EcoMermaid EcoInterview with Peggy Oki
Photo by Russel Silva
We're very honored to present this EcoInterview with Peggy, Oki, acclaimed
artist, athlete, and activist.
Peggy Oki is a lifelong advocate of all animals and especially, of whales. Well-known as a champion skateboarder and as an artist, Peggy is a lifelong advocate for animals and for the environment.
Peggy's artwork is not o nly gorgeous and enigmatic, it also captures the
love and caring she extends to all the wild animals and wild places she very
actively donates her time and energy and resources to protect.
Peggy writes :
I'm very encouraged to know that more of the public are becoming informed
that whales are under increasing threat from commercial whaling. Every year,
the Japan and Norway have increased their whale kill quotas. And each year,
at the IWC (International Whaling Commission) meetings, the whaling nations
continue to push for the "Revised Management Scheme", which would
allow the resumption of commercial whaling. Hopefully this information continues
to be disbursed, as people will realize the need for action.
Having traveled the globe, Peggy has not o nly surfed the seas of the planet,
but she's had intimate views of a vast array of wildlife and of wild places.
This close association with the beauty of our world has given her artwork
a special dimension.
Peggy, of course, was the o nly female team member of the most celebrated
skateboarders of all, Z-Boys of Dogtown in Venice, California and in the last
few years, not o nly has there been a much-awarded documentary of this part
of her life, but also a feature film was made of those days.
A world-traveler, Peggy lives o n the California coast and has been instrumental
in championing many eco causes, and she's not o nly an awesome skateboarder
but she's like a real mermaid, surfing gracefully through the waves of the
world's oceans as she travels and protecting them at the same time.
This EcoHeroine has been active in many environmental causes and her participation
and energy has affected many victories for the planet.
Photo credit: James O'Mahoney
She also participates in her community and the world community by having
initiated wonderful projects like the whale-drawing and painting by children
who want to express their love of these gentle giants. She also teaches at
the Adult (or "Continuing") Education" program which is an
extension of Santa Barbara City College, holds degrees in environmental biology
and the fine arts , and continues to advance sacred causes as a part of her
We'd like for everyone to follow the link to Peggy��s site at
the end of the article and to signup for her great environmental email lists
too, after you enjoy the following EcoInterview with Peggy :
Hi, Peggy, we're honored to have a chance to ask you some questions about
your interesting and busy life. There are so many facets to your expertise
and experience that we'll be touching o n several subjects.
Let's start with :
First of all, as a tireless champion of helping whales survive, we�d
like to find out about the new developments in the world-wide effort to protect
whales - would you please tell us all about the latest news?
I have been corresponding with my fellow activist friend in Japan, regarding
the news release as reported by Greenpeace o n 3 April '06:
More than 25,000 of you wrote to Gorton's, ...in less than four short months,
you've managed to get the largest corporate shareholder in commercial whaling
to agree to get out of the whaling business altogether.
And that's not all...the rest of the corporate shareholders in the Japanese
whaling fleet have also decided to divest their shares of the business rather
than face your wrath.
This doesn't mean an end to so-called "scientific" whaling, but
it does mean that public pressure is gaining momentum and forcing corporations
to jump ship. I can't tell you what a tremendous milestone this is, and words
can't express how grateful I am for everything you've done to make this happen.
Its been the most time-consuming part of responding to your questions, to
find out how definitive this news release was.
Here is what Sea Shepherd wrote:
"Nissui Surrenders to Anti-Whalers
The boycott of Sealord products in New Zealand and Gorton Seafood products
in the United States has paid off.
Nissui, the Japanese company that owns both Sealord and Gorton, also owns
50% of Kyodo Senpaku which owns and operates the Japanese whaling fleet.
According to a report by Andrew Darby in the Melbourne Age, Kyodo Senpaku
has announced that it will get rid of the ships, "in view of the scientific
and public-interest nature of the activities now carried out by our company".
These are the six ships that Sea Shepherd chased and harassed in December
of 2005 and January of 2006.
Conservation groups led by Earth Island Institute stepped up a consumer campaign
against fishing companies owned by Nissui, which has been whaling for 72 years.
New Zealand-based international fisheries company Sealord, half-owned by Nissui,
came under attack, as did the United States company Gorton's, which is fully
owned by the Japanese company.
40,000 emails went to Sealord's chief executive, Doug McKay, alone.
In Argentina, a local seafood company cancelled contracts with Nissui after
cyber-activists downloaded stickers to put o n its products o n supermarket
shelves, and 21,000 emails went to the company headquarters.
Again, according to the Melbourne Age, the shares will be transferred to a
series of public interest corporations. They include the Institute of Cetacean
Research, but the rest are as yet unidentified. "Present shareholders
will eventually be completely divested of their ownership," the statement
Nissui made the decision not because of concern for the whales but because
hundreds of thousands of people made Nissui aware of their concerns and their
refusal to support companies that support whaling."
I've been reluctant to say that this is such good news. Its really a complex
thing. Because in reality, its more like the fisheries companies are turning
over the killing to the Japanese government, and this dissolution of shares
in Nissui Corporation really has not resulted in any changes as far as Japan's
"scientific whaling" goes. Basically, Nissui is appearing to be
getting out of the business of whaling. However, the Institute of Cetacean
Research, to whom some of Nissui's shares will be transferred, is funded by
the Fishery Agency of the Japanese government.
The positive side of this recent event is that as a result of a major campaign
effort by a number of environmental organizations, the voice calling for an
end to whaling is becoming louder. The effort must be continued to pressure
Japan, Norway, and Iceland to halt their killing of whales. And I hope that
through the "success" of this campaign, many more people have become
aware of the issue, and will become committed to taking action o n behalf of
Thanks for your untiring activism, Peggy.
We'd like to find out more about your own life too.
Did you enjoy nature as a child ?
Yes, I've always had a fondness for animals, and as a child, I used to go
play in open fields that sadly have long since been "developed"
into tract homes, industrial complexes and freeways.
Where did you grow up ?
In between West Los Angeles and Marina del Rey, (Sections of Los Angeles, California.)
What is your most compelling memory concerning encounters with the natural
world ? Do you want to tell us about some personal experiences involving whales
or other species you seek to protect ?
While surfing o n Christmas Day 1999, two Gray whales swam very close to me.
One spyhopped about 40 feet away, and another surfaced about 50 feet away.
It solidified my commitment to protect whales from human harm.
� as well as having frequent encounters with dolphins swimming nearby
me when I'm surfing. I've seen and heard them underwater, less than 3 feet
away as they pass by. And a couple of times they've swum directly beneath
me while I sat o n my surfboard.
When in Alaska a few years ago, a group of Humpback whales visited right alongside
the boat, taking a good look at us.
Photo by Sarah Saunders
You were a pro athlete and also actively engage in several sports that we
know of. We know you're an ace surfer. How often do you surf ?
Its really become dependent o n where I am. If I'm where the water temperature
is above 65 degrees, I'll surf just about everyday, even when the waves are
very small. When the water is cold (below 55 degrees), I have been preferring
to go skateboarding or riding my bike instead. Of course, climbing has been
really wonderful to do too, when I have the time.
We also have heard about motocross as o ne of the sports you excel in.
Would you like to tell us something about that ?
I had raced motocross twice, 32 years ago. I really enjoyed it when involved
in the sport. However, there was also an inner conflict for me about this
activity. I've always felt concerned for the environment. Yet somehow I'd
taken up a sport that revolved around burning fossil fuels, making a lot of
noise, and tearing up dirt tracks. So this did weigh o n my conscience. Soon
after I began surfing, I really felt that "this is it!". So I sold
my motorcycle and never looked back.
Certainly everyone has their own decisions and choices about what they do
for recreation. I claim to be a "born again environmentalist", and
try to be as conscious as possible about the kind of activities I take o n,
as being driven by natural sources, such as waves or gravity.
That�s great! We definitely agree with ethical decisions directing lifestyle !
Do you think now that there are many more female surfers that the sport has
changed for the better ?
There is definitely a higher percentage of women surfing now. I don't think
that this has had an impact o n the sport of surfing. As far as competitive
surfing for women, it seems that there has been improvements for the women
on the professional circuit.
Obviously the surf breaks are crowded these days. Do you long for the days
past when the oceans were cleaner and less busy ?
Your travels take you to exotic locales and you've been witness, no doubt,
to the sorrows of what the planet is now having to endure. Would you please
describe how you been been affected by watching as nature suffers with the
strain of trying to survive given the toxic environment ?
Photo by L. Paul Mannin
I've seen that the impact of increasing human populations has been adverse
especially to countries that have little or no infrastructure to deal with
excess human waste (sewage and non-biodegradable matter such as plastics and
styrofoam). The tourism industry in a number of developing nations has gone
off exponentially. However, the development of the industry has been done
with no real planning for dealing with these matters. I hope that there will
be increased awareness and action to protect all environments from such abuse.
Do you think that there are enough people in the world today who donate time
and effort to save our planet in order to make a difference ?
Do you think there's still time to save our planet ?
It is hard to know if there are enough persons taking an active role to save
our planet. It seems that even if everybody did something so relatively easy
as recycling, and being conscious of the level of consumerism in this nation,
that maybe we'd see a difference. So realistically, maybe there aren't enough
persons willing to help make a difference by just doing that. As far as people
willing to go beyond simply recycling, I praise them, and am grateful for
their efforts. I hope that somehow we can make a difference, because it will
require more effort to save this planet.
I don't know if there is still time to save our planet. But I believe that
we need to keep doing our best, and to not give up.
What inspires you the most in life ? How do you translate that passion into
Nature's beautiful creatures inspire me. People who rise above adverse conditions
through inner strength and love, for example, the Dalai Lama. People who are
dedicated to protecting natural habitats and animals are an inspiration to
me. I do my best to do the same.
What do you suggest for all of our members and visitors as far as first steps
to take in order to become more involved in saving the planet ?
What would you like to see everyone do right now to save the world ?
At minimum, to participate in reusing and recycling resources. To be mindful
of what resources are being used, including the driving of automobiles. Consider
alternative transportation. Riding a bicycle to get around and run errands
is great. I find it liberating from the stress of driving a car, and from
finding parking spots. Remember, bikes get front row parking!
Consider the topic of human overpopulation,please.
And look into your heart and choose from there an issue to be addressed, using
your strengths and skills. I believe that if everyone did all of the above,
and chose to participate actively in some environmental or social cause, that
the world would be a better place.
Would you like to share with us some of your most successful efforts
to change things for the better and how you accomplished them or helped
to accomplish them ?
Its a long list of efforts. There's been few successes, really. But that is
only because the battle to protect the environment keeps going.
I've attended numerous meetings at city halls and county board of supervisors
meetings to voice concerns about a number of different land development projects,
marine reserve management, and offshore oil drilling proposals. And I've forwarded
action e-mails to people who have signed up for my activist lists.
The most significant success is that the local grassroots non-profit organization,
Citizens for the Bluffs (in Carpinteria) was able to raise the funds to purchase
the Carpinteria Bluffs, so that it would not be developed into housing and
hotel accomodations. Even that was not a 100% victory, as part of the land
was developed for active recreational use. This was against the wishes of
some. But it still turned out that way. So I strongly recommend that when
people wish to purchase land in order to protect it, that it is very clear
and set as to whether there will be any use of the land, and in what way.
We love your artwork, Peggy. It's so beautiful and conveys your love ' of
wildlife and your intimate experience in the natural world. Has your artwork
helped to affect others and to inspire them to join you ' in your eco activism ?
Thank you for your kind words of appreciation. I don't know if my artwork
has affected others, inspired them to join in my eco-activism. It would be
a nice thought. If in any way I can inspire others to work to protect this
Earth and its beings, I would be glad.
Did you enjoy painting as a child ?
What is your favorite medium ?
Do you most often paint from life ?
We think your artwork and the lovely example of your entire life helps to lead
many to share in the joy and love you so obviously feel for nature and for
our environment. If you were single-handedly given the power and were allowed
to change the world, what would you do ?
I would change the way that many people view the environment. It would mean
that every human o n this Earth would love and care for all creatures and habitats
on this planet, with respect, appreciation and compassion.
We would like to mention your skateboarding now. Has the fame of the great
documentary o n your skateboarding,' Dogtown and Z-Boys', changed your life ?
I wouldn't say that it's changed my life. I am still doing the same things:
working in my art and being an environmental activist. Except that now I'm
doing a bit more, because of involvements in the skateboarding world.
What about the film made of the skateboarding team - the most famous o ne in
the world ? of which you were the o nly female member ?' Lords of Dogtown '?
I'm glad to have heard from some people that they enjoyed the movie version
"Lords of Dogtown". However, it is a very fictionalized story.
Do you have any anecdotes you'd like to tell us about during your most busy
times as a pro athlete ?
Not really. I got out of competing in contests, because it wasn't really fun for me. I was into skating because I had fun with it when done freely. And when it came to contests, it was an entirely different experience.
We were all wanting to know more about you and were hoping for more of you
both in the documentary and in the film about your skateboarding career. Will
you be sharing more sometime soon about being the most famous female skateboarder in the world ?
At times, the thought has crossed my mind to write an autobiography. There's
been many chapters and experiences that I think would be of interest.
Do you still skateboard a lot ?
Actually, I basically quit skating after the dissolution of the Zephyr team.
I continued for a few years to ride my skateboard as transportation around
campus while at college. But didn't "really" skate again till about
4.5 years ago. Since then, I've skated quite a lot.
We've heard you're a vegetarian. Are you a vegan? Would you tell us why?
I went from being vegetarian to vegan due to ethical reasons. The more that
I became informed about the mistreatment of animals in factory farming, I
felt disgusted with the industry. And I wished to not contribute to the suffering
of animals. Learning about the extremely wasteful issue of "Bycatch"
with factory fishing, I chose not to support such an environmentally devastating
We're all vegans at EcoMermaid too- also because we love animals. Do you have any favorite foods you'd like to mention for our readers ?
If choosing ethnic foods, I really like Thai and Vietnamese food. Tempe is
yummy. I enjoy dark chocolate (that's a food, right?).
(We happen to know that Peggy buys o nly organic, free-traded, shade-grown items like coffee and chocolate, by the way. Ask for these products when you shop.)
We love the fact that you not o nly teach adults, but that you also find time
to share your talent and expertise with children. Would you like to share
any anecdotes about their love for nature with us ?
I enjoy teaching both ends of the spectrum in age. The kids are great to work
with because they can be very enthusiastic about wanting to help to protect
(Editor's note - We had noticed that Peggy's idea of helping children to become involved with saving whales by showing them how to make origami whales and other artwork has now been copied by other worldwide whale-saving communities. This was an act of genius, we think, and all because Peggy's love and devotion to both whales and people led her to donate her time, experience, and talent to this great cause.)
We're wondering how you manage to fit all of the wonderful things you do into
your schedule. Do you have any tips for those of us who'd love ' to do it
all and also help to save the planet ?
Photo by Connie Aramaki
When I plan my schedule for each day, I base it around doing yoga practice,
exercise (skating, surfing, bicycling, or climbing) dependent upon weather
conditions and how much time I have to spare, and I work the rest of the time,
for the most part. Because the work of an activist may often be done o n the
computer and through internet, I often manage that during my dinner time,
when I can sit behind the computer while eating. I think that every person
who feels the drive to do environmental work can find how to adjust their
schedule in a way that suits their lifestyle. When you are passionate about
something, you will find a way. Also, I would like to note that as my priorities
go, I do not subscribe to television. I'm really too busy, and prefer to dedicate
my spare time towards activism, or to playing music (viola).
Thanks so much for giving us your time today, Peggy, and we look forward to
your newest paintings !
And o ne more thing, Peggy - we know you're young anyway, but you stay young-looking and beautiful and you are obviously as energetic as a teenager. Do you attribute this to your diet or supplements ? We'd love to know how you do it! Also, how do you take care of your skin with so much sun exposure ?
Thank you for the compliment. I am vegan in diet, for ethical reasons. And
the health benefits probably help, along with a regimen of supplements, such
as women's formula vitamins (NF Formulas "Women's Formula", vegetarian)
vitamin C, green algae capsules, etc
I use a couple of different moisturizers for my face, which may be purchased
from the health food stores. I buy mine at Lazy Acres. I really can't endorse
any products, but will tell you that I use Borlind Eye Wrinkle Creme. For
the rest of my face, I am trying a new creme, to which the name is not available
to me as I write.
Peggy, your beauty and grace are inspiring. Any beauty tips you would share with us would be wonderful - few of us are as athletic and in the elements as much as you are. Do you think the very fact that you're so active helps to give you energy ?
Yes, I think that daily exercise contributes to my energy level. I highly
recommend it as a health regimen. I think that reasonable exercise
(something that you enjoy doing) for about 45 minutes per day is o ne of the best forms of health insurance that o ne can commit to. .
We appreciate having had the opportunity to speak with you today, Peggy, and hope you'll favor us again with an update soon !
And would you like to tell us how best to get added to your email alert list
for environmental actions ? ? Please give us the email or sign-up page url
We'd like to know how to get o n your email list for your action alerts and
also for your art gallery showings and new offerings. You also offer cards
of your beautiful artwork. Would you please let us know how best to find you ?
The best way to find out about the environmental topics that I do some work
in is to access my website.
I have 3 e-mail activists lists that I send out to:
Oceans & Whaling
Peace & Politics
All messages are BCC'ed for recipient privacy. If any persons would like to
be added to any of the above, please let me know which o nes.
The best way to view my artwork is to access my o nline art gallery:
To be added to my "Art Exhibits & Announcements" e-mail list,
please e-mail me through my "Contact" webpage:
Here's a link to the locations of retail stores where my cards may be purchased,
along with further information o n prints and purchases:
Thanks again, Peggy, for sharing your time with us and for the wonderful health and beauty tips. Most of all, thank you for sharing your life and many talents with the planet and all her inhabitants who need you. You are truly an EcoHeroine in every way.
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