Edible Monterey Bay

Page Six: Ocean Lovers

Three ocean conservationists
on why maritime matters


By Molly Watson

Illustrations by Lucy Conklin

Wallace J. Nichols, Ph.D., Davenport-based author of Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On, or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected, and Better at What You Do (Little, Brown and Co., summer 2014)

How does the concept of Blue Mind come into play in terms of food?

Food tastes better outside, especially by water. One of my favorite meals ever was a very warm, very smooshed peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I ate it sitting on a beach looking at the water, and it was so special. It wouldn’t have tasted nearly as good in a crowded corner of my office. So my sense that looking at water calms me isn’t all in my head?

It is all in your head, but it’s also real.

You have two young daughters. How has your work affected what you do with them?

I talk to young people all the time about nostalgia, that it’s a chemical and a biological response. The things you’re around a lot as a young person are what you become nostalgic for, whether they’re what you like at the time or not. I want kids nostalgic for apples they picked and made into a pie, not apps.

So with my girls we make sure to turn off the devices, sit down and enjoy good meals together. I want them nostalgic for making their own food and playing their own music. I want them to be nostalgic about a PB&J on the beach after a hike to the ocean.

Jason Scorse, Ph.D., head of the Center for the Blue Economy at the Monterey Institute of International Studies

How important is food in terms of the environment?

Food choices are the area where consumers have the biggest impact on the environment. We make them every day, often for multiple people. They have a bigger impact than the size of your house. They’re way more important than driving a Prius.

What food choices do you make?

I’ve been a vegan for 20 years. It’s pure numbers: The ecological impact of a vegan diet has the smallest footprint. By far.

So no seafood for you?

Here’s the deal. First, a huge proportion of seafood is mislabeled, and not by accident. Either it’s an endangered species labeled as something else or it’s cheap seafood labeled as something more expensive. Until we have traceability, sustainability is an illusion. Second, even what’s sustainable has by-catch and can have big impacts. It’s straight-up ecocide what we’re doing to the ocean. In my experience, the biggest champions of the ocean don’t eat seafood.

Sorry, but you can’t sugarcoat the reality.

Peter Weiss, Ph.D., The Singing Scientist (“Do As You Otter”) and research associate at UC Santa Cruz

The state of the ocean and what humans have done to the earth can be depressing. How do you make it so upbeat for kids?

It can be depressing to think about, but I’d much rather be studying the ocean, talking about the ocean and going to the ocean than almost anything else I can think of.

How much do you sing about food?

I sing about composting and gardening a lot. I added two verses to “Our Own Backyard” about growing food so you can go shopping in your backyard. It’s what I do, too. I go out to the garden and see what looks good. I forage for dinner back there.

I also have a verse in another song: “When you feel like givin’ the earth some lovin’, just cook your food in a solar oven.” Kids love that. And I do it, too. I make beans in mine and they’re great.

What’s the difference between how you approach your college students and the little kids you sing to?

Let’s just say that I don’t bring my guitar into the classroom when I teach chemistry to 400-some college students every quarter.

Molly Watson is a writer and recipe wizard who loves nothing more that staring at or being in bodies of water.