Peggy Stap – reflections on humanity

Peggy Stap is one of the most positive, generous hearted people I know. She always has a smile for people, be that friends, strangers or even those who have displayed animosity towards her. She can also, at her own admission, sometimes live in a bubble and not notice the less well intentioned motives of others. With all this in mind, I asked her what she thought about us humans and our role on this planet.

Peggy thinks it is of the upmost importance that we all care for our planet. She notices that some people say they care, and probably honestly feel they care, but this is not always reflected in their actions. She also notices that some people are so unconnected from their relationship with the planet that they do not care at all, and their actions do reflect this.

“Sometimes I hate to say that I am human. Even in my own circle of friends and family, some people are doing what they can and some are not. It is frustrating. But we can only keep trying to find ways to help people connect with the world around them. Everything and everyone is interrelated and dependent on one another, only together can we keep our oceans healthy for the future.”

Peggy believes that it is up to those of us who do care to help those of us who do not. “We have to focus on encouraging children to be the ‘environmental stewards’ of the future and see that the small things they do in their lives, like whether they use plastic bags and balloons, can make a huge difference.”

There are simple things which everyone can do such as pick up litter, use cloth bags instead of plastic, use metal or china cups, say no to plastic lids and containers, do not use balloons and never, ever release them into the sky, donate to organisations such as Marine Life Studies… Peggy believes strongly in the role of education to bring home to us all the effects of our actions; effects which will have as great a consequence on us as on all life on this planet. For example, discarded plastic breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces until eventually it is small enough to be ingested by tiny animals in the oceans. Once in the food chain this plastic can, and does, eventually end up inside us with potentially poisonous consequences.

Peggy believes that the message we need to get across is that every little thing every single one of us does has an impact. As she explains to students on a regular basis, if she influences just two people and those people then influence two people, who then influence two people… very quickly that influence has expanded to 1000’s of people. How we get that message across in a way that actually produces results is something which Peggy is constantly working on.

I asked Peggy what she thought of the view that it is our leaders and the corporate world who should be the ones making changes as they have much greater influence and power. She answered, “If we want our leaders to do more we need to tell them so. We must write letters and emails, sign petitions and make phone calls. If we want businesses to change their habits we must buy from ethical businesses and write to manufacturers. With the economy as it is there is very little money available to go to the right places. If governments step in and make new legislations, then people just object to being over-controlled. We must be prepared to take matters into our own hands and play our part.”

Peggy gets a little cross with people who are very good at complaining but not so good at taking responsibility for their own lives. She recounts various stories of people she has met who ‘bitch’ about their lives; people who may have a TV in every room of the house but still think they do not have enough. She would love to transport them out of their comfortable lives to see the reality of the world and the hardships which many people face in order for them to learn how to appreciate their lives.

Occasionally, very occasionally, Peggy gets depressed, “At times, especially if I have looked into a particular issue in great detail, I can think for a moment, what’s the point? I do not have the answer. But really I know that we cannot lose hope and we have to keep going. There are some really smart people in this world and together we can find solutions. I think the younger generation have the potential to overcome many challenges and we have to nurture them in order for them to do so.”

I would like to add a few thoughts of my own to finish this post. A few days ago renowned photographer and film maker Bob Talbot said “People are involved in conservation for three reasons: they care and believe in what they are doing; they are lost and do not know what they believe in; they are satisfying the needs of their ego. These three reasons are not mutually exclusive, there are of course crossovers.”

Like all of us Peggy has some of all these motivations existing within her. But at the forefront is the fact that she does care and does believe in what she is doing. I have met other wonderful people here who share her beliefs and have the courage to put those beliefs into action. In particular, Peggy’s education co-ordinator Jenna Contuchio is an extraordinarily strong, intelligent woman who works as a veterinary technician and devotes all her extra hours to Marine Life Studies plus setting up her own organisation to educate people about plastic.

There are of course others whose motives are more clouded by their egos. I have witnessed people here behaving in ways which do not have the best interests of cetaceans at heart. And I have heard stories of individuals and organisations from around the world who act in ways not becoming of an intelligent, compassionate species.

Conservationists are after all human beings too. And whether we are a conservationist, a politician, a corporate boss or an average person on the street, we all suffer from the same potential for both weakness and strength, darkness and light. It is our choices and actions which allow either our strengths or our weaknesses to flourish, and these choices are our own responsibility, no one else’s. As Peggy says, “When I am on my deathbed it is me, and me alone, who will either suffer from having stored up anger towards another human being and guilt over my actions on this planet, or be at peace from feelings of good will and knowing I have lived my life trying to make a difference and leave the world a better place.” I think she has given a near perfect definition of what it means to take responsibility for your own life.

Don’t miss my final post about Peggy Stap – I wonder who will have the last word?

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