A couple of months back, while in the Maldives staging the most bizarrely surreal overwater screening of my film, I tacked on a few firsts between two of the most mesmerising islands I have ever beheld. Over two days, I learned both painful ramifications of a global warming, and the promising conservation efforts from Soneva’s team of marine biologists and sustainability teams – which, though exceptional in their proficiency and innovation, take significant amounts of time that cannot be afforded by the constant and looming threat of a few extra degrees in ocean temperatures, and thus coral bleaching that can wipe out years of regeneration work and diverse ecosystems that rely on these delicate organisms.
The sentiment from the essay I wrote for In The Youth of Our Fury almost two years ago remains the same: it’s understandably impossible to comprehend our terrifying damage to our environment without firsthand knowledge of what it is we have to lose. For someone who grows up landlocked without the opportunity to witness the magic of a living, breathing ocean or rainforest or mountain range, the ideas of conservation and sustainability become commercial buzzwords limited to disingenuous political campaigns and crunchy granola mummy blogs. Even as someone who grew up in nature and an education system with a state-driven focus on the power of the individual to make environmental impacts with small acts, nothing could compare to taking a dive amongst the vibrant but vulnerable wildlife and the measures put in place to protect them.
Or silent swimming at sunrise and dolphin-watching at sunset in pastel shades that will bowl you over, then slap you in the face with the harsh reality of a thousand low-lying coral islands, which were once five thousand, and will likely be completely submerged within the century.
From a more practically applicable standpoint in our day-to-day, I was (somewhat guiltily) inspired by the teams’ mass-scale recycling initiatives, repurposing every possible variety of waste from both islands as construction materials, fertilisation of homegrown produce, glassware and art.
Of course, I had stupidly left all my film in Australia while I was back over Chinese New Year, and have just this week gotten a hold of the rolls in order to develop my analog photos from the trip, and stop putting off compilation of the digital ones.
Better late than never.
Next steps: figure out the mechanics of a home-composting system, plant an apartment kitchen herb garden, and learn to make Maldivian curry and papadums.
photographed at Soneva Jani and Soneva Fushi