Friday, April 24, 2009

To Blog or Not To Blog

That has been one of the many thoughts running through my head on a regular basis. It's been a long break for this blog writer (at least when it comes to writing this blog). That's not to say there's nothing to write about. Quite the contrary. In fact life has been so jammed packed with stuff since I returned to Saipan from LA and my open-heart surgery ordeal that something ultimately had to give. I decided it would to be the blog since time taken to write about everything was taking precious moments away from the most important things in my life – my kids!

I remember a few months ago, when asked by someone about not writing on my blog. I responded with “I’m too busy just living my life and don’t really have the time (or desire) to spend additional hours telling everyone else about it!” Each day there is a “Blog Moment”. “That’s a blog post, where’s my camera, my note pad, my computer” I think most bloggers go through this, especially those who take it seriously and know the importance of posting on a regular basis. It’s like an addiction. I decided I needed to go cold turkey and take a break.

I also know that writing in general can be quite therapeutic and that during my surgical recovery this blog proved to be a very effective way of communicating with friends and family as well as tell a pretty cool story. It’s cool now only because I lived through it and have been given a clean bill of health with a renewed perspective on life and the importance of living everyday knowing it could be your last.

I also have come to realize the power of this blog. To reach out, to educate, and to network with people looking for the things that I do. This blog, directly and indirectly, has lead to many opportunities, many that may not have come knocking if it were not for the time spent contributing to it.

As with everything else in life, I think it comes down to balance. Too much of a good thing is usually not so good in the long run. Then again not doing something at all seems not only a waste but also rarely does doing so lead to good things. So, with that said, I have decided this blog will be back. It is unlikely that I will post in depth thoughts and stories everyday but rather I will mix in some very short takes and photos / video from around the islands to keep people interested in coming back and reading more. There will be some changes to the layout in the coming weeks and I hope anyone who is still following will be patient. (If you’re still following then you’ve certainly demonstrated this or you’re related to me!)

As today is Earth day I thought I’d start with the “much awaited” short clip of a Humpback Whale as captured less than a mile off the reef in front of the Palms Resort, Saipan.

Hope to see you back again tomorrow, the official start of the 28th Annual Flame Tree Festival!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

NBC Nightly News & The Marianas Trench Marine Monument

Today is Earth Day and with any luck (no other major breaking news stories) NBC Nightly News will be airing their story on the Mariana Trench Marine Monument tonight. Check your local listings but, it should be in prime time. I'm not sure how much if any of the footage I shot for them will be used but regardless of my own personal hopes it's a pretty exciting thing for the CNMI.

Here's my letter to the editor which appeared in today's papers.

Promises Kept.

This week, most likely on Earth Day, barring any major breaking news stories taking over the air waves, NBC Nightly News will broadcast, in prime time, a national story about the Marianas Trench Marine Monument. Likely the story will be less rah-rah environment and more, how did we get here, what now and what are the challenges ahead? Regardless, the story illustrates an important promise kept.

While much work remains to be done to realize all the benefits touted and to effectively harness the full potential of the declaration, everyone who has had a hand in making the monument a reality should hold their heads high this coming Earth Day. Be proud; together we have taken a most difficult yet monumental first step on the way to preserving one of the most special and least understood places on our planet. To that end our children will thank us, for perhaps the most important of promises has been kept, the promise to do what we can now to save our oceans and the very existence of hundreds, if not thousands, of species, potentially even our own. By doing so we have also brought a tide of change to the shores of the CNMI.

In addition to this week’s NBC story, late last week Angelo Villagomez and Ike Cabrera traveled to San Francisco where, on behalf of the Friends of the Monument, they accepted the 2009 EPA award acknowledging commitment and significant contributions to the environment. Although getting a monument declared is not necessary to receive this award, as demonstrated by Beautify CNMI winning it in 2008, the fact remains, by receiving this honor twice in successive years we now have something very important in our corner - momentum. Even the critics must recognize that this round of press alone delivers not only on the promise to bring positive world-wide attention to the CNMI but it can also be the catalyst we need to re-brand the CNMI. That is, if we don’t screw it up.

During NBC’s visit a few weeks ago, I remember hearing someone saying this will be the first time since the 1990’s one of the big 3 networks has come to the CNMI to do a national TV news story. Back then ABC did their expose on our booming, less than glamorous garment industry and the accompanying issues with human trafficking and prolific prostitution. Of course, a story like that followed by years of corruption (aka Tom Delay and Jack Abramoff) can make for a difficult image to shake long after the factories are gone and the federal government assumes control of local immigration.

Now I know an image can’t be changed overnight nor will it be changed by one 3-minute spot on the national news. However, if we play our cards right, manage the monument with due diligence and ride this wave of media coverage over the coming weeks, months and years we can do it, one story at a time.

Case in point. Following the day of diving with NBC, including 4 very different dive sites in the Grotto, Naftan Point, Ice Cream and Ship Wreck, I asked reporter Ian Williams how his day had compared to other dive days he’d experienced around the world. He enthusiastically and whole-heartedly responded with “as good as or better than any I’ve ever had”. As our conversation continued we discovered his points of reference include some very high profile places in Asia including many in Indonesia, a country generally well known for some pretty decent diving. This without even setting foot anywhere near the actual area designated as a monument. Think of the possibilities for education and tourism when yet another of the promises is met. That of a world-class visitors center on Saipan complete with a walk through replica of the Trench and live video feeds from the many research expeditions and their crews of local students and scientists. The job has really just begun; let’s work together to keep the promises and reap the benefits for the sake of our children.

For a little more on NBC's visit to Saipan you can visit Angelo's blog here, as well as the Friends of the Monument (FOM) blog here. The Tribune also did a story. I will also be posting some photos and video once I see the story. Thanks to the internet we here in the CNMI should be able to watch it almost live. If we have to wait until next week to see it on the tape delay I'l be a pretty disapointed!