Malia Rouillon, Environmentalist, Creator of ‘Sirens for the Sea’
You are a nomad, born and raised in the Seychelles, having lived on the West coast and East Coast of Australia, your life brought you to the four corners of the world. Your love for the ocean is so apparent in the work that you do to protect it.
I have been incredibly fortunate to lead and experience a nomadic lifestyle around the world and inevitably end up in the position I find myself in today-writing the answers to this interview, high up in the tranquil canopy of a friends treehouse home overlooking the tibetan prayer flags under the Bodhi Tree; champa and the summer pollen drifts along the breeze, the cicadas and yellow breasted wrens drowning out the new John Butler Trio album. Even though I'm a distance from the sandy shores of the Pacific Ocean, it's here where I find an infinite connection to having a peace of mind and a whole heart. I often think of the simplicity of mornings under the ocean, days in the sun, nights under the stars, laughing with friends and learning to appreciate those little things in life as they come and go. The capacity of caring is what gives life its most deepest significance, looking at the beauty in the world is the first stop to purifying the mind. Like anything, this hyper-mobile lifestyle has had challenges however they've been a blessing and if it weren't for those certain trials and tribulations Sirens For The Sea would not exist, so in hindsight I am eternally thankful.
- What is it about the ocean that draws you in? What was the defining moment that transformed you from a lover of the ocean to a protector of the ocean? Did you always desire to be an environmentalist?
The expanse, it's an endless wonder and depth of something so much more, a sense of great divine a sheer inspiration to the imagination and eternal joy to the soul. I grew up in a forest on the coast, spent the majority of my childhood either up a tree with my head buried in a book or I was holding my breath for as long as possible in the big blue. I've always been inquisitive and different, an old soul perhaps, I was always saving pocket money for the latest Steve Parish book or Attenborough doco so I could learn and present the information and the animal, sometimes poisonous or nocturnal (if I could find it in my backyard) to my classmates haha. From an early age I knew that my "grown up" years would consist of science and revolve around nature and the ocean. My parents came from polar-opposite backgrounds and have a tribe of six children, all of which exhibit polar-opposite personalities and interests although the one commonality we share is our love for the ocean; 3 of us at sea and the other 3 are under the sea.
My love for the ocean transformed into the 'protection pursuit' when I came across a horrific article in a 2007 Tracks magazine issue, someone that I had always looked up to, who I can now call a friend had a feature spread on this raw outline of brutality. I clearly remember a distinct feeling of yearn and utter stress, where the heart just drops to a bottomless pit and tears fall- the sort of feeling you wouldn't wish upon anyone. That article about Taiji, Japan-their captive slaughter and the whaling fleet sent my world and existence plummeting into something you thought at the age could never exist, why would anyone be so cruel? The bigger picture of industry, economics and consumerism had been apparent with my perspective I just wasn't aware of how to express it until that moment, I did my research-everything from the species, consumer market, captivity and global entities that supported such a barbaric practice like the Faroe Islands, anyway I remember I was still awake in the early of hour of the morning constructing a slideshow of footage and the next day presented it to my entire school! Aside from like minded surfers and watermen, hardly anyone knew about it. Complete disbelief and grief silenced the playground and our local that day.
-With the endless amounts of environmental issues occurring in the world, how were you able to narrow down your efforts to a select few and create ‘Protect the reef’? Were they the closest issues to your heart or were they in your opinion the most important issues to tackle?I know your team is one of diversity, reaching out to scientists, musicians, activists and surfers that all share the common goal of protecting our oceans. How do each of these different walks of life add something special and unique to the organization? Any cool specific stories to share?
Sirens For The Sea and the Protect The Reef campaign can be thought as a personal journey for me to an extent.
Having worked on an eco-resort in the Whitsundays and in the environmental/analytical sector of mining I had witnessed first hand the devastating affects it had on our immediate environment and especially Australia's traditional land owners; there was a lot of hurt and disregard surrounding so many issues. The ocean is the heartbeat of the planet, without it there is literally no us and we the human race are rapidly diminishing our very own existence as well as every living organism that inhabits the earth. I'll admit I dislike social media very much, although it is a great way to spread the message far and wide and this is where I came across the underlying issues of the development and fracking in the sacred lands of the Kimberley, North-Western Australia. Jess Fissenden is one of the long time torchbearers for the regions corruption issues, we met on the gram when I started whistleblowing about the actual facts and information surrounding Australian mining and the international presence of political gain, what the public was hearing was almost irrelevant due to the fact a scary percentage of Australia's media is owned by mining giants, so this became a hot topic and over the years we've become good friends.
I knew a decent amount of good people doing really positive things around the world, everything from rebuilding reefs in Palau, researching Great White Sharks, artists and the musicians being the great communicators they are spreading all the right messages so out of this immediate group of friends that I hold in the highest regard Sirens For The Sea formed in September 2013, it was followed by our first social media campaign Protect The Reef, it's presented as raw as possible with daily updates of connecting-the-dots since doing so it's been shut down a couple times…oops, rebuilding the audience has taken some time. Our focus embraces conservation as a lifestyle choice; primarily working with local and international communities and organizations, educating and providing the general public on worldwide oceanic issues, first‐hand information and experience implementing awareness, alternatives and sustainability via a range of independent assessments, various analysis, tutorials, fundraisers and industry media releases. Inevitably our love and compassion for the ocean bought us together, all of us get a long really well, there is always fun to be had whether that be hilarious tandem surfing, rock hopping, flat chat science, road trips, skating missions, cleaning up a beach or enjoying a good drop of beer and dance some how wherever we all are we'll be there.
- While reading on your website, I was amazed to find that 60% of the oxygen we breathe comes from our reefs! That is a huge percentage I do not think people realize how vital reefs are for our survival on this precious planet. How do you think we could reach the masses so that a powerful statistic like that could inspire people to care and make change?
The physiology behind coral is incredibly interesting, I'm not an expert in that department, what I do know though is Corals can't cry when they are killed by rising sea temperatures, our sharks can't speak up and beg not to be finned and a dolphin can't put up much of a fight in Tajii to avoid being slaughtered or sold off to dolphinariums. We are supposed to be a voice and we are failing as the 'superior race'. How can we make changes when the majority of the 7 billion people 'don't want to be involved in politics'? Most people think that the ocean is a vast and unlimited resource. Some people think that what happens to the ocean doesn't affect my life. This is not the case, did you know that reefs die without sharks and without reefs we lose ocean life? It doesn't matter if you live 5 metres or 500 kilometres from the ocean, they are in trouble; Some of it is the fault of humans, maybe most of it. It is not too late to fix it but it will be if people don't know about it. Most of us here have heard there are problems with our local reefs, like the Great Barrier Reef for instance. Unfortunately these same problems exist around the world not just here in the backyard of Australia and this all has to do with the balance of nature.
The big fish eat the little fish. We are the big fish. There are other big fish and they need the little fish. The reefs are the breeding and feeding grounds for most of the chain. Then there is the plankton, its the critical link the chain. You probably know that these are microscopic life forms that float around in the ocean. Sometimes there are not enough plankton to go around. Other times there is too much plankton. You probably know that the rainforests are important to life on earth because they produce oxygen and they remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Did you know that over 70% of the air we breathe comes from the ocean and is produced by plankton? Plankton also removes carbon dioxide. The rainforests are important but the health of the oceans is even more important, the coral reefs are the rainforests of the sea. They are some of the most biodiverse and productive ecosystems on earth. They occupy only 2% of the ocean, yet are home to a quarter of all marine species. Already 10% of coral reefs have already been damaged beyond repair, and if we continue with business as usual like overfishing, supporting fossil fuels and climate change, emitting harmful chemicals, industrialising the natural world (the list literally goes on) scientists predict that 90% of coral reefs will be in danger by 2030, and all of them by 2050…the question one must ask is, how important is survival to us and what will our future generations have?
- Right now, what is your current goal with your organization and its projects? You are tackling so much, and we admire your hard work and dedication. If you had endless amounts of resources, what would be your dream campaign (separate from the work you do now)?
If it were possible our dream campaign would consist of a bio-diesel powered educational bus touring around Australia from school to school, community to community.
It would be filled to the top with endless textbooks, fun experiments and information that can assist the future generations in preserving a positive future for themselves and their environment. Todays children are tomorrows protectors however that cannot happen without anything to protect or conserve. The Sirens have so many stories and a worth of knowledge and it would be absolutely incredible if we could provide our visionary not only in Australia but our world too, despite the detrimental affects our world faces today its still a beautiful place. I believe that any single person can make a difference if he or she allows their passion to be expressed through action.
Favorite Beach: Contos Spring
Sunscreen of choice: Surf Yogis
Favorite Ben Howard song: Five years ago I was fortunate enough to stumble into a chai tent at a festival in the U.K and experience his music for the first time to literally a crowd of 6 people. Loved it that much I bought his EP's and have listened intently to the albums ever since... now look at him go! He has a huge fan base, screaming girls like the type Mick Jagger acquired and a very talented band producing the next era of actual music. It's been really nice to have been a part of some of his journey, even though I don't know him personally as such I have a lot of respect for the person he is and the stories he continues to shares...favourite song from Ben at the moment is 'Under The Same Sun' from the Every Kingdom record.
Land- Wolf / Sea- Orca according to the latest median reading (freaky).
Your spirit sea animal: Way too many! The Humpback mother and calf surfing Banzai last year was a heart fluttering 'wild'.
One empowerment tip for women around the world: Be present. Make love. Make tea. Avoid small talk. Embrace conversation. Buy a plant, water it. Make your bed, make somebody else's bed. Have a smart mouth and quick wit. Create. Swim in the ocean. Swim in the rain. Take chances. Ask questions, Make mistakes. Learn. Know your worth. Love fiercely. Forgive quickly. Let go of what doesn't make you happy. Grow...
If you could have a celebrity as a spokesperson for your organization who would it be? Remind me again as to why there are such things as celebrities? Hahaa. D'Caprio has done more than enough for the natural world, I really wish more alike would do the same. Given the chance I would pick the brains of Kim Kardashian and Justin Bieber, to be honest I don't like them or what they're about so I think it would be ideal to sit down with them for at least 5 days, try to come to terms with their superficial reality and global views then I would educate them about the bigger picture of the world they live in and obviously the industries they want to control. Both have a ridiculous following, that following see the 'good' and I believe small acts when multiplied by millions can transform the world so why not use that to the advantage of the planet they inhabit. After all fur bikinis, a plastic butt and a head of hair full of gel and over produced preschool mix tapes aren't that appealing to the wider audience- c'mon guys you're doing it all wrong!