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Posts Tagged ‘Inspiration’

Failure. It happens whenever you take risks. And you’ve got to take risks to innovate. A theme I heard most powerfully presented by JK Rowling at her Harvard commencement speech a few years ago. Worth watching. It’s repeated now in the light of impact investing. Check it out #SOCAP13 plenaries live stream.Then follow up with Rowling: http://ow.ly/ox4Gb

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Where better to cultivate love for another than at a wedding?

And who needs a little love these days more than sharks?

That’s right. Sharks. Those fishy, toothy beauties that for over 450 million years have ruled (and thereby balanced) the ocean deep only to now face the risk of annihilation by those who value their fins not for flavor but for the clout they bring bathed in a bowl of broth.

Bowls of Shark Fin Soup--Photo by Digital DI

What was once the delicacy of the super rich has now become an expected tradition at Chinese wedding banquets, and with increased demand for shark fin soup, has come increased slaughter of sharks. Over 100 million are estimated to be killed EVERY YEAR for their fins. Besides the cruel and agonizing death for sharks (who cannot swim without their fins and sink to the bottom and bleed to death), the practice is also egregious for its incredible waste—there is no nutritional value (nor taste) to the fins and all the meat is left at the bottom of the sea.

This is a story about how one woman has decided to take a chance on love, and turn the traditional Chinese wedding trip down the aisle into a crusade to save these threatened and mighty predators—and the species (including us) that depend upon them.

Shark fins—photo by blamethepeople

An MBA grad student at Simon Frasier University in Canada, Claudia Li was not inherently a shark fan. She grew up, like many others in traditional Chinese households, eating shark fin soup at special occasion dinners. In fact, she only recently learned about the horrors of shark finning when a classmate in her sustainability course introduced her to the movie Sharkwater. She recalls that “When it was over, I couldn’t sleep. I was stunned by my own ignorance about sharks. I hadn’t known about the integral role they play as a top predator in the oceans… I hadn’t known about the cruelty and wastefulness of the shark fin industry… Beyond that, I was unsettled because I realized my culture was driving these majestic and misunderstood animals toward extinction, all for soup. I realized that if we want to save face for our people, we must take responsibility and stop the consumption of shark fin soup while we still can. It’s up to us to take a stand because the shark fin issue relies, almost exclusively, on the actions of the Chinese people.”

Inspired to act, Claudia then brought her business acumen and creativity to the table, founding the organization Shark Truth and designing a campaign to educate and incentivize newly engaged Chinese couples to take a stand against this tradition and pledge to not serve shark fin soup at their wedding. Called Happy Hearts Love Sharks, in the campaign’s first year (last year) over 3000 bowls of soup were not served, saving somewhere between 200-400 sharks. This year, the contest is generating even more attention and will likely divert even more soup from banquet halls.

The idea is simple: a specific audience and the attraction of a competition. And a great mascot named Harry, who rides around with a bandaged fin and single tear drop, asking for a little love.

Harry the mascot of Shark Truth

It’s an inspiration to all of us who want to make a difference, but are not sure how. Find your cause, pick your target, and get creative.  And while you’re working on that, head on over to Shark Truth and vote for your favorite couple who are standing up to do what is right.  They are often overcoming some significant obstacles, including deeply held traditions that say “if there is no shark fin soup at the wedding banquet, the bride is marrying into a poor family.” Shark Truth notes that such folklore “has been so deeply engrained in consumers that it is seen as distasteful, cheap and sometimes disrespectful to not serve one’s guests shark fin soup. Shark fin is also expresses a Chinese tradition to share one’s fortune with your friends and family.”

So hurry up and cast your vote and spread the word. Besides showing your love for sharks, you can show a little love for those courageous lovebirds that are pledging to stop the soup. They could use our love too.

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