Renowned marine biologist Sylvia Earle spoke at Boston College on April 8 about the problems facing the world’s oceans and marine life. Sponsored by EcoPledge, BC Dining, and and the Winston Center for Leadership and Ethics, her talk served as the keynote address for BC’s “Green Week.”
Earle was named TIME Magazine’s first-ever “Hero for the Planet” in 1998 and a “living legend” by the Library of Congress. She is also National Geographic’s explorer-in-residence and the former chief scientist at National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
She began her lecture by emphasizing that our world has been shaped by the people who have come before us and asked the audience to think about the continuity of history.
Earle then went on to talk about the first picture of Earth, which she said “transformed the way we [looked] at ourselves in the universe.” She explained that the visual of the vast oceans inspired the title of her book The World is Blue.
“We are coming around to the awareness of how important the blue is to everything else that we care about” she said.
She then pivoted to emphasize the importance of conservation efforts. Most people think of the ocean as an unlimited resource, she said.
“Ninety percent of the big fish are already gone” she said. “And a lot of the little ones too are greatly depleted. We have the power to consume on a scale that is unprecedented.”
Marketing has contributed a lot to this problem, she said. People now view marine life as luxury food items in global markets, according to Earle. She said that marketing creates a perception that wildlife in the oceans is okay and at an abundance, but that’s false.
“We need to get a lot smarter and a lot more mindful about what we see on the menu and ask [questions] like a little kid would ask,” Earle said. “‘Who is this, where did it come from, what’s it made of, how old is it, and what did it take to get it from where it was swimming to where it is with lemon slices and butter on my plate?’”
With these questions left unasked, Earle said that environmental policy has lagged behind recent declines in marine populations. She pointed to bluefin tuna as an example—90 percent of the species has been wiped out in North America, she said.
“You can’t think of them just as fish and chips anymore,” Earle said. “They’re all individuals and no two are exactly alike. We are sea creatures too. We are all connected with the same basic chemistry—the chemistry of life.
“The biggest problem facing all of us is probably profound widespread global ignorance and why nature really matters to everyone everywhere all the time. It should be our highest priority, we have to keep the planet safe. We must pay attention to the evidence… and be apart of doing the right thing and get the government collectively to make the right choices.”
Featured Image by Jonathan Ye / Heights Editor