Reading time

“Understanding and telling the ocean story has become my purpose in this life.”

Ocean Witness Jessica shares her story

“The ocean has become somewhat of a life partner. The more I learn, the more I want to know.” Jessica is originally from Seattle, but now lives out of her suitcase. After an accident, diving unexpectedly helped her regain her walking abilities and cured her. She then decided to devote her career to the wellbeing of the ocean and now she travels the world to research the human impact on oceans and how these impacts can be reversed and realigned. Today, she shares her story.

become an ocean witness
22 March 2018 | Seattle, United States

Thank you for sharing your story with us today Jessica, can you tell us a bit more about your first memory of the ocean?

Along the cold, salty shores of the Pacific Northwest I would turn over the barnacle-encrusted rocks looking for crabs. I would proudly show my friends if the crabs that I found were male or female. I also remember running into the ice-cold water at Puget Sound; laughing and screaming. I was 6 years old at the time.

“The ocean itself and its power to influence every living system on this planet, is enticing, complex and gracefully dynamic.”
Jessica

And what does the ocean mean to you today?

I experienced a ski accident that left my right leg crippled. After 3 years of surgeries and therapy, I was told I would never walk again. Shortly after, I ended up on a liveaboard dive trip in Komodo, Indonesia. After 2 weeks in the ocean and a few intense current dives, I was walking again. The pain I had lived with for those 3 years, was gone. For the next 6 months, I continued to dive and heal my leg.

Ever since, the ocean has become somewhat of a life partner. The more I learn, the more I want to know. How I look at the ocean changes constantly and my appreciation and awe have grown exponentially. It is a pure love, for what that lives within, from the smallest of algae to blue whales – and literally everything in between. The ocean itself and its power to influence every living system on this planet, is enticing, complex and gracefully dynamic. Understanding and telling the ocean story has become my purpose in this life.

What changes are you witnessing in the ocean?

I am witnessing rapid changes across multiple ecosystems. Every ocean or coastal environment I have visited, is showing damage from human interferences, such as plastic pollution or exploitation of species. We are knocking out countless known and unknown species. We take the life and dynamic relationships out of the ocean and replace them with our wastes and the byproducts of our hasty industrialization and development. Considering the pace of these trends, there has been little time or opportunity for the ocean to adapt. The ocean and its inhabitants can no longer keep up with us. The consequences are increasingly evident, regional biodiversity is decreasing and temperatures and carbon levels are rising. It is as if we have pulled all the supporting pieces of a Jenga game out at once, and now the rest of the pieces are falling down.

“The ocean and its inhabitants can no longer keep up with us. The consequences are increasingly evident.”
Jessica

How do these changes affect you?

I am deeply affected. The changes make me feel sad and worried about the future. When I am diving and taking photos, I am peaceful and fascinated by the species and how they interact. When I surface and look around at growing human pressures on the ocean, I become overwhelmed and yearn intensely to identify leverage points that will encourage people to listen and change.

 

And what do you do to personally encourage others to listen and change?

I have spent four years traveling the world’s oceans, attending conferences, networking, diving, learning underwater photography and studying regenerative ecosystem repair. This kind of repair is designed to naturally revitalize the resources and energy found in the ocean and re-aligning them with human activity to create a long-term, sustainable balance. Using regenerative ecosystem repair, we can restore ecosystems that will not only drawdown carbon levels and boost regional biodiversity but provide healthy economics to coastal communities as well. These concepts and research require collaboration across many sectors; I am working to put those pieces together by building and supporting a network for those who feel passionate about finding solutions for climate change, loss of biodiversity or the high amount of plastics used, for example. In the meantime, I am contributing my photography to marine scientist and conservation groups to improve science communication and support their work.

“I believe there’s a great potential to do so in MPA’s, it could lead coastal communities to be empowered and accountable.”
Jessica

In addition to that, what are good solutions for better conservation of our oceans globally, in your opinion?  

We must grow and nurture a love for the oceans. Ecosystem dynamics, climate change and marine biology should be a part of every child’s school curriculum. Fiji, for example, is doing this very well. I think every little detail of the ocean should be in the mainstream media and debated at dinner tables around the world. It has to become common knowledge.

But my absolute dream for conservation in a human-driven world is to liberate coastal communities and for them to be in charge of their traditional and natural resources. By regenerative design, we can revitalize these resources and realign them with human-activity. This will increase both the sustainability of the ecosystem and the autonomy of the community. Ultimately this could lead to a direct supply chain and profit for coastal communities. They are the ones that have interacted with the ocean for generations.

I believe there’s a great potential to do so in Marine Protected Areas (MPA’s), it could lead coastal communities to be empowered and accountable. But management and financial resources must be in place and reliable. This is the largest hurdle I have heard repeatedly, in every coastal setting. Money is the limiting factor for effective management of MPA’s.

In 2030, what does the ocean look like according to you?

If we don’t change our current trends in consumption, extraction and exploitation, it won’t be any good. It’s an image that squeezes my heart and brings tears to my eyes, actually. But if we can be more cohesive as conservationists, consumers, producers, developers and businesses focusing on wide scale ecosystem regeneration, we may see many places where the ocean is adapting, or better yet, recovering by 2030.

 

“I think every little detail of the ocean should be in the mainstream media and debated at dinner tables around the world.”
Jessica

Thanks for sharing your story Jessica, you’re an Ocean Witness now! What do you want to say to other Ocean Witnesses?  

Keep working for what you love. Reach out to those who share your love. I am here, I am available. I will offer support and collaboration for anyone who wants to join forces to strengthen the voice of the ocean.

About Jessica

Jessica Hardy is 39 years old and has travelled and lived all over the world. She has a background in nursing and nutrition in developing countries but has been studying regenerative agriculture and permaculture for the past 5 years. Jessica is the founder of the NGO Regenerative Seas, an organization working to identify and support a network of people dedicated to finding solutions to our modern crises of climate change, non-organic wastes, nutritional security, freshwater and fair economics by promoting biodiversity and reducing our consumption of plastics. Jessica is also an underwater photographer.  

share this article

Jessica Hardy

Seattle, United States

Jessica is the founder of the NGO Regenerative Seas, an organization working to identify and support a network of people dedicated to finding solutions to our modern crises of climate change, non-organic wastes, nutritional security, freshwater and fair economics by promoting biodiversity and reducing our consumption of plastics.