Sylvia Earle's 'Call for Action' to Save the Oceans

A preview of famed National Geographic explorer's Jan. 24 talk at The Maritime Aquarium.

Oceanographer Sylvia Earle, National Geographic’s first Explorer-in-Residence, will be speaking at The Maritime Aquarium on Thurs., Jan. 24.

Her Mission Blue organization is a worldwide alliance that seeks to restore and protect the health of the oceans, which is vital to all life on Earth.  Mission Blue received a $100,000 TED Prize – and a $1 million grant from Planet Heritage Foundation – in 2009 at the biannual TED Conference.  Here’s an excerpt from her acceptance:

Fifty years ago, when I began exploring the ocean, no one – not Jacques Perrin, not Jacques Cousteau, or Rachel Carson – imagined that we could do anything to harm the ocean by what we put into it or what we took out of it.  It seemed at that time to be a sea of Eden. But now we know and we are now facing ‘Paradise Lost.’ 

I want to share with you my personal view of changes in the sea that affect all of us and to consider why it matters that in 50 years we’ve lost  – actually, we’ve taken, we’ve eaten – more than 90 percent of the big fish in the sea. Why you should care that nearly half of the coral reefs have disappeared. Why a mysterious depletion of oxygen in large areas of the Pacific should concern not only the creatures that are dying but it really should concern you. It does concern you as well.

I’m haunted by the thought of what Ray Anderson calls “tomorrow’s child,” asking why we didn’t do something on our watch to save sharks and bluefin tuna and squids and coral reefs and the living ocean while there still was time.  Well now is that time.

I hope for your help to explore and protect the wild ocean in ways that will restore the health – and in so doing, secure hope for humankind.  Health to the ocean means health for us.  …

Ninety-seven percent of Earth’s water is ocean. No blue, no green. If you think the ocean isn’t important, imagine Earth without it. Mars comes to mind. No ocean, no life-support system.  …

Most of the oxygen in the atmosphere is generated by the sea. Over time, most of the planet’s organic carbon has been absorbed and stored there, mostly by microbes. The ocean drives climate and weather, stabilizes temperature, shapes Earth’s chemistry. Water from the sea forms clouds that return to the land and sea as rain, sleet and snow. And provides home for about 97 percent of life in the world; maybe in the universe.

No water, no life. No blue, no green.

Yet we have this idea, we humans, that the Earth – all of it, the oceans, the skies – are so vast, so resilient, that it doesn’t matter what we do to it.  That may have been true 10,000 years ago and maybe 1,000 years ago. But in the last 100, especially in the last 50, we’ve drawn down the assets – the air, the water, the wildlife – that make our lives possible. …

With knowing comes caring. And with caring, there’s hope that we can find an enduring place for ourselves within the natural systems that support us. But first we have to know. …

To cope with climate change, we need new ways to generate power.  We need new ways – better ways – to cope with poverty, wars and disease. We need many things to keep and maintain the world as a better place. But nothing else will matter if we fail to protect the ocean. Our fate and the ocean are one.

Earle’s appearance starts at 7:30 p.m.  It’s appropriate for all ages. Tickets are $35 ($30 for Aquarium members). Reserve them at www.maritimeaquarium.org or by calling (203) 852-0700, ext. 2206.

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