And here she explains why:
Except for those living in coastal communities — or even inland if we’re talking freshwater species — for most people, eating fish is a choice, not a necessity. Some people believe that the sole purpose of fish is for us to eat them. They are seen as commodities. Yet wild fish, like wild birds, have a place in the natural ecosystem which outweighs their value as food. They’re part of the systems that make the planet function in our favor, and we should be protecting them because of their importance to the ocean. They are carbon-based units, conduits for nutrients, and critical elements in ocean food webs. If people really understood the methods being used to capture wild fish, they might think about choosing whether to eat them at all, because the methods are so destructive and wasteful. It isn’t just a matter of caring about the fish or the corals, but also about all the things that are destroyed in the process of capturing ocean wildlife. We have seen such a sharp decline in the fish that we consume in my lifetime that I personally choose not to eat any. In the end, it’s a choice.
There are few people on the planet who have thought more about that choice, so Earle is worth listening to (though she isn’t quite willing to tell people not to eat meat as well; attention Cowspiracy).
And, since we are on documentaries today, you can hear a lot more about her and her work in the Netflix doc Mission Blue.
Speaking of the future of the planet’s watery realms, here’s an excellent podcast of Sylvia Earle talking about humanity and its impact:
If you’re inspired by Earle’s ability to pull this off at age 78, just wait: The real inspiration lies in her stunning plea for ocean conservation. In this episode of Inquiring Minds (click below to stream audio), Earle doesn’t shy away from giving us the really, really big picture. She explains that we’re the first generation of humans to even know what we’re doing to 96 percent of the Earth’s water—through assaults ranging from over-fishing to noise pollution to global warming’s evil twin, ocean acidification.
Older generations just didn’t get it; they simply had no idea they could have this effect. “We have been under the illusion for most of our history, thinking that the ocean is too big to fail,” Earle says. Now, thanks in large part to the work of ocean adventurer-scientists like Earle, we know better. And we’re right at that crucial moment where knowing something might actually help us make a difference.
Actually, I think knowing something about 50 years ago might have really helped us make a difference. We often don’t want to know until we are on the edge of disaster, and that is naturally very late in the game. Still…
If you want to see what is happening in the oceans, Nat Geo Photographer Brian Skerry does a great job of showing you in this TED Talk. The talk is part of the Mission Blue Voyage in response to Sylvia Earle’s plea last year, when she received a TED Award:
“I wish you would use all means at your disposal – films! expeditions! the web! more! – 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.”
It’s hard to watch, but the oceans are in crisis and the truth is painful.
If you want to know how we got to this place, coral reef ecologist Jeremy Jackson explains.