Sylvia Earle wants you to do unto fish as you would like them to do to you, and eat your veggies.
Our social media manager, Rose Nomura, got to spend 10 minutes with her Deepness, Dr. Sylvia Earle, who wrote the forward in Jason Isley’s Small Blue World, at ADEX – Asian Dive Expo, in Singapore. Dr. Earle is the founder of Mission Blue and a living legend, who has paved the way for conservation and women in science and diving.
RN: Thank you so much for taking a moment to chat with me! You are such an inspiration to so many, with such a clear, compassionate voice – its really incredible. I was wondering, do you ever have bad days?
SE: (laughs) I try not to.
RN: (laughs) Fair enough, but on the bad days, how do you stay inspired? How do you get back to that resonating hopefulness?
SE: Well, you could get depressed saying that 90% of the sharks are gone, but then you say, but they’re not all gone. There’s still hope. We still have time. Half the coral reefs are gone. But they’re not all gone. We still have half of them there. It’s not too late.
I despair over the low numbers of things such as the monk seals in Hawaii, they only number about 1000, and there is another species of monk seals in the mediterranean that are just a few hundred, but in the Gulf of Mexico, in the Caribbean, a related species of monk seal is all gone. The last one was seen in 1952.
So, knowing that people should be conscious of what is happening to other species … One percent of the oceanic white trip sharks remain, from abundant populations when I was a child. I may be a witness of the loss of what had been one of the most abundant animals on earth.
The little vaquita in Mexico, the little dolphin, it’s down to 30 individuals. There isn’t much hope but they are still here – are we going to let them disappear? On our watch?
See, why I’m hopeful, is that now we know. We have the power to destroy, to eliminate, to kill … We also have the power to protect, to restore, to maintain, life on earth – or lose it! We have a choice.
“Typically, we see something that is strange, and we think, can I eat it? Or is it going to eat me? The first thing in your mind should be, aren’t you wonderful? You are a miracle.”Dr. Sylvia Earle
In the 1980s, most nations stopped killing whales, great whales, before it was too late. The trend was not promising, they were all in the state of sharp decline. Mostly, when industrial killing of whales started – but we stopped, and now whales are beginning to recover. There are more whales today than there were in 1980; more of the great whales, more blue whales, more gray whales, there are more humpback whales, more sperm whales …not so much of the northern right whales but we still have about 300 of them. So we know it works, we know when we stop killing fish, such as Cabo Pulmo in Mexico they can begin to recover – everywhere where protection has occurred, where safe havens are provided, there is evidence that things can improve. We can never go back to how it was a thousand years ago, or even a hundred years ago, but we can make things better than they otherwise would be if we do nothing, if we keep on doing what we’ve been doing, in terms of extracting from the sea.
One reason why I’m driven right now, you ask me why I keep going, because I see evidence that I can make a difference, everyone can. And it isn’t just in terms of what we’re taking out of the ocean, but also what we are putting into the sea, with the trash … We know we don’t have to use single use plastics, we can make other choices. I have witnessed the ocean becoming clogged with our trash and discarded fishing nets and other fishing gear, as well as single use plastics. The ocean chemistry is changing because of what we are deliberate dump into the ocean. and because of excess carbon dioxide – it’s changing the carbonic acid in the ocean, along with warming the ocean, in ways that are not just bad news for fish, and mangroves, and sea grass, but bad news for us! It’s sea level rise, it’s a consequence of the melting ice….
Again, the positive thing, is knowing, you know you can do something, and if you’re ignorant you don’t know, and you can’t care, if you don’t know.
RN: Absolutely. I love your quote, whatever your talents are, use them, I felt the same way – I am not a scientist like you but I am an artist and graphic designer, and right now I’m doing social media, and I’ve managed to find important organisations and write them saying this is what I can do, can I help you? I can’t do that but I can do this!
SE: Great. Yes. I can not sign opera or play violin, but we need people who can.
RN: Yes, and you’re an incredible scientist and motivator and can do so many things, but for the vast majority of people who want to help, but don’t know what to do. They can’t just leave their job and travel or become a scientist …What are some things, on an everyday level, that your average city person could do to help the ocean?
SE: Make better choices about what you eat. Avoid eating carnivores, most fish eat other animals. If you eat animals, look for those that eat plants. Best of all, eat plants. It’s just the common sense thing to do. Better for you, better for the planet.
Also, be careful of the plants you’re eating. Watch out for those loaded with pesticides. Not good for you, not good for the planet. And also, to the best of your ability, eat locally, you know food that doesn’t come from far away. There is a big fuel cost to get food shipped around the world.
RN: That’s awesome, I actually returned to vegetarian this year. I was a vegetarian for 10 years and returned to vegetarianism this year but with the way things are going in our country (the US), I can not eat a burger in good conscientious.
SE: Yeah, I just can’t eat animals – and fish are animals. We don’t think of fish as being meat! Ask any fish – we’re meat!
RN: (laughs) I know, whenever people ask if I eat fish, I’m like, is fish a vegetable?
SE: Yeah right! Lettuce fish, carrot fish …
“We have the power to destroy, to eliminate, to kill … We also have the power to protect, to restore, to maintain, life on earth – or lose it! We have a choice.”Dr. Sylvia Earle
RN: I just have one more question for you if I may… Is there any way you think humans can benefit from being more like animals?
SE: When I go into the ocean, what is amazing is that the animals are curious, but they are not really aggressive, there are some very rare exceptions. If you harm a moray, it might bite you, but it won’t come out and bite you just to bite you. They don’t.
We should be more like the creatures of the sea. They’re curious. They’re not out to harm you. Like typically, we see something that is strange, and we think, can I eat it? Or is it going to eat me? That’s a human thing. Those should not be your first questions! The first thing in your mind should be, aren’t you wonderful? You are a miracle. Who are you? And what do you do? How do you spend your days and nights? Be curious! Be like a child. A child typically does not think of an animal as something that is going to harm him or her, they typically don’t look at a cow or a horse or a cat or a dog, can I eat you? A child has a sense of curiosity and wonder. Those are the characteristics … Treat others with dignity and respect. Do unto fish as you would have fish do onto you!
RN: I love it, I feel like I could talk to you for ages but our time is up. Thank you so sharing your thoughts with me! I’m honoured to have met you!