No Child Left Dry
By Kimball Livingston Posted August 15, 2014
Dr. Sylvia Earle’s prescription for engaging the next generation to save the ocean that supports all life:
“No child left dry.”
In her own case, moving to the Gulf Coast of Florida as a child, and later discovering the early films of Jacque Cousteau, opened the floodgates to a passion that just won’t quit. As Earle puts it, the Cousteau footage, “inspired me to want to see fish swimming in something other than lemon sauce and butter.”
The much-admired former head scientist of NOAAshe quit, she says, because she could see the evidence of disasters to come, but was politically muzzled when it came to sounding an alarmtook the stage after the screening for Q&A. If you know Sylvia Earle’s work and writing, you know the basic message. It’s not too late to course-correct. But it is absolutely necessary to course-correct.
Me, I’ve seen dead coral reefs with my own eyes. Still, it was shocking in this movieco-directed by Fisher Stevens and Robert Nixonto see the footage of a 1,000-mile voyage out from Australia to the Coral Sea and to find it dead and all-but fish free.
Introduced as someone who has spent 6,500 hours under the sea, Earle smiled and said, “A little more than that.” As to the problem before us all, Earle noted that we have used fossil fuels to “power our way” to a moment when we are able to see the big picture for the first time. For example, in early September there will be a meeting of the heads of state of forty island nations, “countries that have big, blue backyards who have been selling out for cheap, licensing industrial fishing, in real terms burning through their real capital. The sharks are disappearing, and the real economy of each of these countries is tourism, because people come to see the sharks. A lot of leaders are waking up to this. It’s taken just a few decades to unravel what it took 4.5 billion years to create. Take the ocean away from earth, and you have Mars . . .
“The phytoplankton in the ocean generates oxygen, and a billion years ago, there wasn’t enough phytoplankton to generate enough oxygen to support the likes of us. Now there is, but phytoplankton populations are down 40 percent . . .
“In the last few years agencies have begun to grant licenses to exploit the high seas. That’s a global commons. It belongs to you. It belongs to us. We should explore before we exploit. There has to be a value placed on marine wildlife that is alive. Right now, fish are free until they’re dead . . .
“Taking into account our 200-mile economic zone, 55 percent of the United States is under water . . .
“There are now 500 dead zones in the ocean . . .
“No other state has done what California has done by way of creating marine sanctuaries, and already we see fish populations recovering in those protected reserves . . .
“We have to make peace with the earth.”
So went the evening. It was a pleasure to hear Her Deepness, as her fans call her, on a roll, and always a pleasure to share time with a cause of the Bay Institute. Their catchline: From the Sierra to the Sea. What they’ve done with that aquarium on Pier 39 is something special.