Be the change you want to see in the world. Mahatma Gandhi
To join the UFP (United Federation of Planets), a world’s peoples must be civil with each other and be scientifically evolved enough to have warp power (faster than light) space vehicles. The Federation’s Prime Directive forbids advanced worlds to interfere with less developed planets, such as Earth in 2011. Though a science fictional utopia, Star Trek’s Federation provides a model that we on Earth today could strive toward. There’s not much we as individuals can do to develop warp-powered space ships, but we can contribute to making our planet worthy of inclusion in the UFP. Assuming we want to get along with our own species, steward our planet, and advance enough to join other sentient beings in the galaxy, one wonders how would we do it? How can we get the diverse peoples on our little planet to work together to join the Federation—or just enjoy a better world? Here’s a sea kayaker’s simple solution:
Tolerate each other. At the most nominal level, we don’t have to like each other, we just have to let others be. Once we can tolerate and not set out to kill each other (e.g., the Middle East would be a good place to practice), then perhaps we could take the next step and accept each other. We may still have mistrust, but we could work together and sit together at the same table without fussing and fighting.
With all the strife occurring within and between nations, a bit of acceptance would be good. Right now would be a propitious time for nations to put into practice some version of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, cobbled together by an international committee chaired by Eleanor Roosevelt and passed by most countries in the UN at that time. The gist of the Declaration is that all people have the right to be free, to be world citizens, with all that entails. It seems so straightforward and doable….
If we look ahead and figure that if we can tolerate and perhaps accept others and their beliefs, interests, activities, occupations, and stations in society, perhaps we could take a leap and try to truly appreciate our fellow humans near and far. It starts with appreciation of ourselves, then our family and friends, neighbors, countrymen, and then citizens of the world. That’s not very hard, really.
It can happen. And we sea kayakers are just the people to do it—without assistance from governments or big organizations. Since the earth is 2/3 ocean, and most cities lie near the sea, a lake, and/or navigable river, it’s natural for traveling sea kayakers to serve as universal ambassadors who show appreciation to the people they meet in the sea kayaking world. Most kayakers who have paddled for more than a couple of years have made a journey to another country.
For instance, nine out of 10 experienced American paddlers have boated in Mexico or Canada. Some of my friends go to other countries and paddle just about every year. I’m not much of an international voyager, but I’ve managed to paddle for weeks on end in the countries contiguous to the U.S. I’ve also paddled in faraway New Zealand, lived in the Philippines for a year, and have visited Guatemala, Taiwan, Okinawa, Guam, China, and England. I have kayaked in national destinations thousands of miles from where I live in Oregon—namely Georgia, Ohio, Alaska, and Hawaii.
In 2010, I paddled to an island in New Zealand with a pod of Kiwis, Aussies, and Japanese. Not only did we all get along, but we bonded and established strong friendships. A week later, while at the Coastbusters Sea Kayak Symposium in Auckland, I made friends with a Canadian couple, a German guy who leads paddling trips down the entire Danube, and a lot of cordial Kiwis and Aussies. (For more details, click on https://tsunamirangers.com/2011/01/12/sea-kayaking-in-new-zealand-part-two/ ).
In my country, I’ve paddled with visitors from Japan, Denmark, Australia, South Africa, Austria, Tajikistan, Cuba, Ireland, China, Hungary, Chile, and Russia, among others. I bet many of you have paddled with travelers from other nations. I have found that everyone I meet through sea kayaking wants to spread the joy of appreciating nature and learning from each other. And kids around the globe are especially eager to try sea kayaking and make new friends, wouldn’t you agree?
I don’t have faith in governments to unite the people of the world, and the UN doesn’t seem to promote its own Declaration of Human rights, but there’s no reason it can’t be done in a bottom-up fashion, one kayaker at a time. I may be pollyannish and simplistic, but I think we sea kayakers can make this water world’s people happier by sharing seas and souls. All we have to do is what we’ve been doing—share what we know, learn from others, welcome visiting kayakers, travel to distant lands when we can, and appreciate the differences and similarities among us. If we keep doing this at the rate we have, someday in the near future we will experience the 100th Monkey Principle; that is, we’ll reach a certain numerical threshold and suddenly everyone will learn and practice the positive behavior of reaching out and helping each other in this long journey through space.
In the future I hope to kayak in enchanting lands on this water planet, including the Azores, where my ancestors lie. I will keep in contact with my paddling friends around the world and in my own backyard. Together, we can make Earth a bit more hospitable. We can’t do it alone, but we can be a catalyst and model the way. Then someday, just maybe the United Federation of Planets will take notice of us Earthlings, and we will pass muster and be invited to join cosmic civilization.
Am I all wet? Or is there some truth in what I’m saying, that sea kayakers can help the world be a better place by befriending one another and sharing the adventure and beauty of the sea? Please let us know what you think by pushing the comment button below and posting your ideas.
If you have a good international sea kayaking friendship story to share, please do. I invite those who are embarking on an interesting paddle quest with people from other countries, staging an international paddling conference, or offering sea kayaking tours around the world to post a few words about what you do and leave a link so we can follow up.