Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Dr. Sylvia Earle: discussing the limits of the ocean's bounty

At last month's BLUE Ocean Film Festival, I had the opportunity to videotape an interview with Dr. Sylvia Earle on behalf of planSEA.com, an organization dedicated to teaching ocean conservation to the next generation: the children.

Dr. Earle is one of the leading figures of ocean exploration and conservation and we touched on a great many subjects in our interview. Here is a segment that addressed the need for education and also an important perspective regarding the taking of seafood.

I found her viewpoint in comparing seafood to "bushmeat" very enlightening. I've always said we rely on raising cattle and poultry as a way to feed the masses and Sylvia backs that up with the idea that we long ago realized that simply taking wild terrestrial animals (bushmeat) would not work, that it could not be sustained.

But that is exactly what we do with the ocean's bounty - and it is a very limited bounty, limited in the sense that it was never meant to feed the human population. That is why I have always been a supporter of aquaculture or aquafarming, recognizing that there are significant challenges that need to be addressed regarding the practice but convinced that the ultimate future of seafood harvesting will need to come from these controlled methods.

I have had the pleasure of meeting with Dr. Earle and her staff on several occasions and let me tell you, she is one busy person. As explorer-in-residence with the National Geographic Society, she works 24/7 with major ocean conservation organizations and with the prominent decision-makers to help shape the future of our oceans.

It must be frustrating at times because the bureaucratic wheels can seem to turn so slowly. But I take heart in something I read recently in TIME magazine regarding political decision-making and the control of power. In an article about FDR, David Kennedy wrote,

"As the historian Henry Adams wrote, the greatest fear 'was power; not merely power in the hands of a president or a prince, of one assembly or several, of many citizens or a few, but power in the abstract, wherever it existed and under whatever form it was known.' That's why the framers of the Constitution constructed a political order based on 'checks and balances.' That arrangement has conspicuous virtues, but it also designs a measure of paralysis into the American political system. It impedes swift adjustment to changing economic and social realities. It sustains a chronic deadlock in which trauma and shock become necessary preconditions for effective political action. To a degree not found in other political cultures, it forges a perverse partnership between danger and opportunity."

Okay, in essence, it is saying that our political bureaucracy is structured to prevent the concentration of power and avoid knee-jerk reactions. And that's a good thing. Maddening, but a good thing. Particularly if we wait for environmental "trauma and shock" to elicit a political response, we know that it won't be an isolated event but a harbinger of many more, catastrophic events.

That's why we must persevere with both generating broader public awareness and motivating our leaders to act. Enough "events" have already occurred, there is enough evidence, enough data needed to act; we don't need to wait for the roof to cave in on us.

1 comment:

Jocelyn Redfern said...

Good afternoon RTSea,

I would like to introduce myself. My name is Jocelyn Redfern, and I work in New York City with New Wave Media, the publishers of Marine Technology Reporter. You might have seen our magazine, or perhaps visited our website at seadiscovery.com. Our company will be launching a new networking website in August, specifically geared toward professionals working in all areas of the maritime industry. We are looking for involved, dynamic individuals to participate in this new venture and help us prepare for the site launch. We currently have many companies participating, but I am looking to balance that with contribution from the marine science (and conservation) fields. I would be interested in hearing your thoughts on how to make our site useful to professionals such as yourself.

Jocelyn Redfern