A series on our mission and actions in the face of racism and injustice

Save the Humans
Thirty-six years ago, Dennis and Orma Bowen started Whale Camp with a mission to Save The Humans. Over the years, countless staff and campers have wondered about our camp slogan: “What do you mean ‘Save the Humans’? Aren’t we supposed to ‘Save the Whales’?” Denny always encouraged thinking about it before discussing its meaning.

Denny believed that we had to save ourselves and each other to change the world. He wanted to create an environment where every individual feels safe and has a place in the community, especially for campers who may not feel that they fit in at school or in social groups. A place where our collective responsibility is to affirm, prop up, and celebrate others, where each individual is valuable to our community. Once individuals feel confident, empowered, and supported, the waves of change ripple out to impact our families, friends, communities, systems, and the world.

Our campers often say that Whale Camp is the only place where they can truly be themselves. This speaks to the complexities of life outside of camp and leaves us with a sense of responsibility for the world beyond the boundaries of our campus.

This responsibility leads us to share our thoughts and actions at this critical time. During a global pandemic, nationwide and global protests are in motion because, for far too long, our society has tolerated systems that oppress others based on skin color.

The violent acts of racism that have taken place over the last few weeks and the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd are not isolated and are far from the first. Until we address and fix the laws and systems that allow violence and oppression to impede our humanity, this will continue to happen. We have a lot of work to do, and we need to come together like never before. When we work together, we are stronger. The path to learning, and healing, begins within ourselves and spreads to our family, friends, and community, and eventually to a global scale.

We believe in a community that is inclusive of all people and that Black Lives Matter. For our campers and families learning about this topic, Black Lives Matter does not mean that other lives don’t matter. All lives are valuable and deserve equal rights and opportunity, but this has not been the case for Black communities. These community members are rising up to seek justice after being systematically oppressed for centuries; we support this effort for justice and a path to anti-racism, as is our obligation as citizens. We support the Black Lives Matter movement to prevent violence against Black people in our communities. We wish to amplify all Black voices and raise the volume of those in the scientific community – marine biologists, microbiologists, oceanographers, and ornithologists alike – in addressing the global audience. We will continue to stand against racism and injustice as an organization and are currently developing a new Statement of Inclusion and community contracts to reflect our values to all families and campers.

How can we practice “Save the Humans” right now?
At Whale Camp, we bring learners and adventurers together from across the US, Canada, and elsewhere in the world. We celebrate what we have in common and what makes us different and strive to create an environment that is physically and emotionally safe for all our campers. Sometimes creating a safe space for all means having difficult conversations about racism, gender identity, homophobia, and more. These conversations are important: Every time we speak up and talk about our mistakes and our privilege, instead of remaining silent and allowing those comments to be swept under the rug, we move forward as a community. It brings us closer to understanding another person’s perspective and building each other up rather than creating barriers and division between us.

Our conversations will continue: we will follow up with further statements, action items, ways to get involved, and an exciting new series of posts to keep this conversation going.