Turning the tides on child drowning
Rebecca Wear Robinson
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Sharks and Drowning

by Rebecca Wear Robinson on July 15, 2013

hunting sharks to extinction

What do sharks and drowning have in common? More than you think, and less. The ‘less’ is discouraging – they are doing a better job at shark conservation than we are at ending drowning. Both are misunderstood, both involve water, both are not really on anyone’s radar as ‘I should be thinking about this issue’, but the biggest difference is that shark conservationists are not just raising awareness, they are changing the underlying attitudes and behaviors that endanger sharks, and they are forming effective strategic alliances.

It’s not enough just to raise awareness. It’s not enough just to make people care about a cause. If you are going to see real, sustainable change, you need to peel back the layers of the issue, uncover the underlying causes for behavior and attitudes, address them effectively, and then take it to the global stage.

Let’s look at a multi-pronged approach that is working.

Raising awareness. Tom’s shoes,  The Discovery Channel and Oceana worked together to create Shark Week. An incredible multi-media effort to raise awareness about sharks, to make people care more about sharks, and to let people know that sharks are endangered and we need to care. My favorite is the product tie-in, a super cool Tom’s shoe with a limited edition Shark camo print. Click here to buy your pair before they are sold out. I’ve ordered mine!

Changing behavior. Many sharks are caught specifically for their fin, which is often hacked off and the shark dropped back in the water to die. The reason? Shark fin soup, a staple banquet dish of the aristocracy in China since 1368. WildAid and other conservation groups are convincing the Chinese that shark fin soup is not a status symbol, that it is undesirable, that French wine is a better option, and they are starting to have an effect.  And, of course, they are enlisting the aid of high-profile stars, like Guo Jingjing, a four-time Olympic diving champion, who declined to serve shark fin soup at her recent wedding. Celebrity endorsement is key to set a positive example, as I’ve said before.

Global Cooperation. Every global issue needs global cooperation. Shark’s are getting their moment at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).  But it’s not just at the diplomatic level, strategic alliances, such as the one between Tom’s, Discovery Channel and Oceana are critical to reaching more of the public, more effectively.

Our moment for global cooperation is October 20-22, 2013 at the World Conference on Drowning Prevention in Potsdam, Germany.

I’ll be speaking twice, once on “Raise Funds and Increase Awareness – Applying Business Disciplines To Maximize Your Organization’s Success” and again with Dr. Linda Quan and Tizzy Bennett from Seattle Children’s Hospital on “Translating Open Water Safety Guidelines Into Global Action Using Social Marketing”.

Will I see you there?  If you’re ‘in’ on the need for global cooperation, click here to Tweet ‘@RebeccaSaveKids I’m supporting the World Conference on Drowning Prevention!  Are you?  http://bit.ly/1aIFA6l #stopdrowning’

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