Sylvia Earle, Earth Day, And General Awesomeness
On Earth Day, I had a huge treat. I got to hear Sylvia Earle, one of my heroes, speak about the ocean and conservation.
Dr. Earle is a marine biologist who has lived under the ocean, piloted submarines, designed submarines, worked as the Chief Scientist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, spent more than 7,000 hours underwater, and written many articles and books about her ocean research. She's also a National Geographic Explorer in Residence (how cool is that?). She is sometimes called "Her Deepness" because of her extensive knowledge about the ocean, the amount of time she's spent underwater, and the depths to which she has explored.
She's also made history several times: leading an all woman team to live under water as part of the Tektite program (1970), diving deeper than any woman before her in a special diving suit in 1979 (1,250 feet!), and made the history books when she was named Time Magazine's very first Hero for the Planet (1998).
Those are just a few of her accomplishments. Basically, Dr. Earle is a supercool superhero scientist who is working to save our oceans! There are a lot of amazing scientists who are working to help us learn more about the oceans today. However, if I had to take a guess at the scientist who knows more about the ocean than anyone else right now, I'd pick Sylvia Earle. I've read so many things by her that I love, but my favorite book is probably Sea Change, which explains how the ocean is changing and why that matters.
So how cool was it to spend Earth Day listening to her talk about her research, her foundation, MIssion Blue, and the ways she has seen the ocean change during her years of diving and research? There is NOT A WORD IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE that fully describes just how cool it was. So, I'll just say this: you know that exciting energy feeling you get when you're all bubbly inside and you can't sit still? And you have to bounce a lot because you're so excited? It was THAT exciting!
Unfortunately, I didn't get any great pictures. It was dark in the theater and my iPhone didn't do a great job, but here are a few quick shots: my ticket (hung up over my desk, naturally!), Dr. Earle at the podium and on stage.
Dr. Earle's talk was inspiring. She focused on the fact that we are ocean people: we are connected to the ocean. We can't exist without it. But we've taken the ocean for granted. We have used too much from the ocean. We have polluted a lot, and in general, have not been good stewards of the ocean. So, what's the good news?
Well, in short, you are. Dr. Earle talked about our age of information connectivity. Today, we have learned more about everything during the 20th century than in the centuries that preceded it. One of the biggest things we have finally learned is that the world is one big ecosystem and we are just a part; that wasn't obvious through much of human history. Today, however, it's very clear to all of us. Now, we also know that we have the power to care and to heal. While the previous centuries saw whales on the brink of extinction, careful research and preservation has started to result in whale populations rising. That's good news for the ocean and for us.
Dr. Earle also talked about the importance of technology. She talked about how kids today have access to more information than ever before. So, you, with your smart phone, are probably one of the best hopes for the world. You have access to knowledge that will help all of us in reshaping our world and committing to a world where we all survive, together, because the human world and the ocean world depend on one another.
Today, Dr. Earle works tirelessly with her foundation, Mission Blue, to identify "hope spots" in our oceans. These are places where everything is working well: conservation, abundant life, and the interactions between human and ocean worlds.
If you're interested in Dr. Earle, you can see more about her work in the Mission Blue documentary (2014) available on Netflix.
Hooray for Dr. Earle! Hooray for the oceans! Hooray for hope spots! Hooray for future explorers!
So, how can you help with hope spots? With information? With solutions we can't even imagine yet?