Sealife Conservation recently attended a unique launch event/panel discussion in beautiful San Francisco, hosted by Elizabeth Rose Jackson and Dr. Chris Luebkeman of ARUP Global Forsight & Innovation. The gathering of approximately 250 from ARUP, the media, architecture, sailing, and marine conservation communities was organized to celebrate ARUP’s launch of Drivers of Change: Oceans which is the latest contribution to the dynamic Drivers of Change series. The evening provided spirited discussion for a variety of people to engage with and communicate the issues likely to have a significant impact on the health of our oceans and how those issues are directly linked to the well-being of our planet as a whole. ARUP is an independent firm of designers, planners, engineers, consultants, and tech specialists offering a broad range of services with the goal of making a positive difference in the world. Their Drivers of Change series is designed to identify and communicate the trends and issues likely to have a profound impact in the built environment and society at large.
The panel discussion focused on the state of the world’s oceans as they are today and future implications. Panelists included Dr. Wallace J Nichols, a sea turtle biologist and founder of BlueMind which is a forward thinking new organization that analyzes the neuroscience behind our love of the ocean along with the cognitive dissonance between human actions and our subsequent impact on the sea and its many denizens. The grandson of the immortal Jacques Cousteau, Fabien Cousteau, was also on the esteemed panel and he shared a few of his inspiring stories as an explorer. The third panelist was Kimball Livingston, editor-at-large of SAIL magazine, who shared his viewpoint from the perspective of a lifelong sailor. Rounding out the panel was Kenny Belov, fisherman and restaurant owner from FISH in Sausalito. Kenny’s passion for sustainable fishing practices was palpable; “If I can’t trace the catch back to the Captain of the fishing vessel, I won’t sell it”. His impassioned plea for all of us to take responsibility for our actions supported Fabien’s statement that as consumers, our every decision is a VOTE.
Perhaps the most poignant question Dr. Luebkeman asked of the panelists was this: “What is NORMAL in your watery worlds”? Fabien referenced the resplendent Florida Keys and noted that while most divers would survey that particular area with a sense of normalcy, he sees it as a “desert wasteland” in light of his recent visits. He also noted that less than 5% of the ocean has been explored, but 1500 miles away from the closest civilization we see abject human impact. Dr. Nichols stated that he wishes ‘normal’ will one day again “be an ocean that resembles those of 400 years ago, where your sailboat was hindered by sheer turtle biomass”.
What does normal mean to you? Is it objective or subjective? Normal is defined as ‘conforming to the standard or common type; usual; regular; NATURAL. The last descriptive word, ‘natural’, doesn’t fit the state of our seas today where abundance is no longer normal. Unfortunately, our worldwide signature is written in hard trash, chemical wastes and spills, heavy metals, agricultural run-off, plastics, overfishing, radioactive materials, and industrial/domestic wastes. The sea, like a large vat of milk, can tolerate many drops of vinegar but there will come a time when the system goes sour.
This is a discussion that must continue on, this information must (as Kenny Belov suggested) be incorporated into the school curriculum worldwide, and action must be taken if we are not to repeat the history we did not understand. Each and every one of us has a voice, or a “vote”, and the power of one can inspire the power of multitudes. This summer, Sealife Conservation will be hosting Dr. Nichols and Kenny Belov on the Derek M Baylis in the spirit of keeping the lines of communication open and churning. Please join us onboard and share your voice. “We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean, but the ocean would be less because of that missing drop”. –Mother Teresa
-Shawna Peak, Naturalist