“Let the kids play in mud, let the bumble bees crawl,
Let the trees be green as ever, let the crimson sun birds call,
Flowers have hearts too, let them sing and dance,
In the first gleam of morning sun or the wittering rainfall,
Kill not the beautiful animals, they do no harm,
Awaken your soul, before you lose it all…
Let the fishes swim deep, they aren’t meant for ‘keep’,
Let the playful dolphins jump, into the warm embrace of sky,
Save what you can, until all of it dies…”
Nobel Prize winner Paul Crutzen (2002) has proposed that we have long transitioned from Holocene to a new epoch – The Anthropocene. Planet Earth is changing more rapidly than ever, blame it on – high levels of nitrogen and phosphate in soils, nuclear tests explosions, or plastic pollution…the list is endless. What makes it significant than before is – human interference at the root level, which is way beyond the ‘safe boundaries’ or the ‘environmental limits’. We have lost nearly 58% of our wildlife reaching 67% by end of the decade, the rising temperatures are effecting metabolism, life cycle, and behavior of marine species and acidic oceans are making it harder for gilled marine animals to breathe. Humans aren’t secure either, they too have been victims of what I call – ‘self- inflicted catastrophes’.
According to WWF Living Planet report 2016, “This is the first time a new geological epoch may be marked by what a single species (Homo sapiens) has consciously done to the planet.” We all know that life supports life, so, how do we alter our course of action? Is there any hope left? Can we aim for a more resilient ecosystem? Through the right education and with the help of ecological awareness – Yes, we can! Environmental concerns should be a part of our core convictions and must reflect from our actions in daily routine.
Today, I bring you a unique story of a woman who is the Mermaid of Hilton Head, a breath-trained free diver, a NAUI certified SCUBA diver, former dolphin trainer and an educationist working tirelessly to save marine ecosystem.
Her name is Nina Leipold and she is a part of my ‘Real Life Hero’ series.
Q1. You went to Hilton Head Island for a family vacay in 2014, and, nearly 4 months later you chose to settle down there. What made you fall in love with the place?
I actually chose to settle down in Hilton Head while I was on vacation. At that point, there was no question. There’s a lot to love about this island from the beaches to the people and the wildlife, not to mention I never liked the snow up north.
Q2. How did you come up with such a unique idea of transforming yourself into a beautiful mermaid?
I’ve always loved the ocean and I love being in the water. I wrote my first book, Sammy the Sand Dollar, with hopes to teach people about our sand dollars on the island and while it worked, it wasn’t the response I was looking for. I got people to pay attention, but, I didn’t get them to care. I began to take notice of the “mermaid trend” and got on board. People seem to love mermaids and mermaids intrigue them. I figured, with the tail, people would listen to me and maybe even care about my ocean home. That seemed to do the trick and now, when I talk, people listen and take the information I give them to heart.
Q3. You love to educate people on peaceful co-existence and ocean conservation, what are some of the issues that you have encountered in your journey?
Some of the major issues are – overuse of plastic and littering the beaches. Alongside those issues, people take living sand dollars, starfish, and other shells (with critters in them) off the beaches and kill them in the process. People are still feeding dolphins which is not good for the dolphins at all. People are also leaving lights on at night which confuses our sea turtles and digging large holes on the beaches without filling them in before they leave which can turn into a turtle trap. These are small things that people don’t think about, but, they make a huge difference.
Q4. You have authored three books – The Mermaid of Hilton Head (Volume 1), The Mermaid of Hilton Head: Dolphin Seafari (volume 2) and Sammy the Sand Dollar. Tell us more about the different characters of your books and how deeply they impact our lives…
Sammy the Sand Dollar is a character sand dollar who is very much alive. He is important because he is teaching people, that, while real sand dollars don’t have little white gloves, or a face, or shoes, this doesn’t mean they aren’t living things. He gets people to attach themselves to his story and empathize with real living sand dollars. The Mermaid of Hilton Head (in both books) works to save sea turtles and dolphins from potential hazards caused by humans. As mentioned previously, the mermaid draws people in and then we learn lessons about environmental conservation as well as solutions to these issues.
Q5. As a conservationist, how do you think humans can be restrained from interfering with the eco-system, do you think we need to have stronger governmental policies in all spheres?
I unfortunately don’t think laws matter very much at this point. People do what they want. We have a hefty fine if caught feeding dolphins and people still feed them. My goal is to focus less on the actual restraint of these behaviors and focus on getting the people to care about these issues and understand them, so that, they don’t do these things, because, they found empathy for the animals and wildlife.
Q6. Imagine, if you would be a real-life mermaid, what would be your plea to all humans?
We all need to take a break from our busy lives where we surround ourselves in only what we perceive to be important and we are forgetting about things that are also important. We need to stop and look around, appreciate the things around us and realize that there is a world out there beyond the internet. We are becoming disconnected from life and at the end of the day it will never matter how many Facebook likes we had or how many retweets we got. What matters is how we treat others and “others” doesn’t just mean other humans. We have dominated the Earth and we have to be good hosts to those species with whom we share it. We really need to start paying attention to how our actions (or lack of actions) impact the rest of the world. No matter how important society thinks you are – the birds, sea turtles, dolphins, sand dollars, and all of the other wildlife is just as important and we need to treat them that way.
(None of the above images have been taken by me. They have been shared with me by Nina Leipold)
(These journeys have been personally shared with me by our ‘Heroes’)
Know more about ‘Our Hero’ – Nina Leipold @
The author Nina Leipold: http://ninaleipold.com/
The mermaid of Hilton Head: https://mermaidofhiltonhead.com/