Known as "Her Deepness" by the New Yorker and the New York Times and a "Living Legend" by the Library of Congress, Sylvia Earle is an oceanographer, explorer, author and lecturer committed to research through personal exploration. She has spent more than 6,000 hours underwater on more than 50 expeditions worldwide. In 1979, Earle walked untethered on the sea floor at a lower depth than any other woman before or since. In the 1980s she started the companies Deep Ocean Engineering and Deep Ocean Technologies to design and build undersea vehicles that allowed scientists to work at previously inaccessible depths. In the early 1990s, Earle served as Chief Scientist of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration. Currently she is the explorer-in-residence at the National Geographic Society. Earle remains a dedicated advocate for the world's oceans and the creatures that live in them. Her latest endeavor, Mission Blue, seeks to ignite public support for a global network of marine protected areas and hope spots large enough to save and restore the ocean.
Over a year ago
Question: What is your greatest hope for the state of the oceans 40 years from now?
Sylvia Earle: I'm an optimist, despite many reasons for being concerned. It’s easy to get depressed looking at what's happening. Japan coming in and really interfering with a process that might have given hope for bluefin tuna at the CITES conference that would have inhibited trade, international trade for these greatly endangered magnificent creatures. That is cause for despair, but it also ignites a kind of increased desire to go out and do something that will change things, to turn it around, so you pull out of the jaws of defeat something that looks like greater reasons for hope. One reason that I have for being an optimist is that we have means of communication now that didn’t exist even ten years ago. I look at the phenomenon called Google Earth and how the Googlers have stepped up and not only used this wonderful format Google Earth to inform people about what is happening on the land, but now to fill out the ocean. There is now an ocean in Google Earth with hope spots embedded in it, so anyone, any little kid, any grown-up, any CEO, any teacher, any fisherman, anybody can hold the world in their hands and see what is happening with the information that is embedded within Google Earth, within Google Ocean. You can go track Mission Blue. You can engage with a scientist. You can send messages to others around the other side of the planet and instantly they’ll find answer or they’ll get... and answer you. This to me is the greatest reason for hope, that we’re developing this fabric of knowledge with people who, once they know may be inspired to care. It’s the only thing that will cause people to care, knowing and with knowing the caring that comes through is cause for hope that we’ll find an enduring place for ourselves within the natural world, the natural systems, mostly blue, that keep us alive.
Recorded April 14th, 2010 Interviewed by Austin Allen