"Why on earth would you swim with sharks?"
"Do you have life insurance?"
"How on earth can you let your daughter do such a thing?"
Sharks are pretty dangerous creatures. From their multiple rows of sharp teeth, agile bodies that slice through the water to their extraordinary sense of smell—especially for blood! The latest Hollywood movie featuring sharks, The Shallows seems to have captured these attributes pretty well. It follows the story of a stranded surfer, trying to survive a great white shark attack, fortunately murdering the fish in the final moments before it attacks her. Phew.
We've all heard the stories. A shark attack story rarely misses our headlines and a quick Google search of "shark films" shows us a great variety of horror flicks and thrillers to help us better experience and understand the terror these creatures bring about.
Maybe it is a good thing, after all, that shark finning is a lucrative business and we hunt 100 million + sharks every year. Surely it's better that we kill them and make some money off it, than they have us for lunch?
So looking into this further, who are the culprits? Well, of the 400+ species of sharks, three breeds (the bull, tiger and great white) are known to attack humans on rare occasion. So yeah there's a solid 1% of sharks that we better keep our eyes peeled for!
And how often do these creatures enjoy us humans for a meal? Well last year we had six fatalities from shark attacks. Worrying, I know. Statistically, we have a 1 in 3,748,067 chance of dying in a shark attack. To put that into perspective, we've got a one in five chance of dying of heart disease, a one in 84 chance of a car accident, one in 1134 chance of drowning at a beach and a one in 340,733 chance of fireworks getting us. So yeah along with not getting any water where sharks might be around it's probably a good idea we don't drive our cars, or visit the beach, watch fireworks, or even be around people...
Friends, we're all victims to sensationalism in the media. Sensationalism is when the media focuses on getting an emotional response from us, rather than reporting facts and details—just to drive up page views and revenue. Insignificant details are often exaggerated and facts are skewed. With the media misrepresenting the truth, we, the audience, struggle to form an objective opinion.
The facts simply don't line up to what we've been told and conditioned to believe about these majestic creatures. Until researching more into sharks recently, I never realized just how important the role of a shark is as an apex predator to keep our oceans thriving and in balance. How much their presence in the ocean positively contributes to our economy. How rare unprovoked attacks actually are. And just how stunning these fish are. The untold stories.
In early October I'll be joining explorer Mike Horn in Cape Town to dive and swim with sharks, take part in scientific work, and produce some media that we hope will shed light on just how important and significant these creatures are.
Sharks are just one instance, but what are the other cases of sensationalism and conditioning that you and I have been subject to? How can we seek better sources of information? Be aware of our own conditioning? Break free and understand the actual facts, figures and truth behind the issues our society faces today?