Protecting the oceans — Impact-driven category spotlight — Dr. Sylvia Earle

Hold up a mirror and ask yourself what you are capable of doing, and what you really care about. Then take the initiative — don’t wait for someone else to ask you to act. — Sylvia Earle

I’m a little embarrassed. I had “forgotten” about Sylvia Earle. The seaspiracy documentary jogged my memory. My dad and I used to have a bonding activity. My dad loved nature documentaries. When he was looking after me, we used to watch them together. I used to protest wanting to watch cartoons instead. He said you like dolphins, sharks and whales don’t you? The answer was a vehement yes! Don’t you wanna know more about them he said? And that’s how it all started. My love affair with nature documentaries, National Geographic, animal planet, and nature.

Having not traveled much himself, my dad would constantly encourage me to travel and every opportunity and see the world. Enjoy nature he would say.

That’s how I stumbled onto Sylvia Earle. The underwater explorer. She is curious all the time. What an amazing natural state to be in. It was her curiosity that made me keep watching her. She is extraordinary.

Source — https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sylvia_Earle_no_Fronteiras_do_Pensamento_Porto_Alegre_2011_(6207936274).jpg

Back in the 70s becoming a female aquanaut was almost unheard of. It wasn’t encouraged or even tolerated. But she persisted. Fast forward to 2021, the impact that Sylvia has had on ocean protection and education is nothing short of awe-inspiring.

Why am I writing about Sylvia today? It’s timely. We are launching Wicked7 on the 1st of April. The first wicked problem we are tackling is the Death of Nature. It's only fitting that I dedicate the next few posts to impact-driven category leaders that are working to protect our most precious and irreplaceable category creator — Mother Nature.

Sylvia got her Ph.D. from Duke University back in 1966. Interestingly her dissertation called “Phaeophyta of the Eastern Gulf of Mexico,” was a revelation. It was the first time a marine scientist made a first-hand study of aquatic plant life in such a detailed manner.

Here are some fascinating facts about Dr. Sylvia Earle (as detailed by acheivement.org):

  • In 1969 when she applied for the Tektite project she had already spent over 1000 hrs underwater doing research (more than anyone who had applied). Here she is “In Her Words” speaking of the bias against women and that first expedition.

My key takeaway from that short video — “we shape categories”.

  • In 1970, she lead a team of 6 women explorers

How awesome is she? And this is just the tip of the iceberg. She has authored and co-authored a number of books, series of documentaries, spent over 7000 hrs underwater, and headed over 80 expeditions. The book Defying Ocean’s End: An Agenda for Action released in 2004, was a clarion call to humanity.

Here’s the invitation to action Dr Sylvia Earle co-wrote with Gordon Moore, the founder of Intel Corporation:

In recent years, human actions have had an unprecedented impact on the health of the ocean. A crisis is growing that threatens not only coastal communities that depend directly on living marine resources, but also all people everywhere. The Earth’s ocean is a unique feature in our solar system and is essential for maintaining life on this planet.

As never before, we are seeing the consequences of abuse in collapsing fish populations, biodiversity loss and physical and chemical changes that are leading to the decline of entire ecosystems. As never again, we have an opportunity now to respond to this crisis, learn from centuries of experience in resource management on land and move beyond localized and ad hoc initiatives — however good they may be — to coordinated global action.

Our collective challenge is nothing less than the creation of a framework and steps for a practical agenda of global action — including costs and impacts — to safeguard the ocean for generations to come. Source- https://books.google.lk/books?id=6DC2BxekkP4C&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_book_other_versions_r&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q&f=false

In the chapter — Time for a sea change, Dr. Earle details the need to establish a “World Ocean Public Trust” to save the life force of our planet. She details that over 60% of the sea is beyond any nation-state jurisdiction and as such the activities in the high seas are largely “not policied.” Here’s a particularly important quote from the book -

“Business as usual” is no longer acceptable, especially when the destructive nature of bottom trawling and the enormous collateral damage inflicted by trawling and other fishing techniques on non-targeted fish, marine mammals, birds, sea turtles and countless invertebrates are taken into account.

You can see the sense of urgency she is trying to instill in us all. To take action for the fate of our planet. She proposed developing a global agenda to protect the oceans. We forget the oceans belong to all of us. And we need to collectively take action.

The deepwater horizon oil spill affects us all. Not just those who live in the vicinity of the Gulf of Mexico. All of us. Every living being on the planet.

Dr. Sylvia Earle has set up the Mission Blue Alliance to protect hope spots. These spots have been scientifically identified to be of utmost importance to the health of our planet.

I wish you would use all means at your disposal — films, expeditions, the web, new submarines, campaigns — to ignite public support for a global network of marine protected areas, Hope Spots large enough to save and restore the ocean, the blue heart of the planet. — Dr. Sylvia Earle

A full list of hope spots is available here.

What worries me is that climate change seems like such an abstract problem. Removed from reality. As such we are all going about our day. But every day countless marine life is destroyed. These lives are essential to maintain the delicate balance of our planet.

We need to amplify the voices of impact-driven leaders such as Dr. Sylvia Earle. Leaders who have the courage to sound alarm bells long before it was “cool” to talk about climate change. I would encourage everyone to get involved, raise your voice. We need to have a conversation about this. Will leave you with the trailer for the Netflix- Mission Blue documentary.

Dr. Sylvia Earle — Wonder Woman. THANK YOU!

Impact-Driven Category Designer | Working group member Wicked 7