Moagabo Ragoasha says the best starting point is “ocean literacy”. She should know.
Not only is she an oceanography scientist at the University of Cape Town, she is also a sangoma and thus her sphere of influence cuts across several different cultures.
She says public engagement is absolutely crucial, and adds: “We must teach people why oceans are important, even if they live inland, far from the sea. We must explain the connections to climate, drought and rain and how that affects them — wherever they are.”
Ragoasha completed her PhD in 2020, the same year she was “called to continue a family cultural and spiritual responsibility as a traditional healer”.
Since then, the links between her professional work as a scientist and that as traditional healer have revealed themselves to her.
At times she has found the bringing together of the two to be “mind-blowing” and yet, there is synergy between fighting against climate change and working with an indigenous spiritual system.
“When we gather the traditional healing herbs, roots and barks, these are collected in ways that don’t destroy the natural systems but preserve them for future generations,” she says.
She firmly believes ocean literacy raises awareness so that the public can be involved in lobbying.
She understands, for example, why scientists “raise the roof when a multinational oil company announces plans to conduct seismic testing along the seabed off the country’s southern coastline”.
She says: “It’s important that they know the implications of the damage seismic testing can do. And it can’t be contained to the area surveyed. The ocean has no barriers.”
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