Celebrating “Jaws”: 40th Anniversary Event to Benefit Shark Savers

Posted on August 2, 2013
Written by: Jocelyn Heaney
Tags: Jaws, Peter Benchley, sharkdreams 

In 1975, my mother bought me a copy of “Jaws” at the A&P for $1.95. The whole car ride home, I studied the shark’s conical head and thin crooked teeth, delighted by the phrase #1 SUPERTHRILLER emblazoned above the title. The opening chapter immersed me in a night sea, and in the consciousness of the shark itself.

I was lost forever.

An almost religious sense of awe took root in me that summer, a gratitude that I shared the planet with such mysterious, fascinating and terrifying animals.

“The great fish” that ruled my childhood imagination never lost its hold over me.

Four decades after Benchley’s fictional shark terrorized the nation, finning, industrial fishing and ocean pollution have pushed great whites and many other shark species to the brink of extinction.

Earlier this year, I read about a woman named Sara Bayles who devoted 365 non-consecutive days to removing trash from her local beach in Santa Monica, California. Bayles ultimately collected over 1,300 pounds of garbage.  

I loved the idea of performing a daily action to keep the plight of sharks and the ocean at the forefront of my consciousness.

In June, I began my “Year of the shark” taking daily actions for sharks and documenting my experience in a blog called sharkdreams.

I work within the constraints of my schedule not only out of necessity, but because most people work and many feel “too busy” for activism or assume “someone else will take care of it.” I wanted to show how ordinary, busy working people can and must and can integrate some form of action for the planet into their daily lives.

Some days I don’t have time to do more than sign online petitions, write letters or give donations to shark charities. Other days I can carve out a few hours to drive to the beach and pick up trash.

I believe we can also use our unique talents or positions in society to make a difference. This year, I’m designing my teaching curriculum to further shark conservation. I’ve designed an entire semester of my English classes to understanding, celebrating and saving, sharks.  I am going to help my students create a fundraising event for sharks. I booked shark expert Ralph Collier as a guest speaker, and organized a field trip to the Marine Mammal Center.

Strangely, focusing on sharks helped me overcome a lifetime fear of the ocean.  I’ve signed up for scuba lessons after learning how “citizen” divers can participate in all kinds of conservation studies. 

I also want to be a little more comfortable in the water when I go to South Africa next year to cage dive with great whites. The trip will be a way to come full circle from the childhood obsession that began with my paperback copy of “Jaws.’

On February 22, 2014, I’m holding a benefit in Los Angeles to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Peter Benchley’s iconic novel. Dramatic recitations from “Jaws,” will be accompanied by live music, video presentations and a shark trivia contest.

All proceeds will be donated to Sharksavers.

More details of this event will be forthcoming here!

Please visit the “Jaws” Charity Reading event on Facebook and look for updates on my blog sharkdreams.net

 

Jocelyn Heaney

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