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Vaginas, Oysters & Climate Change

Posted by Roberta Riley at Oct 04, 2016 06:30 PM |

What's so sexy about climate change? A moonlight climate adventure reveals the connection. (Warning: For mature audiences only. Really!)

Vaginas, Oysters & Climate Change

Caution! Sexy content ahead.

Honestly, I’m not a pornographer, neither is Julie. When we venture off to the hinterlands to film folks, we normally earn family-friendly G ratings. It's how we roll. We’re two harmless moms. We get our thrills meeting perfect strangers, in little known places, who are creating ways to fight climate change. Our latest adventure, however, thrusts our work into new, risqué territory. Brace yourselves for sexual content.

It all begins a few miles outside of Olympia, on the outskirts of a dense forest where we’ve agreed to meet two college students. The young man and woman who approach us look innocent enough. Alex sports a cap and a boyish grin. Doe-eyed Emily passes out buttons. The moment I squint down at my new button, my face turns bright red. I swear she just handed me a detailed picture of a woman’s vagina.

“Our club is the only one of its kind," beams Alex as he hands me another, bigger button. This time there's no mistaking the image at its center- a large, flesh-colored phallus, uncircumcised.

I sputter, and quickly try to conceal my shock. Julie shoots me a look. She’s thinking what I’m thinking: have we stumbled across one of those kinky sex clubs?

“Some people say the geoduck looks a bit phallic,” Emily interjects, gazing at her button with an angelic smile, “and we say, yes, isn’t that great?”

Indeed, the geoduck (pronounced GOO-ee-duck, no kidding) brings to mind a big fat, well-lubricated erection. It truly does enjoy both size and staying power.  As the world’s largest saltwater clam, with a 140-year lifespan, it deserves respect. No wonder the Evergreen State College chose this formidable creature for its mascot.

“OK, that explains the big button,” Julie surmises. “But what about this little one? “Why the vagina?”

“It's actually an oyster that’s been shucked,” Emily laughs. “"But if you like vaginas, you’re going to love oysters."

Evergreen is the only university in the nation with its own shellfish club. Emily Dunne-Wilder led the club last year. Alex Boisner takes the reins this year. Needless to say, Julie and I are transfixed as Alex launches into their club’s ritual.

Well after midnight, in the dead of winter, students slip out of their dorms and trek across a mile of thick, mossy forest. They emerge onto the gritty shores of Eld Inlet. There, in the moonlight, they fall to the titillating task of wallowing in ankle-deep mud, groping about in frigid cold water. The place is alive with oyster beds.

As the shucking and feasting begin, club leaders explain how the ocean itself acts like a sponge that absorbs the normal levels of carbon produced in our atmosphere. They also describe how burning fossil fuels puts rampant amounts of carbon in the air, which in turn makes seawater more acidic.

Students learn firsthand, by seeing, touching and tasting, how a more acidic ocean is bad news for both people and shellfish. Shellfish die, and the $270 million industry they create here in Washington, the leading shellfish producer in the nation, suffers. These critters, and the 3,200 jobs they create in the Evergreen State, are threatened by climate change.

Yet our clever hosts offer solutions. “Whether or not they eat another oyster, their lives have been changed,” Emily declares. Most newcomers haven’t thought about shellfish or ocean acidification until they take one of these moonlight journeys. But an appetizer of racy puns, and a main course of delicious fresh oysters, brings climate change to life. By engaging all of their senses, students develop a new regard for these creatures and their plight.

Some go on to build careers in the shellfish industry, which is a vital player in the battle against climate change. Others are inspired to create new forms of climate activism. Emily, for instance, designed #GeoduckGrad, a fun photo op that makes happy memories and spreads climate wisdom on Graduation Day.

This year, Alex hopes to give lawmakers an experiential learning tour of Evergreens' shellfish garden. "We believe that if you eat it, you will save it," Emily chimes in. And heck, if sprinkling in a few anatomy jokes also helps to focus our elected leaders on tackling climate change, it's all for the good.

Finally, Emily whips out her shucking knife and deftly pries open a big Pacific oyster, which, coincidentally, is known as Nature’s Viagra.  Alex slurps it down with gusto.

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