slightly blowing in the sea breeze.
"Just…" I bit down hard on my tongue to force back tears worming their way out. "...Just put him back in the water. Please."
The man shrugged and dropped him in the sea. Another man waded into the water to find him, but the shark had floated out with the current.
A little girl in a polka dot bathing suit with ruffles stomped up to me, splashing her little feet through the water. She smacked her hands onto her hips. "What’d you do that for?! I don’t want any shark stinking up my ocean."
I stared at her, and shook my head. "That’s nature."
She blinked at me, confused by this notion, and stomped away.
This is a generation that experiences animals, nature and the great wonders of our world behind the safety of four-inch screens instead of understanding how to live among them in reality. We are teetering dangerously close to preferring satisfaction in the virtual world over the real one.
Humans no longer know how to interact with the natural world. That summer day, this disconnect came at the sacrifice of a little baby shark. I fear the consequences will be more dire in the future.
From Florida to the Bahamas
Sharing Sharks with Students
By Shark Girl
on The Adventures of Shark Girl
As we anchored the boat just outside the entrance to the mangrove channel there was a lot of giggling and excitement. Fueled up with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (official field work lunch) and chocolate cupcakes, the students were ready for adventure. Duncan and I, along with Jill, Michael and CJ from the Sharklab, were embarking on our epic day in the mangroves.
We warned the students and teachers about the bottom being a little squishy and to be mindful of sea urchins. We lead the charge and checked for critters as we made our way to the entrance. The four female students jumped off the boat, squealed a bit as their toes squished and sunk, but they giggled and charged on. The boys however, were a bit more reluctant. Everyone was en route and they were still on the boat. Finally, after a bit of heckling from their female classmates, the boys made the leap and followed us. They politely insisted, “ ladies first.” Nice to see such young gentlemen- ha!
As we neared the entrance we warned everyone about the center part getting pretty deep. This beautiful tunnel to paradise is about three feet wide and the mangrove branches wrap around it from top to bottom. This adds to the sense of adventure as you swim through like explorers charting a new path. As the water got deeper the giggles returned, but all made it through unscathed.
The tunnel pours into an opening in the mangroves that is truly paradise. This is by far, one of my favorite places in the world. It is wild, untouched and feels as thought you are on a different planet. The only reminder of civilization is the occasional plane passing overhead. It is here where we were going to share with the students and teachers, a beautiful moment with wild baby lemon sharks.
Sharklab manager Jill had made her way up to the spot and put some chum in the water. The baby lemon sharks head up the channel on the high tide to look for food and take shelter. The channel is a dead end, so we hoped that a few sharkies had ventured in and would come looking for a snack. Before too long, the tell tale wake on the surface indicated a shark heading our way. The kids immediately started imitating the, “Jaws” impending doom music. We all had a good laugh. The little sharks are always cautious, as you would be with a bunch of potential predators loitering about. Slowly, but surely they came to check us out. The first shark that approached had a green tag, showing it was one of the sharks currently involved in a Sharklab research project.
Finally the shark with the green tag came in for a snack. Word spread quickly and pretty soon we had five sharks cruising around. The excitement level rose as students anxiously waited for their turn to feed a shark. Fear and misunderstanding were replaced with laughter and a little competition to see who could feed the most. As their comfort level increased, the teachers decided to get in on the action. They each nudged their way to the front and shared a moment with the baby sharks. It is an amazing thing to witness people and sharks sharing a simple, but powerful encounter with the capacity to change a person’s entire perception. I watched, in awe, at the beauty of the moment. This is hope for our sharks and hope for our oceans. These little sharks are ambassadors for sharks all over Bimini and the world.
It was hard to say goodbye, but the tide changed and it was our time to go. Every student and teacher had a grin from ear to ear as we swam, stumbled and waded back to the boat. Everyone was glowing from such a unique experience, one most said they never expected to ever have, especially right in their own backyard. I can only hope that these students and their teachers will carry this experience with them and speak on behalf of sharks and how amazing they are.
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