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Dr. Sylvia Earle inspires ocean action at Ottawa lecture

Whenever I am asked ‘what’s your favourite sea creature?’ I say ‘humans.’ With every drop of water you drink, every breath you take, you’re connected to the sea. No matter where on Earth you live.
– Dr Sylvia Earle, CPAWS Talks Oceans event, Ottawa, May 25, 2015.

What inspires you? What do you want to change, or make better in the world? Why is the ocean important to people like us who live in Ottawa and may have never had the opportunity to step foot in it?

On May 25, 2015 Dr. Sylvia Earle spoke at the National Art Gallery of Canada for her second Canadian lecture ever, hosted by CPAWS and generously supported by the Embassy of the United States and Keen Canada. Dr. Earle spoke of some harsh realities. She not only told, but showed the audience what the ocean had looked like compared to what it does now, due to the unfortunate consequences of human activity in just a few decades.

She used images during her lecture to help the audience understand how crucial it is to be aware of the issues we are all facing by damaging earth’s health. I for one was jolted by her image of the world with no water. Dr. Earle explained that scientists have measured all the water on the planet, and what that amount would look like as a sphere compared to the earth. All the salt water, fresh water, and even the water that makes up humans, does not even come close to the size of our planet!

According to Dr. Earle, we may think how blue our planet is, and how powerful the oceans is, and assume there is no way we could harm such a force, but that isn’t the case. The ocean is an ecosystem all on its own. It works in symmetry with all living organisms to create the oxygen we breathe and food we eat.

Throwing her arms up often during the lecture to reflect her passion for the ocean, Dr. Earle informed the audience about something uniquely Canadian. Thought to be extinct, scientists in the 1970s discovered a large collection of glass sponge reefs along the coast of British Columbia. These 9,000 year old reefs provide a home for sea creatures, but they are incredibly fragile, putting them in danger. Dr. Earle encouraged Canadians need to rally behind the protection of these historic reefs.

Ending her lecture on a reassuring and hopeful note, Dr. Earle explained that the goal of her organization, Mission Blue, is to create “Hope Spots” in the ocean. If anyone, anywhere, knows a location in the ocean they would like to have protected from human destruction, she urged them to do everything possible to get that area protected. Already, Hope Spots are identified around the world, but Dr. Earle won’t stop advocating for the ocean, and the life that lives in it, anytime soon.

During the question period following the lecture, two elementary school students asked how they might follow in Dr. Earle’s footsteps. She told the young girls, and the rest of the audience:

“Find something you really love, something that doesn’t feel like work, and do everything you can to make that you career... Take advantage of internships and get as much experience as you can. It’s never too late.”

Book signing concluded the night, with Dr. Earle signing every copy of her new book, Blue Hope, and posing for a picture with every person who asked. People approached her with excitement and gratitude for her hard work and dedication to protecting the ocean. Many people who spoke with Dr. Earle shared with her their efforts of ocean and water conservation or their own scuba diving experiences. The feeling was infectious. I am sure I was just one among many who left the room  that night with the hope of inspiring someone someday as much as Dr. Earle has inspired me.

“No blue, no green. No ocean, no us.” – Dr. Sylvia Earle


Photos courtesy of Martin Lipman, Ted Hill & Sabine Jessen