Carine Camboulives and her husband Manu Bouvet have been travelling the world for 20 years. Firstly for pure search, looking for empty waves in the most remote places. The arrival of their daughter, Lou, 15 years ago, then brought a sense of legacy to their experiences, raising concerns about ocean pollution, food dependance, waste management, loss of habitats and overfishing that they were witnessing everywhere. They started 'The Green Wave', a film series that uses their favourite watersports to show the beauty of the world as well as the threat it's facing, quickly focusing on the solutions and the individuals implementing them. This issue we join them in Tahiti where they meet two men whose initiatives are having a big influence on reef rejuvenation and cleaner agricultural production – all of which positively impact the ocean environment we enjoy.

(Scroll to the end of this feature for The Green Wave feature length video from this trip)

WORDS: CARINE CAMBOULIVES / PHOTOS: PIERRE BOURAS / @PIERREBOURAS

Titouan Bernicot shows Carine and Manu his crops

Coralling the coral

LIVING ON A BEAUTIFUL, REMOTE ISLAND DOESN'T ALWAYS FEEL LIKE PARADISE

In these days of crisis will we finally realise that we are all interconnected, wherever we live; that our way of living and consuming is showing its limits?

Through the centuries we have seen how remote islands can be the safest and most idyllic places to be during a crisis, but they can also quickly become the most vulnerable. When foreigners land with a bacteria or virus, an isolated population can quickly become decimated. In 1918 the Spanish Flu took 25% of Tahiti's population, while smallpox and measles epidemics had similar impacts on Rapa Nui and many other small islands.

These places are also so isolated that governments decide to set-up army bases there, like Diego Garcia, Kwajalein or use their waters as training target for bomb tests, like Bikini, Kahoolawe and Mururoa.

They are so isolated that agrochemical companies and agricultural biotechnology corporations operate open air tests there. You may have heard of Monsanto (Bayer), Dupont or Syngenta on Maui and Kauai.

Sometimes though, islands are so isolated that people want to protect and establish them as a role model experiment for a better world, like the islands of Principe in Africa, Palmyra in the South Pacific and Palau. The Society Islands archipelago is a good example of an earthly paradise cliché that we usually imagine, but isn't spared from the ailments of our time, like climate change, pollution, poor medical systems and food dependence.

The first victim of these disruptions is the coral reef – one of the richest and most fragile ecosystems on earth.

We have always carried French Polynesia and its culture in our hearts. This story started when our daughters, Lou and Shadé, received two certificates of coral adoption as Christmas gifts from their godfather in Tahiti.

A group of friends from Mo'orea, led by Titouan Bernicot, became so frustrated at seeing the continual spread of extinction of their coral gardens that they dropped everything to try to find solutions to save their reef.

Thanks to a crowdfunding campaign and through social media, Titouan had the brilliant idea to make it possible for anyone to adopt a piece of coral. For a small fee you can become an official godmother or godfather of a beautiful baby coral. You'll receive an adoption certificate with the photo and GPS coordinates of your coral protégé, which will be replanted in your name in the idillic waters of Mo’orea Island.

Titouan grew up on a very remote pearl farm in the Tuamotu archipelago and has always lived in complete harmony with the ocean, as a surfer, free-diver and fisherman. A photo of his childhood home shows that he pretty much lived in a house on water.

“Coral reefs are the ocean's lungs.” he explained. “They absorb CO2 from the atmosphere and transform it into the oxygen we breathe. They protect coastlines from erosion by absorbing the energy of the waves and provide a habitat and food for marine species. Almost half of the reef has been lost in the last 40 years and, according to the latest research, all coral reef might be dead by 2050.”

“When I replanted my first coral, it was like a revelation. I felt that I really needed to do something for our reef. Most people don’t know that you can replant coral, so I started researching, meeting marine biologists and environmental activists. They told me I should get a degree in marine biology, a master’s degree and a PhD, but that it would be at least five to seven years before I could take action. I told them, “You guys are crazy! I need to do something now, tomorrow might be too late.”

“I quit business school in France and apologised to my parents because I wouldn't be returning to it. I called my friends in Tahiti and asked them to film themselves replanting coral. I initiated a crowdfunding campaign and created 'Coral Gardeners'; that’s how it started.”

Not everyone will be as fortunate as Shadé to go dive in Mo'orea and visit her marine protégé. But all of us could, one day, enjoy swimming in clean oceans, knowing we made a difference, that beyond the issues we managed to help be the solution.

To get a global view of an island ecosystem it's always good to climb the lush tropical mountains and remnants of extinct volcanos. Accessing the Belvedere lookout or reaching the top of Mount Rotui we got the most breathtaking views and admired the heart shaped outlines of Mo’orea. It is said that Charles Darwin was inspired for his theory on coral reef formations while looking down on Moorea from atop the mountains of Tahiti Nui. He described it as a 'Picture in a frame', referring to the barrier reef encircling the island. From there you can understand how land and ocean are intrinsically linked.

Lou and Shadé

Table ware

Thierry Lison de Loma in the Vaihuti Valley

Not everyone will be as fortunate as Shadé to go dive in Mo'orea and visit her marine protégé. But all of us could, one day, enjoy swimming in clean oceans, knowing we made a difference, that beyond the issues we managed to help be the solution.

The coral is grown in bamboo sticks which then stand in the table

Waterwoman, Carine

Shadé checks her own coral

IF RISING SEA LEVELS SUGGEST THAT THE SEAS ARE A THREAT TO THE LAND, THE SAME CAN BE SAID IN REVERSE

In order for the ocean to keep breathing properly, we must save it from suffocating under Earth’s trash. To understand a bit more we headed to the island of Raiatea, 200 kilometres west of Tahiti, where an agricultural initiative could change the lives of the islanders while also protecting their land.

The best way to explore Raiatea and her sister island, Tahaa, is by sea on a sail boat. Our friend Manuel Sauvage lives on his boat in Raiatea and offered to transport us on his comfortable Sunsail 48 foot catamaran. Manuel is an expert, having sailed solo from France to Hawaii, and from Hawaii to French Polynesia.

The anchorage in the Society Islands is tricky as the current changes with the tidal flows between the motus. Once you set the sails there's an immense feeling of freedom, crossing the channels from one motu to another. Lou and Shadé sang on the root top while the clouds coloured green, reflecting the pristine lagoons and we all felt the adrenaline of pure exploration, not knowing what to expect.

We arrived at Vaihuti Bay on an early misty morning. This side of Raiatea is very rainy and we admired the impressively high mountains, reaching up 1,017 metres with waterfalls adorning the sides.

In the lush Vaihuti Valley, 25 acres of land have been converted into organic permaculture. Thierry Lison de Loma created the Vaihuti Fresh Farm to nourish both the body and the mind while raising awareness among the youth towards environmentally friendly agriculture. Thierry is a marine biologist, oceanographer and also a talented surfer and kiteboarder. He’s passionate about the ocean and wants to protect it.

The best way to explore is by boat... and kite

Carine, in session

Morning glory

In order for the ocean to keep breathing properly, we must save it from suffocating under Earth’s trash. To understand a bit more we headed to the island of Raiatea, 200 kilometres west of Tahiti, where an agricultural initiative could change the lives of the islanders while also protecting their land.

He worked on scientific research for 15 years, studying fish populations and coral. Documenting this dying ecosystem became quite depressing. “You feel like a bystander and not part of the solution.” he explained.

“Due to soil loss and run-off everything eventually ends up in the sea, so moving from the ocean up to the mountains allowed us to actively participate in the process and creating the farm was my solution.”

Feet planted in the ground, he's still strongly connected to the ocean and contemplating a global approach that goes beyond food and environmental issues.

“The goal of our farm is to produce locally, to become self-sufficient and reduce imported goods. In Tahiti, it’s important to create a dynamic economy that will provide jobs. To create a virtuous cycle: producing locally with hardly any input, without the need to import chemicals, using far less fertiliser and recycling more. I can already nourish 1,000 people and that number will rise quickly, but we need to change the mentality and that will take time. Farmers here use lots of chemicals”.

I remember our first trip to Tahiti, 25 years ago, and the locals warned us never to buy local veggies or eat the cabbage served under the poisson cru.

They say that if you buy a cabbage, chop it up and put it in water, the water will turn blue ten minutes later. We have a friend who is an engineer at the Lycée Agricole of Mo’orea. He sent a salad (bought from a local farmer) to the lab to check on pesticides. The lab answered, 'Are you conducting tests to measure how much toxicity a salad can handle?'

Each day we were so pleased to be able to return onboard with a basket full of delicious lettuces, tomatoes, eggplants and zucchinis; everything to make a gourmet dish, especially after days of eating dry and canned food. Unusually, we didn't fish at all during this boat trip, perhaps because we were observing them so much with the girls underwater, knowing they might disappear sooner than we think.

Lou has been swimming in the Tahitian waters since a young age and is very comfortable with the sharks, but for Shadé this trip was a rich new learning experience, observing dolphins, becoming calmer around sharks, making an optimum compost, picking the right mature eggplants as well as respecting and replanting coral.

GROW YOUR INTEREST: @thegreenwave @carinecamboulives @loubouvet www.vaihutifresh.com www.coralgardeners.org

CARINE WOULD LIKE TO THANK:

www.sunsail.com

www.TahitiTourisme.org

www.airtahitinui.com

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