Oceanographer Sylvia Earle Draws the Future for the World's Oceans

Reader Contribution by Emily Kennedy
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I recently had the pleasure of interviewing world renowned oceanographer, Sylvia Earle, consultant on the Disney film Oceans. In the course of her impressive career, she has held the titles of author, explorer, lecturer, and executive director of many corporate and nonprofit organizations, as well as her current title of Explorer-in-Residence for National Geographic. She has been the leader of more than 60 expeditions, spending approximately 7,000 hours underwater in connection with her research.  

Although many people don’t realize their passion in life until later in life, Earle knew from a very young age that she wanted to study the oceans.

“At three years old I was knocked over by a wave on a New Jersey shore and the ocean got my attention. Since then life in the sea has consistently been a source of pleasure, just to be able to explore as a scientist of what lives in the ocean,” she said.

Earle has also made efforts in changing the way marine habitats are maintained. She explains three primary actions that she believes should be addressed in order for the world’s oceans to be protected.

  1. Pollution: Watch what we are putting into the oceans.
  2. Extraction: Watch what we take out of the oceans. We have already depleted a majority of the ocean’s wildlife, but it’s not too late to turn that around.
  3. People must be informed. Most people only see the ocean from the surface and assume that it looks fine from that viewpoint. They need to become informed of the ocean’s potential endangerment and the necessary steps to take in order to reverse this process. 

If the poor maintenance of the oceans continues, their future doesn’t look promising.

“If we continue business as usual, the number of fish we take for granted will be gone — which is a worrisome trend– but if we draw a different future, it will benefit the ocean. If we make better choices as to what we extract from the ocean, then this will be beneficial,” says Earle.

The most significant action Earle pointed out is to make people aware of the importance of oceans and bring to light that they are currently in danger. The recent release of Disneynature’s Oceans on Earth Day, April 22, was made to show people the amazing marine habitat and the life that exists within that habitat. Dr. Earle explains the message this film conveys and what she hopes people will get out of it.

“It’s not so much a documentary. It’s more a celebration of what’s there. It’s fully entertaining and more of a poetic celebration where you find yourself inspired. It will take you all over the world. People will be inspired — that’s the goal. To cause people to love what they see and, perhaps, thus be inspired to take care of what’s there, and to show how we’re connected to what’s there,” she said.

According to Earle, the primary problem that blocks efforts to save the world’s oceans is that people are simply unaware, but she reiterates that it’s not too late to turn this around and change the way oceans are maintained for future generations.

For more information on how you can get involved with the maintenance and restoration of the world’s oceans, the Ocean Conservancy is a great organization that addresses important issues that will benefit and protect oceans.

Photo by MAYBAYBUTTER/iStockphoto