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Allow things to unfold and you will find your purpose in life | Peggy Oki | TEDxQueenstown

Exploring the Intelligence and Social Behaviors of Cetaceans: Skateboarder and Zoologist Peggy Oki Shares Her Story

  • Peggy Oki, a member of the famous Zephyr skateboard team and an experienced field zoologist, describes her love for the gracefulness of whales
  • She connects this to her own surfing and skateboarding
  • Orca and Sperm whales are discussed in terms of their social behaviors
  • Play is noted as a sign of intelligence among cetaceans
  • A story is shared of dolphins protecting swimmers from a great white shark off the coast of New Zealand
  • Three million whales were killed in the 20th century but protests led to the International Whaling Commission’s 1986 moratorium on commercial whaling
  • Peggy had an awe-inspiring experience with two gray whales while surfing in California in 1999, prompting her to look into them further.

Artists Passionate Quest to Save Whales Inspires 3,111 Origami Dolphins and Curtains of 32,000 – 36,000

  • The artist created a portrait series of 50 humpback whales in response to the proposed killing of 50 whales
  • She also painted large whale paintings and chose to create a goal of 1,400 origami whales, which was eventually achieved with assistance from animal welfare organizations
  • This enabled her to present the origami whales to the International Whaling Commissioner of the United States
  • Simultaneously, she created a curtain of 1,111 Maui’s dolphins for Maui’s Dolphin Day at Te Papa
  • This eventually led her to create curtains representing the number of whales killed each year – 32,000, 34,000 and 36,000 – for Whale Day on Maui.

Captain Paul Watson Acknowledged for Conservation, Ira Inducted into the Skateboard Hall of Fame, Passion and Action Advised to Reach Goals

  • Paul Watson, a captain and founder of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, was acknowledged for his work protecting whales
  • Ira shares his induction into the Skateboard Hall of Fame and how it made him think of everyone who has participated in his origami whale project
  • Ira then speaks to the power of passion and action by citing examples like the Berlin Wall coming tumbling down, banning circuses from using wild animals, and bringing back an endangered species
  • He concludes by advising one of his students to “Follow your heart with vision and actions” to reach their “Porpoise in Life.”

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Translator: Phuong CaoReviewer: Queenie Lee(Video starts) Peggy Oki: Oh my God!(Laughter)Captain Andy: It's a whale.(Video ends)That was me in the backgroundsaying, "Oh my God!"while I was visiting with somehumpback whale researchers in Alaska.The guy on the deckshouting, "It's a whale!"(Laughter)that's captain Andy, who happensto be a humpback whale researcherwith quite some enthusiasmeven after seeing hundredsof humpback whales.And I've had a large number of encounterswith dolphins and whales myself,and I still feel very excitedwhen I see them.I'm just inspired by the graceful movementof a 100-to-150-tonne whale,seeming to be moving so effortlesslythrough its fluid movement in the ocean.And I'd emulate that style -that's just graceful,I love that graceful movement -in the things that I try to doin my surfing and skateboarding.Over 40 years ago,I was the only female memberof the famous Zephyr skateboard team,featured in Dogtown and Z-boys.We were known to live a little bitoutside the box, be a bit rebellious.While lots of kids were tryingto figure out how to stay out of school,we were getting into themto skate the banks,and getting in to skate the pools,which led to our surfing stylethat was our trademark:vertical skateboarding, that ledto what you see in today's X Games.And of course, I still love surfingthat I've been doing for over 40 years.The action of surfing waves;but also, I get a lot from justthe thousands of hours I've spentsitting on my board waiting for wavesin between that time,of just having the rhythmsof the ocean beneath me,and encounters with sea lifeand seabirds coming around.At the time I was on the skateboard team,I was also studying field zoologyand environmental biology.I had a real interest in animal behavior,especially in the social behaviorof dolphins and whales.They are also known as Cetaceans,and I refer to them as Cetacean Nation.Orcas, the largest memberof the dolphin family,stay together their entire lives.Sperm whales.I'm a sperm whale groupie.(Laughter)They are the world'slargest toothed mammal.They possess the world's largest brain.They can dive to depths of 2,000 metersand hold their breath for up to an hour.But what really touched methe most about themas I was learning about their behavioris that even in fatal conditions,where their lives are in danger,they will never abandontheir injured or sick.As I was studying animal behavior,scientists were coming out and sayingthat play is a sign of intelligence.And here we are with dolphins surfing.Another connection that I feelto these beings as a surfer myselfand seeing dolphins as I'm surfingand they are surfing waves too.Whales also surf.Imagine a school busdropping in on a wave at Pipeline.(Laughter)It's happened.(Laughter)If that's not enough to impress youabout Cetaceans,there are many stories of dolphinsencountering humans.And this is one from Whangareiin New Zealand 12 years ago,a lifeguard, a father of three,had his three daughtersout swimming for practiceoff of ocean beach, 100 meters out,when seven dolphins approached them,slapping their flukes,circling these swimmers,almost as if they were hurting them.They weren't afraid of dolphins,so they just kept swimmingand thought, yeah, this is pretty cool.But a lifeguard from the shoresaw what was going on,he thought it was really odd tooand decided to go check it out.He got on his little boat, went to justoutside of where the dolphins wereand into the water,and what did he see?A three-meter long shark,a great white shark.What a great day to have dolphinsswimming around you!(Laughter)In the 20th century alone,nearly three million whales were killed.Many of them are still endangered.In the early 80s, thanks toprotests and public outcry,the International Whaling Commissionannounced that in 1986,they were going to have a moratoriumon commercial whaling.A victory.We saved the whales.I remember that day.I would remember that timethat "Wow, the whaling was going to end."Despite the millions of whalesthat have been killed,there has never been a known attackof a whale on a human.Imagine a world without war,revenge, or retaliation,one of forgiveness and compassion.I pondered the wisdom of whales,and I thought, what would it be liketo look into the eyes of a whale.So I created this paintingof a gray whale's eye.And then, in less than a year,on Christmas morning in 1999while I was surfing a great spotdown in Southern California,catching really fun waves,I paddled back out and sat on my boardwaiting for my next wave,a gray whale, 15 meters away from me,just 15 meters away,lifted its head up out of the water,like the periscope of a submarine,looking around and it looked at me,our eyes met,and I was just ecstatic;I was blown away;I had no fear at all.This whale was so close to me,but I was just in awe.And then, the whale justwent back underwater,and right next to it,another gray whale surfaced,raising its huge arching backout of the waterand just going back underneath, and they disappeared.I knew how rare that experience was.That's very rare for whale,to come that close to a humanin their own environment.So I felt I needed to look into it.What was going onwith whales at that time?Little did I know that that experiencewas actually going to be changing my life.I found out that despite the moratoriumwhen the whales were supposedto be protected in 1986,that they were still being killed.And numbers of up to over 1,800 whaleswere being killed every year.Between Norway's commercialwhaling activitiesand the scientific whaling of Japan,and Iceland recently joining in as well.In 2007, the Japanese government announcedthat they were going to Antarcticato kill 50 humpback whales.As an artist, I felt I neededto do something about it.So I came up with an idea of paintinga portrait series of 50 humpback whalesbased on photo-identification recordsof actual humpback whalessighted off of Antarctica.The markings on humpbackwhales are as uniqueas the fingerprints on a human.These are sentient individual beingsthat I wanted to somehow help.So, I did this art series,which may have seemed a bit obsessive,I was wondering if people would think,"Oh, she's really crazy."But actually, the showwas quite well-received,and I was really glad that I was ableto do something like that.I also tried to raise awarenessand appreciation of Cetaceansby doing large paintings of them;such as for whales.This is an oil on boardthat is one and a half meters wideof a sperm whale fluke,and it is big, but a sperm whaleis actually twice the size of that.This particular paintingcaught the attentionof the Santa Barbara WhaleFestival organizer,who invited me to come up withchildren's whale art activitiesat the Santa Barbara Whale Festival.So, I thought of origami whales.What about a goal,something meaningful with this effort, OK.1,400 origami whalesto represent the number of whalesthat was going to be killed in that year.It seemed like a huge endeavor,but the whale festival,we got children coming in,people of all ages folding origami whales.We got halfway there and workingwith animal welfare organizationswho posted informationabout my campaign on their websites.People from all over the countryof the United States.People from all over the worldstarted sending me origami whales.And I reached that goal,and then was provided the opportunityto present these whalesto the International Whaling Commissionerof the United States.How am I going to bringthese whales to Washington DCin the most visually impactful way?I'm not going to show up with two bigplastic bags full of origami whales.How about a plexiglass cylinderof all these origami whalesas if they are kind ofin a display tank or something?Oh. No way!These animals swim 50 miles a day.They are just such beautiful beingsthat should never be kept in a tank.So then I thought ofa curtain of origami whalesso that each individual whalewould be recognized.When I shared the idea with my friend,she said, "Let's do it at my house."And six other friends camefor an entire weekend,and we hand-stitchedthese origami whales into a strand;that's the first curtain of origami whalesthat went to Washington DC.There is the IWC commissionerof the United States at that time.Since then, I've created many curtainsof origami whales and dolphinsfor different efforts,through my Origami Whale Project.Which leads meto a little side-note, I guess.When I went to New Zealand in 1980,for my first time,following the endless summer,and I landed into Raglan.Yes. This is my 19th time in Raglan.I learned about the Maui's dolphin,the world's smallest dolphin,which is unique to New Zealand,and it's also critically in danger.In 2006, learning that there wasonly 111 of these dolphins left,I decided to create a curtainof origami Maui's dolphins,through Maui's Dolphin Day.But 111 being such a small number,I wanted to get attention to this issue,so I decided to create a curtainof 1,111 Maui's dolphinsso that 1,111 Maui's dolphinswould draw some attention.People would go, "Whatis that big thing of paper dolphins?"And then right beside it,this little curtain of 111,just to show how relatively few are left.This curtain was exhibited at Te Papa,the National Museum of New Zealand,for three months,and then it went to the Waikato Museumin New Zealand for two months.I felt, wow, this wis really great,working with the children of all agesand having our exhibitin such fine places.It takes a lot of people,hundreds of people,folding origami whales,thousands and lots of volunteers.But I was feeling very frustratedabout the lack of information getting outabout whales being killeddespite the moratoriumwhen they are supposed to be protected.So, in 2006, I came up with the ideato create a curtainto represent the number of whalesthat had been killed.That was 25,000 in that year.But I was an ambitious endeavorthat I felt I needed to take on.As 2007 was approaching,that number grew to 30,000,but I said if I get that many whales,I'm going to make a curtain,and I'm going to bring itto the International Whaling Commissionmeetings in Alaska, which I did.Since then, I've exhibited the curtainthree years in a row at Whale Day on Maui.The curtain was exhibited inside of twomassive festival tents joined together,and the numbers keep growing.It went to 32,000, 34,000, 36,000because each year I update the curtainto represent that numberof these magnificent beings.Each paper whale representinga real whale that was killedthat should have been protected.People of all ages have entered,thousands of people, into the exhibit,they peek in and they seethe sunlight on the whalesand the air flowing through the curtainwith all these colorful whales.They are not quite sure what to expect.As they walk throughthis long maze of whalesand read messages on themand realize the numbersthat they've just walked past ...Some people come out feelinga bit overwhelmed and in tearsand thanking me for what I've done.I feel really gratefulfor that opportunity to work with people,to create art that has meaning,an art that empowersthrough participation,art that has purpose.I've had the honor of meetingsome of the volunteersof the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.Here's one of them.The Sea Shepherd ConservationSociety volunteers,they go out to some dangerous placesin the world, including Antarctica.They get in their ships and, literally,get between a whaler ship and a whale.Putting their lives on the linewith direct action,which is something that very few peoplewould be willing to do.In 2007, I invited Captain Paul Watsonto view my exhibitof the origami whales curtain.And he came out to another event,a few months later,and gave me this medal of honor.I was really thrilled that my workwas being acknowledgedby somebody who does someof the most dangerous workto save whales,while I'm doing somethingon the other end of the spectrum,working with kids and people of all agesto raise awareness for the whales.A few years ago, as I was being inductedinto the Skateboard Hall of Fame,one of my friends referred to me as"Saving the world, one whale at a time."I'd like to think thateverybody who has participatedby folding origami whalesand helping me stitch these curtainshas been a part of that.Lots of people can have passion.You don't have to be passionateabout seeing whales and dolphins.It's turning passion into actionthat can make a difference in the world.I never imagined that the Berlin Wallwould come tumbling down.But some passionate people did.They took action and it happened.I never imaginedthat nations across the worldwould ban circusesfrom using wild animals.Some passionate people did,and it happened.I never imaginedthat with one remaining femaleNew Zealand black robin left,that that species would be brought backfrom the brink of extinction.Some passionate people did,and it happened.What sort of thing do youfeel passionate aboutthat you feel you couldmake a difference in the world for?This summer, in Raglan,while I was teaching the Whalesand Dolphins Ambassador Program,one of my students, 12-year-old Ala,asked me for some advice.I said, "Follow your heartwith vision and actions.Create your own folds and you will connectwith your Porpoise in Life."(Laughter)Thank you.(Applause) (Cheering)