Sylvia Earle — The ocean is in trouble, so we’re in trouble

National Geographic Society Explorer-in-Residence Dr. Sylvia Earle, called Her Deepness by the New Yorker and the New York Times, Living Legend by the Library of Congress, and first Hero for the Planet by Time Magazine, is an oceanographer, explorer, author and lecturer.


An expert on the impact of oil spills, she was called upon to investigate environmental damage following the Persian Gulf War in 1991, the Deepwater Horizon Disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, as well as the oil spills from the Exxon Valdez in 1989 and Mega Borg in 1990.

Earle has led more than 100 research expeditions worldwide logging over 7,000 hours underwater, including leading the first team of women aquanauts during the Tektite Project in 1970, participating in ten saturation dives, most recently in July 2012, and setting a record for solo diving in 1000 meters depth.

Earle used her proceeds from the TED Prize in 2009 to launch Mission Blue, a nonprofit that raises awareness of the urgent need to create Marine Protected Areas — HopeSpots — ranging from the deepest oceans to sunlit reefs.

Visuals are used by permission of (c) Kip Evans, Mission Blue.

IAMECO Warrior celebrates Dr. Earle as one of our Living Legends.



Sylvia Earle, Founder, Mission Blue

I fell in love with the ocean when I was a little girl. My backyard was the Gulf of Mexico. I thought the way most people at the time seemed to think, that the ocean was so big that there wasn’t much that humans could do to change anything. Well now, we know, not only can we change the ocean, but the ocean has been changed, and the pace is picking up. That’s what has caused me as a scientist to communicate that we’re in trouble. The ocean is in trouble, so we’re in trouble. I’ve spent thousands of hours actually in the ocean, I’ve lived underwater on nine different occasions, actually spending weeks living in the sea.

Coral reefs: about half of them are gone, or they’re in a state of decline. A lot of people who aren’t scientists and who don’t trust what they hear from scientists are skeptics, and they say, “I can still breathe. I have a house on the beach. It hasn’t flooded yet. . . .” Yet! “What’s the problem?”

It’s that communication, that missing link. The response of most world leaders seems to be more self-interest, staying in power, whatever it takes, rather than the best interest of humanity. Or even the best interests of their own countries — dismembering the systems that keep us alive. And we’ve gotten away with it, because nature is resilient. But it’s not infinitely resilient.

What does IAMECO Warrior mean to you?

The term Eco Warrior — using your knowledge, using your power, whatever it is, to make a difference with the ability to blast the consciousness of people into a new level of awareness, to turn things around while there is still time. The power exists to leave the world a better place than we found it. It does exist. But we have to hurry.

Find your eco Inspiration


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