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Friday, December 8, 2023

Academics & Research

Progressive Forum hosts oceanographer

Many students have heard the names of the current top contestants on American Idol or Dancing with the Stars vying for a shot at fame, but not the names of the hundreds of sea animals in jeopardy because of the BP oil spill.

They may have also heard of Charlie Sheen and his latest way of gaining attention, but not the name of Sylvia Earle and her recent attempt to inspire people everywhere to be better informed about the ocean and how it directly affects them and how it will affect future generations.

Earle is a world-famous oceanographer, and at her recent visit to the Progressive Forum at the Wortham Center in Houston she shared her knowledge of the mysteries of the sea. Earle presented her findings in an effective and eloquent manner, and and even used her ability to imitate whale callings to capture the audience’s attention.

“Science has, for the last ten years, been looking at life in the sea, discovering that most of what is there is yet to be discovered,” she said. “We know enough to know that it is teeming. But the fact that we really don’t understand this part of the universe — our life support system — is a shocking discovery.”

Her life’s work, especially as a female, is impressive. She was formerly the chief scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association and is now an explorer-in-residence for National Geographic. She was also the first “Hero for the Planet” in Time Magazine. Throughout her career, she recorded over 6,000 hours under the sea, and still holds the record for the deepest untethered solo dive. She has lived underwater nine times.

Her understanding of underwater exploration is extensive and garnered her a nickname for being the “Carl Saigan” of the ocean. Not only does she know about it, she actively cares about the welfare of the animals and plants living in the sea. Earle believes that the ocean as a system directly affects humans as a whole.

“This planet rocks,” Earle said. “We have to have water. There may be water without life, but there is not life without water.”

The average person does not know the beauty that lies beneath the immediate surface of the water, but Earle emphasized the large amounts of life that live miles underneath the ocean.

In the question and answer session after her lecture, Earle talked about the BP oil spill and its long-term effect on the Gulf of Mexico, what she considers her “backyard.”

Even though she agrees that the consequences of the spill will always be present, she also believes there will be reconstruction.

Earle communicated that people can become involved with ocean life—on their dinner plate. The amount and kind of seafood we eat can show our opinion about the ocean.

“Everyone can vote with forks or chopsticks,” Earle said.

In the end, she urged the audience to become, if nothing else, careful and more knowledgeable about how the ocean sustains life. Think of what is important about it and try to become more involved.

Earle also introduced her movement, called Mission Blue, which works to support nature conservancies. It works to set up parts of the ocean to be treated like national parks.


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