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Voices

Choosing the Dream

In the fall of 2010, I was faced with the toughest decision of my life. I had to choose between keeping my photography career in Seattle, my home, my pets, and most importantly, my husband of seven years – or following my lifelong dream of fighting for animal rights. In the end, I chose my dreams.

It started with an email from a friend who was in Taiji, Japan serving as a “Cove Guardian” for the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society at the infamous dolphin-hunting cove. The message was simple: “We could use a good photographer on the ground.”

photo of a womanphoto by Georgia Laughton

At first it was obvious that I couldn’t go. I had a job. I had a husband. Also obvious was the reason why I should take the invitation. Environmental activism had been a passion for me since my third grade teacher asked, What do you want to be when you grow up? and I replied that I wanted to save every dolphin and whale in the ocean.

Nearly three decades later, here was my chance. But my workplace was in the middle of a busy period, and that meant no time off. I went on photographing industrial equipment, but every drill bit and lathe chuck that passed through my studio reminded me that I had passed up the opportunity to make a difference with my photography. I asked my company to make an exception and grant me a week off. They refused. I quit.

I left for Japan on November 1, and after one week at the cove I extended my ticket for another two weeks. At the end of those three weeks, Sea Shepherd asked if I could spend three months as the new Cove Guardian Campaign Leader. I accepted without a second thought – and without even discussing it with my husband.

In that moment, everything became clear: I would sacrifice whatever it took to stay with those dolphins and fight for their lives.

Every day for the next three months I was at the cove with a group of volunteer Cove Guardians from around the world. The experience was at the same time exciting and harrowing. Each time I set foot outside the hotel I was surrounded by reporters, dolphin hunters, police, and Japanese coast guard officials. The vigils at the cove were heartbreaking, especially the sound of dolphins screaming as they were killed.

A week in Taiji felt like a year. People I knew for a few days felt closer to me than people I had known all my life. They understood how hard it was to watch a dolphin suffer.

The trauma was worsened by the fact that the one person who was always supposed to be there for me, my husband, did not understand what I was experiencing. I wanted desperately to share with him how painful it was to witness dolphins die; I wanted to tell him how much I loved him and that I would stay with him forever if certain changes were made. But somehow we couldn’t communicate. What stands out most in my memory from that time is the bitter loneliness I felt.

By my last month in Taiji, I was exhausted from being constantly under attack and was overwhelmed by depression. But I was also terrified of going home. I knew my depression would worsen once I returned to my seemingly meaningless life, away from the people who had become so important to me. I will never forget the drive from the Seattle airport; crying while I stared out the passenger window, I had never felt so incredibly alone.

Not long after I got back, I met with Captain Paul Watson and we agreed that I would join the Sea Shepherd’s flagship, the Steve Irwin, in France as a member of the “Blue Rage” campaign against bluefin tuna poaching.

Less than one month after my return from Taiji, my husband and I filed divorce papers. The distance of the three months in Japan – during which we spoke only twice – did not make us want to work to save our marriage. It was the push we needed to exit each other’s lives

When I arrived aboard the Steve Irwin, I was awestruck by how all the crew members had made some sacrifice and left “normal” lives to dedicate themselves to the well-being of the oceans’ inhabitants. Being surrounded by like-minded individuals who understood my love for the sea was the remedy I needed to deal with my loneliness. Yes, the loss of my marriage was heart-wrenching. Yet even though I lost one family, I gained a new one.

When not protecting marine mammals, Libby Miller blogs at photographicactivism.blogspot.com.

Editor’s Note: Earth Island’s Save Japan Dolphin Campaign is a separate from the Sea Shepherd Society’s Cove Monitor program in Taiji, Japan.

   

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Comments

Nice Article

By john on Tue, October 22, 2013 at 9:40 pm

Judge not John dirkson lest ye be judged. What is your contribution to make this world a better place?!?

By Thomas Miller on Tue, April 17, 2012 at 11:46 am

The world is a better place because you followed your heart. It’s one reason I remain single—I could never compromise just for reasons of security. The relationship would likely have failed anyway if your partner didn’t understand the one thing you are most passionate about. You are brave—keep up the good work!

By anotherAngela on Mon, April 16, 2012 at 2:32 pm

What a hypocritical bitch. She leaves her husband to go traipsing off on some rainbow/fairy dust mission and then wonders why her husband doesn’t understand. Read between the lines you tree huggers, she couldn’t do real life, so she has to run away and pretend she’s saving the world. What a loser…

By John Dirksen on Sun, April 15, 2012 at 1:07 am

One word Libby Miller - Outstanding!

By Andrew GORDON on Fri, March 23, 2012 at 12:39 pm

I am one of those people Libby is talking about, who left their “normal” life behind. Libby is an amazing woman who is doing what she loves, and she really does have a second family with the people that she got to know during Operation Blue Rage.
I am proud to know you Libby!

By Rolf Larsen on Wed, March 07, 2012 at 10:40 am

I can’t wait to finish my degree and leave my normal life behind.

By Adrienne on Sun, March 04, 2012 at 2:40 am

just curious what “noble” method Scott majewski has chosen to make this a better world other than spewing negativity???

By Thomas Miller on Sat, March 03, 2012 at 1:14 pm

I have said this time after time Libby is a great humanitarian.she is a symbol of what true love and the dedication balance on this earth is about. when i read her blogs, there is not a day that goes by in my mind she is the spirit that can truly make difference!.I have written two more songs about the ocean and dolphins and whales. because of her and her colleagues
I know she has change my outlook on life forever!
and for that i have the utmost respect and luv for what she is.

PEACE TO ALL MARINE LIFE!
ANDY MATT

By Andy Matt on Fri, March 02, 2012 at 10:20 pm

Libby, Thank goodness you are following your dreams, We need more people like you. You are such a hard worker and have endured many hardships but remained unwaivering in your commitment to the planet.
@ “anon”- you don’t know what you are talking about and please focus on improving your spelling.

By Angela on Fri, March 02, 2012 at 8:50 pm

True heroes of life respect all life, they don’t just go where they feel they must to silence their lambs. This story is a terrible guide for defending the world. I’m disappointed if EIJ feels this is a noble way.

By Scott Majewski on Fri, March 02, 2012 at 11:39 am

My deepest, heartfelt gratitude goes out to Libby!  It takes tremendous courage to watch the beloved dolphins suffer and die at the hands of such brutes. I,who only read the news at a distance, suffer each morning at the sad news.  I cannot even imagine the pain for those at the Cove. Heartfelt admiration goes out to Libby for accepting the costs to her lifestyle and her marriage in order to follow her committment to save the oceans and the wonderful creatures that live there.  The world needs more Libbys.

By Kim Moore on Fri, March 02, 2012 at 8:13 am

Being an activist and facing the evil powers of those who gain from wildlife massacres takes a terrible toll on the lives of those who dare oppose it. The monster is powerful and dark, and the victims are more than the animals.  Dealing with family problems is one of the high cost of not being “normal”- by staying in the safety zone.

By Milly Osborne on Thu, March 01, 2012 at 10:39 pm

I am not an activist. But I believe there are heros out there fighting for a safer planet so that the rest of us lazy homebodys can enjoy the fruits of their labors. We want clean water and clean air, and clean oceans. We just dont want to get our hands dirty. So my hats off to you few who do the work for us all. And since most the world won’t say it, I will. THANK YOU. I would never have the courage to give up everything to do a job where your never appreciated enough. I’m thankful you did. Susan

By Susan Escujuri on Thu, March 01, 2012 at 10:21 pm

Go Libby, Go Libby, GO!

By Amber Anderson on Thu, March 01, 2012 at 7:37 pm

Sounds like you were destined to that line of work and it was the right choice, but it doesn’t sound like it was that much of a sacrifice or you were sad about leaving your husband?  I guess most people think a union between to people, requires being together without separation for more than a year.  I don’t see my partner in crime for 7 or 8 months on end, but there’s a plan to be together.  That’s not too tough for your partner, probably because he’s happy to see a person even if taken away from him, fulfill their dreams.

By JD Peterson on Thu, March 01, 2012 at 6:32 pm

My respect & admiration go out to Libby & the fight she has chosen. I know this has involved deep sacrifices for her on many levels. I thank her for sharing this & her passion with all of us. Live your Dream Liberty & may God keep you safe.

By Thomas Miller on Thu, March 01, 2012 at 3:28 pm

I disagree with Earth Island Journal that has published this piece. And while I will try to not violate the comments policy, I’ll just say that from personal experience here, only one word comes to mind, “hipocracy”.

By anon on Wed, February 29, 2012 at 11:12 pm

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