Setting the Stage for the One Water Story-Updates from Asta Mail

Greetings, fellow water lovers!

Asta Mail, preparing for another adventure!
Asta Mail, ready for anything as she sets the stage for the One Water Story!

I am about to embark on my first Great Lakes Expedition of the summer. For the next few weeks, I have the opportunity to set the stage for what is going to be an incredibly exciting, whirlwind summer for Pangaea Explorations. Kate Gardella, Pangaea’s (fearless administrator) and I will be visiting cities throughout the Great Lakes region, to seek out the most savvy adventurers to join us for the sail of a lifetime through the Great Lakes.

I aim to write and photograph the things I discover as I prepare for the One Water Story.I want to provide you with a little taste of the Lakes’ history,and bring you up to speed as to how they’ve changed. I hope that while developing the back story, I can inspire you to join us in our voyage, be it through sailing aboard the Sea Dragon, taking part in an outreach event, or by following us as we write the One Water Story, one day at a time.

I hope that I can pique your interest, and show you how  incredible place we will be exploring this summer.

To the Adventure!



All right, world. We have a problem.

The problem is this; our actions, be them intentional or accidental, are damaging the world around us. We have developed habits and behaviors that are not only hurting the resources we rely on, but are also leaving us with undesirable waste. Our actions are changing the ecosystems that keep us alive.

Waste in our water.

This statement shouldn’t come as a surprise to most of the Western World. Many of us have accepted that we have behaviors that negatively effect the environment, and yet we don’t change our behaviors. Why?

As I talk to people about the health of the ocean and of the Great Lakes, I am starting to realize that this problem is simply one we haven’t learned how to face yet. I think the reason we have trouble contemplating environmental issues as a society is that all the problems seem too huge, to overwhelming. Hearing that our world is in danger is scary and depressing, and brings with it a kind of personal guilt.  I can sympathize with people who feel that it’s easier to ignore environmental issues, and hope that someone else will fix them. I think a lot of people assume that by some chance, or natural process, the issues we’ve created will just go away.

Not another environmental problem!
Not another environmental problem!

I used to feel the same way. Before I began my graduate studies in marine science, I had a vague feeling that perhaps all the environmental issues I heard about on the news were just too big to deal with. I felt depressed, guilty and out of control when these issues were presented to me, and powerless to stop them from getting worse.

Then, I changed my outlook. As I began to pursue my passion for the ocean, I realized that the only way for me to not be bogged down by the problems we face was to learn how to view them differently.

The Dreaded Clump

What a disaster Asta!
What a disasta, Asta. Detangle that clump!

Have you ever been asked to untangle a mass of cords, or had your jewelry somehow manage to tie itself into a giant clump? This kind of stuff happens to me all time, and it’s one of the few things in life that induces Hulk-like rage in me.  It’s so frustrating! All you need is that one I phone charger, or that perfect necklace to compliment your outfit, but to get to it, you’ve got to get it out, and that means getting the whole dang pile untied.

It’s irritating, but you take a deep breath, and get down to it. First, you find an area that you can loosen little by little. Then, you follow a single part of the clump, and extract it piece by piece from the rest of the mass. I tend to get outside help from my mom or boyfriend when this happens to me, as they calm me down and tell me to stop whining.  Piece by piece, you unwind the mass, until you’ve instead got individual pieces which you can wrap up separately, so that next time you’re not stuck dealing with this problem all over again later on. A little tip: get yourself some of those wire baggie ties from your bread products-they work like a charm to keep your cords and necklaces in line!

What we want to protect. Wikipedia commons photo.
What we want to protect. Wikipedia commons photo.

I think that in order to solve some of our environmental problems in the Lakes, the same methods need to be applied. We’ve got a big clump of issues; run off, invasive species, plastic pollution, acidification, overfishing-the list goes on and on. Right now, all these issues are snaking in and around each other, creating a frustrating, scary mass that has caused us all to panic.  Instead of wanting to deal with this crazy clump, we’ve just put it aside, waiting for some awesome friend or relative to come along and deal with it. Truth is though, that we all need to deal with it. Each of us need to get in there and start untangling if we are to correct our problems and keep our world and ourselves happy and healthy.

So how do we do it?

Good question. I think first, we all need to all have a communal frustrated sigh. This situation sucks! None of us want to spend our lives fixing problems, and I’m sure we would all rather be doing something else. In a new type of environmental science known as Ecopsychology, researchers suggest that we take some time to really feel this frustration, and deal with it. Dr. Joanna Macy, a leader in this subject area, calls this act “Honoring our Pain.”

Just let it out!
Just let it out!

Honoring our Pain means talking about our frustrations with current environmental issues, and examining our guilt, sadness and annoyance that arises as we approach them. It’s important that we accept these emotions, and realize that they are the motivation for creating change. It’s a step in the process of coming to terms with any problem, and it’s what gets us to roll up our sleeves, and get down to business.

Once we’ve realized that there is work to do, we can get down to teasing out each individual problem. You can’t just attack the whole clump, can you? You’ve got to first see where the knots have begun to form, and work them loose so you can separate them, and deal with them individually.

In our environment, this is where science comes in. We rely on scientists to tell us where the issues are, and where they are coming from.  The more we learn about environmental problems, the more we loosen them up. Once we can trace back the source and the roots of our problems, we can then begin to figure out how to pull them out, and fix them.

The most important step in the process, and of course the most difficult one, is the untangling process. It involves grunt work, focus, and more often than not, several mistaken attempts. It’s the part that requires a goal, a vision to work towards. It often involves getting outside help, and lots of it.  It is also the most satisfying part of the whole procedure, and when you’re done, it’s the step that yields the fruits of your labor.

All right, so let’s get to it!


This is exactly what we hope to as a part of Pangaea’s upcoming One World Story Expedition.  When you come on board and sail with us, you’re going to have an opportunity to ‘tackle the clump’ in your very own way.  You will likely have already begun to realize why environmental issues are important to you, and want to figure out how you can contribute to their solutions. We can help!


On board, we will work towards finding ways that you can come to terms with how you feel about the environment. Once we’ve established what your personal concerns are, we can begin to create solutions. By getting involved with our on board research, you will contribute information that will be used to better understand the problems the Great Lakes and the Oceans face. You will also get an idea of how these problems are inherently connected.

As you learn to sail and experience life on the water, you will also have an opportunity to find ways to “untangle” the problems.  We will work together to come up with ways that we can each individually contribute towards working out the kinks, both in our daily behaviors and practices, and on a global and economic scale. By being a part of our One Water Story projects, and hanging out with local communities at the One Water Festivals, you will have an opportunity to reach out to others, and show them how to begin untangling as well.

Every big journey starts with a single step. If you feel like your next step is to start tackling environmental issues head on, then I highly suggest signing up for one of our many amazing summer expeditions.

Let’s get to it, together!