China: A deep-seated passion

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Mary Luna
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China: A deep-seated passion

Postby Mary Luna » Thu Jul 31, 2008 3:24 pm

A deep-seated passion

By: Dania Karina (China Daily)
Updated: 2008-07-28 07:26
Source: CHINA DAILY ... 880616.htm

With a sweep of his powerful arms, Gianluca Lamberti propels himself deep into the blue waters. A dolphin swims close to him and starts to talk. Its speech is a sort of friendly whistles.

The towering reef before them rises up like the wall of a skyscraper. More intricate than the Egyptian pyramids and higher than the Great Wall of China, this is the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, one of the most breathtaking spots on Earth.

A love for the sea drove 33-year-old Lamberti to collaborate with Italian biologist Arianna Puggioti and activist Caroline St. Denis from Canada to establish OneSea Alliance and promote public awareness about the environment.

The non-profit organization educates people and encourages them to participate in the conservation of the environment.

"I've taken part in many of the reef monitoring programs. I just feel lucky that I can share my knowledge," Lamberti says.

Working closely with Reef Check and Coral Watch, Lamberti and his OneSea core team of 10 strive bravely to promote ocean awareness from Nanchong in Sichuan province.

"Teaching about marine life can be a bit challenging when you live in Nanchong and the ocean is almost 1,400 km away," says Lamberti with great understatement.

"About 95 percent of the students have never been to the ocean before. They have never seen a coral reef except in books and old photographs."

His organization received a heart-warming response from the people of Nanchong - even after the province was shaken by the May 12 earthquake, their support for the OneSea campaign remained wholehearted.

Last month, 200 children from Nanchong High School sang the IYOR (International Year of the Reef) theme song. "We are the earth, the earth is us," they sang. "Our planet's future is in our trust. The mountains, the sky, the ocean blue; this beauty is entrusted to me and you."

More than 500 schoolchildren also participated in the "One Dream OneSea" drawing contest, an event covered by the local media.

"All these are a labor of love to promote China's image," Lamberti says. "I love China and OneSea aims to support the growth of China's emerging environmental movement."

The sea has been Lamberti's life - the suntanned adventurer has been trekking around the globe ever since he finished his Master's in Marine Biology.

He says being a diver means you can always find work.

"Many of my scuba diving friends were even insurance agents who decided they preferred diving," he laughs.

Lamberti taught biology and scuba diving in more than 50 countries, including the Republic of Costa Rica, Mozambique, South Africa, Mexico and the Dominican Republic, where he taught Guicciardi Gianluca, the son of the Italian ambassador.

The Italian-Canadian man was involved in a project to protect the spinner dolphins in Egypt, where he formed a special bond with a pod of wild dolphins. In Kenya, he also spent 45 minutes in the company of a 9-m-long whale shark. "I love sharks and dolphins," he says casually.

"Dolphins give you something different. You see them. They see you. In their eyes you see their intelligence."

Two near-death accidents did not deter this impassioned diver from doing what he loves most. Lamberti has dived more than 2,500 times in various waters and very recently became an official diving trainer for Reef Check in Thailand.

This is befitting a man who has dived ever since he was 15 old and has as much passion for it as ever. "Swimming among wild dolphins, crying underwater - there are no words to describe it," he says.

Other than teaching and diving, he busies himself in the gym or rides his bike. He is also especially passionate about traveling. His dream was to travel around Mongolia by bike and it came true last summer, when he had to go through China. He instantly fell in love with the country and decided to return and settle in Nanchong.

"The people and their lifestyle are what touched me the most," he says.

"Here, the people are teaching me to be myself again, unlike in Europe where everybody seemed so stressed out. In Nanchong, I think the people are good and will stay good."

Even though his grasp of Mandarin is poor, he finds that he has no problem finding people to help him communicate.

"People are so willing to help. Take the IYOR campaign for example. Literally everybody helped us - the university students, the local journalists, the head of the school."

Despite his passion for his job, teaching so far from the sea unsettles him. He misses the ocean and plans to move to Southern China.

It begs the question: why Nanchong? Lamberti says it does not matter where people live when it comes to awareness about the environment.

"The global environment with its finite resources is a common concern of all people. How could it be bad to honor it by preserving and protecting it?"

"Day after day, we become more aware that we're not teaching anymore, we're learning. We're not delivering a message anymore, we're receiving a message."

His message has the reassuring tone of a child's voice:

"It's not important where you live, just sing! There is no distance big enough to justify human indifference toward the oceans. And as foreigners, through this message we all feel more intimately attached to China than ever before."

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