Interview with Barefoot Mads

  • April 5, 2022

Tell us about your most memorable moment with a marine animal? 

Back in 2021 whilst I was living on Lady Elliot Island an island located on the iconic Great Barrier Reef. I’d gone out to freedive along the western side of the island one morning and it was a morning like no other- there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and the ocean was like glass. By this time I’d spent months living on the island with very few manta ray encounters (it was very funny to my friends that I somehow lived at the “home of the manta ray” and hadn’t seen more than a few). But this morning there were whales, devil rays, cowtail rays, fish, turtles, and…manta rays! Everywhere. A very special moment happened with an almost entirely black manta ray when it glided head-on towards me. It wasn’t bothered by my presence and I kicked along the surface above it for what felt like a lifetime. In that moment, the rest of the world didn’t exist to me and from then on I have understood the unique and incredible relationships that can be formed with marine life. 

What do the oceans mean to you?

The oceans mean everything to me, which is such a broad term to use but one that is fitting. The ocean is what gives me passion for life, it’s what I see as beauty, it is a connection- with marine life and like-minded people, it is how I recharge my soul, it is..everything. 

What concerns you most about the way humans are treating our oceans?
What is most concerning is our behaviour- we are acting like the ocean is this indestructible thing that will just go on till the end of time no matter what impacts we as a species create. But this is false, the ocean is a complex, delicate, and most importantly BALANCED ecosystem. Like most things, take something away (such as our coral reefs) and the entire system will fall apart. Our way of living has meant the subsequent degradation in the health of our oceans and we have SEEN the result of this. But we are still turning a blind eye, I think mostly because many of us feel like it is largely out of our control. As history has outlined there is power in numbers and we can change the future predictions given to us by today’s leading scientists, but our behaviour needs to change. We need to listen, we need to act, and it needs to be now. 
If you had the entire world’s attention for 60 seconds what would you say?
Honestly, if I could come up with such a powerful and motivational speech that managed to compel each and every one of us to not go to work tomorrow but instead march on our government and world leaders- I would. We as a species have a tendency to take miraculous movements once the destruction has already well and truly happened and sadly, the attitude towards the decline in ocean health seems to be the same. With the recent devastating Australian bushfires of 2019 and extreme flooding in NSW and QLD this year, we have seen a tremendous amount of strength from our communities. It would be so powerful if we all took the same approach to the effect climate change is having on our oceans. Because let’s face it, these issues are largely due to climate change. If I had 60 seconds, I would try to reiterate to society how important the ocean is for life on earth. As our oceans continue to warm due to global warming we have seen a reduction in the ocean’s oxygen levels, this is projected to decline a further 3-4% by the year 2100. The ocean is responsible for 50-80% of our oxygen! If its ecosystem fails, we fail. During the devastating burning of the Amazon rainforest, social media was plastered with images of the earth’s lungs on fire. Right now, the earth’s lungs are well and truly “on fire” as our ocean is dying. 

What personal lifestyle/consumer choices do you make to protect our oceans and our planet?
As an individual, I have spent the last five years committed to a predominantly plant-based diet. I try to grow many of my main vegetables and the property in which I reside runs entirely on solar power and rainwater. My consumer choices are largely influenced by not supporting fast fashion, plastic items unless absolutely necessary, and starting a swimwear line made from recycled water bottles to promote ocean conservation. 
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