Scuba Goat

Sylvia A. Earle - National Geographic Ocean: A Global Odyssey - S02 E09

August 21, 2021 Matt Waters / Sylvia Earle Season 2 Episode 9
Scuba Goat
Sylvia A. Earle - National Geographic Ocean: A Global Odyssey - S02 E09
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

An absolutely mind-blowing highlight of my Scuba GOAT journey to date is the 2hrs I recently spent with Dr Sylvia A. Earle on the show.  I’m sure this guest needs little by way of introduction; though her credentials, experience, passion and dedication to our oceans is awe-inspiring and incredible to witness.

Sylvia is without a doubt one of my lifelong heroes, and when her office contacted me to arrange some time with her on the show, I was stunned and star struck!  But Sylvia quickly made me forget my nerves with her humility and generosity.

Vibrant and ever the optimist, Sylvia shares stories from her remarkable career, insights from her lifetime of learning, and her hopes for ongoing preservation and conservation of our blue planet.  We discuss her latest book National Geographic Ocean: A Global Odyssey, which will have readers fall in love with the ocean all over again (along with being a powerful wake-up call that the ocean is effectively the planet’s “life-support system” and needs to be respected as such).

I feel truly honoured to have had the pleasure of connecting with Sylvia via the Scuba GOAT podcast.  If you’ve enjoyed the show, make sure to share it with your buddies and spread the word about Sylvia’s book.  Links

Find Sylvia's book at the following link:
National Geographic Ocean: A Global Odyssey

The Mission Blue website

Sylvia's social media streams

Facebook
Instagram
Twitter

Don't forget to subscribe to the show to be notified of new episodes and join our "Scuba GOAT Network" group on Facebook to maintain a link with all of the shows guests.

Matt Waters:

Hey there dive buddies, and welcome to the show. If you'd have told me last year that I will be talking to my next guest, I would have thought you were barking mad or suffering from decompression sickness. However, the scuba podcast has come a long way since my dining room table and lockdown. I am extremely excited, honored and humbled to be talking all things oceanic with a woman who epitomizes the words conservation and exploration, but also the show's title as one of the greatest of all time scuba diving pioneers, and the personal hero of mine. Dr. Sylvia Earle is National Geographics explorer in residence known by many other names such as a deepness, the living legend, and the hero the planet to name just a few. Sylvia Earle, Welcome to the show. Thank you for joining me today.

Sylvia Earle:

Oh, great to be on board.

Matt Waters:

On board. I love it.

Sylvia Earle:

For real!

Matt Waters:

How are things in the us right now? Because I mean, obviously travels really restricted. So there's that limited the work that you do?

Sylvia Earle:

Well, it has kept me drier than I like, but it has given me a chance to literally dive into trying to figure out the latest updates on the state of the ocean. That resulted in a book that's about to come out in November, about about the ocean, the past, present, and so educated guesses about what the future will be based on or failed to do.

Matt Waters:

I thank you for the copy as well. It's a beautiful book and so much information in the fantastic

Sylvia Earle:

National Geographic, Let's see. "Ocean a global Odyssey" I should be able to remember the title.

Matt Waters:

I love the simplicity of the cover as well, you've got the angel fish on the front?

Sylvia Earle:

Well,that's the I think on the introductory page, the cover is actually just an amazing photograph of Brazilian sufficient one small figure that represents a diver. It's a great picture.

Matt Waters:

That's the picture I'm missing. I've got the angel fish.

Sylvia Earle:

You've got the introductory pages. Yes.

Matt Waters:

Yeah, that's beautiful. We'll delve deeper into the book in a little while. But let's talk about you for a little bit. So I've kind of followed you for a number of years, as you may guess. I'd like to know from yourself, you've had many, many fantastic moments in your life. But are there any defining moments that stand out to you?

Sylvia Earle:

I suppose, first time I took the plunge, it was a defining moment. I just could not imagine that you could actually breathe underwater. Until I tried it. Like that it was so easy that I got truly rapidly hooked on the concept. And I've been doing it ever since that was back in 1953. We had two words of instruction, I was with eight students taking a class in marine biology at Florida State University summer class, and that we had two of the first scuba units in the country. There were no diving organizations except the US Navy. Put, we didn't qualify for that. We watched what the fish were doing. And to follow their example, except that they were breathing underwater and now we could to

Matt Waters:

it's a marvelous concept, isn't it?

Sylvia Earle:

It really is. There are limits obviously, but we didn't know. Clearly them this we do know about what those limits are that you can get into trouble with staying too long, too deep, too much oxygen. And a lot of things that we just learned by doing

Matt Waters:

did you ever have any problems yourself.

Sylvia Earle:

So far, so good. I've been involved with decompressing a buddy after too many deep dives in succession in trucker goon many years ago. But fortunately there was one of these one person chambers that was available. But nobody present to operate it. But the instructions were were taped on the chamber. So, Chuck nicklin, who's great longtime friend and diver together, we figured it out. Our victim, who is our getting's. 1000s of hours of successful underwater, diving it mazing photographer filmmaker, but we just he just stayed a little bit too long, a little too deep. And tried to brush off the symptoms at first, but nature doesn't pay an attention to our rules. Yeah. So anyway, we is we successfully took him down to 165 feet, kept him there for 11 hours. I mean, after we we follow the rules, and got him back safely, back in the water Two days later, good. Scientists, marine biologists, compression nurses. Well, I really respect that. It having the right training to undertake operating a chamber is is really desirable. But we had no choice. All the right people were out of town. So we did what we had to do.

Matt Waters:

How did, you know you say it was right at the start of scuba equipment being available for you to use? was it? Was it just a chance of fortune that it was something that was offered to the university? or How did it come about?

Sylvia Earle:

It was that creative scientist teacher, Harold Humm, who just thought that it was logical that if you want to explore the ocean, you should get into the ocean. So he I'm not sure how he managed to procure two of the first units with a double hose regulators with a big fat mouthpiece that I can barely put it in my mouth. And we have a desco facemask with air supplied from a surface compressor. We also tried that. And we also had we had three methods, we use a diving helmet that we just put on our shoulders and weights on our feet in the round. or middle to walk around, we did not go Ultra Deep. We stayed probably probably the deepest dives we did during that summer of 1953, about 20 meters. And it was later I guess, first deepish kinds of dives that I started making were under the the flippers of Navy divers of Panama City diving facility in Florida, they still have a diving center there. But at the time, it was not with a high level of security that is now imposed on military operations everywhere. I was working on studying marine plants in the Gulf of Mexico for my dissertation. And I traveled all over down the coast. Sometimes with a buddy sometimes just on my own because I don't know. Again, I fully respect and I abide by the principles of safety. That buddy diving really does save lives. But this early days, we didn't have all the experience that now keeps people alive and enables us to go safely deeper and stay longer than then we imagined would be possible before. And so watching the Navy divers, and diving with them offshore in the Gulf of Mexico and making a free us ascent unintentionally. You might remember or may have heard about the J valve that tanks were provided with it. You breathe the air down to the point where you couldn't easily breathe anymore and then you release the last five minutes of air. So during that last five minutes, you you button things up and came back to the surface. Now of course, you can measure how much air you have in your tank. Imagine not knowing we didn't know Yeah, how deep you are, we did not have pressure gauges, or depth gauges, or

Matt Waters:

and that nowadays it. So if you hit 50, PA, you've got to go now so we just stay here until we run out of air and then pull the lever and hope there's some more.

Sylvia Earle:

Well, the good news is that we have predecessors who've been out there lots of people doing lots of things learning. And also, I've been on the board of dam. The divers alert network done that on two occasions now. And it's great to have an organization that is really focused on diver safety, and to do the real research to understand what are the limits? If you get into a jam, what do you do it but it's a really intriguing concept that we can take an air breathing creature such as we are, and safely go for extended periods of time and saturation diving. I've enjoyed that to 10 different occasions now. But the first time in 1970. It was still experimental. And well, I guess, all of this still, we're still learning as we go about things that we haven't anticipated. But the idea that you can allow your tissues to become fully saturated with compressed air or other mixes of gases. And once they're really saturated, you can stay in theory infinitely that certainly for days and weeks, or even months under pressure, and then have the same time for decompression, whether you're staying for 24 hours or 24 days or maybe even 24 months. It stayed two years. But anyway. Yes, I mean, I guess commercial divers really do have long saturation dives. Longest I've saturated is two weeks.

Matt Waters:

It's no small dive is it?

Sylvia Earle:

It's great. You forget your, your first, really, least I slipped into that zone where you almost forget your breathing. And that's kind of dangerous because you have to keep remembering I don't really belong here. Be mindful that I have an air breather. And I'm not holding my breath. I'm breathing compressed air or mixed mixture of gases, depending on this substance

Matt Waters:

It is a form of meditation, isn't it? You know, I look at my Mrs, She loves her yoga and whatnot. But for me being under the water is just so nice. You say zen.

Sylvia Earle:

You become one with the water. At least in warm water, now cold water you never forget.

Matt Waters:

Why do you think I left the UK it's too cold there!

Sylvia Earle:

Full alert all the time. Hahaha.

Matt Waters:

Now you do touch on living underwater in in the book. And with the ladies and talking about you know, you go you go as though you're going out for a walk or down the corner to get your pint of milk and, you know, those that group or and those that Moray ale get to do the routine of your neighbors. Yeah.

Sylvia Earle:

Well, that for me was transformative, getting to know individual fish and where they live and how they behave as individuals. It really should be no surprise. cats, dogs, horses, birds, or fellow vertebrates. That are other fellow vertebrates the fish similarly have faces, attitudes, personality. Some of them have very complicated social structure. Some team up mate for life. I just came across a paper written by Eugenie Clark, known as the shark lady, but she was ever so much more than one who studied sharks and started the mote Marine Laboratory in Florida that still focuses on sharks as a specialty. But she studied tilefish they're monogamous, which means they choose a mate and they stick together for four years. Not just see horses also tend to be monogamous. They don't live as long as tilefish tilefish can be around for 20 years, maybe more. And to imagine that, I mean, not people don't even obey those rules. Yeah. But here, these fish steady as she goes, like choose a mate and they, they stick together, it's really something that fishermen tend not to take into account officials just, you know, either bait or it's something that cats eat or catch and sell. But But those who have the privilege of spending time underwater, you really see life in the sea, not just fish, but lobsters take on personality and have habits, social structure, and behaviors that are really intriguing when you get to focus on them and think of them as just miracles. creatures that are the result of literally hundreds of millions of years of give and take. And they're here with us.

Matt Waters:

Yeah, and so many people when I have these discussions with people about what's it like on the water, and I refer back to being a kid, and most kids, girls and boys have a little dream every now and then of visiting a far off planet and meeting aliens, etc, etc, we'll step into the water, and you've done it.

Sylvia Earle:

Absolutely. And, yes, it's so many ways, they seem alien, like an octopus. Oh, I'd love to be an octopus, wouldn't you change color, just make, make your skin take all different shapes and move your arms and your whole body can just be so flexible. On the other hand, we now understand what is taken all preceding history, but mostly what we've learned in the last 50 or 60 years about how all life is connected in that we share genetic makeup and composition to a very large extent with most of the rest of life on Earth, not just our fellow primates, like chimpanzees and, and other great other great apes where we we have very close like 98% similarity to chimpanzees is that 2% that makes the big difference. But when you look at even bacteria, we have DNA in common. We can capitalize on that similarity, the chemistry of life by harnessing microbe power to synthesize things that are useful to us, such as certain pharmaceuticals that we use, but they're synthesized by bacteria, and insulin, for example, I think, that may not be the only source but it is a source. It's the chemistry of life. And it's shared across all variations on the theme of living creatures, from elephants to eels, human beings in between, and all the diversity of life in the ocean. So they're alien, by some ways of looking at it, but it's very familiar, the same basic chemistry of life. And yet, the wonderful thing about that is how different each individual it's not just, we can tell an elephant from an eel course. But you can tell every elephant from every other elephant, every cat, every other cat, every human from every other human. Every card from every other card, or tuna. That's a concept that makes my head go wow. Right? All this similarity that holds us all together, but coupled that with enormous diversity of life.

Matt Waters:

Each and every one of us are individually.

Sylvia Earle:

Yes. Right.

Matt Waters:

Thats a beautiful thing. I want to ask about mission blue.

Sylvia Earle:

Yes.

Matt Waters:

I did. Watch the documentary again the other day for I have not watched it for a while but I think it's fifth or six. Time now. Big shout out to Fisher Stevens, one of my I know the mission blue itself is much more important point to make but seeing Fisher Stevens feeling rough as hell on a boat, rocking in the oceans, and you're completely oblivious to it and working away, I think is just fantastic.

Sylvia Earle:

Well, I have to say, I think no one is immune from what is known as seasickness mal de mer, I have experienced it. And I know what it's like to be so sick that you you think you're gonna die and then you wish you could feel so bad. But fortunately, I don't often succumb I one of my best dive buddies talked me out of it once he said, you know, you just need to make the ocean your friend dance with the ocean when the ocean is rocking and rolling. Just go with it, and embrace it, and enjoy it. And he can't always get away with that. But mostly, it's a mindset. It's not always I mean, I've seen people and I've experienced it myself, it's you might have gotten sick standing on, try on the dark. But, but it's exacerbated when you get out and back and forth in the sea. But mainly I love it. And never sleep as well as anywhere, as well as I do. When I'm at sea. I just but I don't want to sleep, I want to be awake 24 seven, just to soak it up.

Matt Waters:

You got a you did have a special moment, we'll come back to mission blue in a moment. But I'm doing tangent thing here, the Jim suit. Again, he talked about it in the book and you know being so deep underwater, and that moment of turning the lights out and seeing the life. And that's got to be something that just is unforgettable.

Sylvia Earle:

I'm sure that any diver listening can empathize with that feeling of going as deep as you can on any one dive. And you see that the ocean keeps going and the fish keep going. The life, the desire to go deeper and stay longer is always there. And having a suit system, a diving system that enabled me to continue breathing error, at the same pressure that we're breathing in this conversation one atmosphere and be able to go down with my arms and legs in encased in, in a protective shell like a crab so that I could add like a crab to have joints so that I can move not merely with the dexterity that we have sitting here but nonetheless to be able to be a diver walking. And to do it at 300 plus meters almost 400 meters were at the edge of darkness, I could still see the difference between up and down day. I mean light above and dark below. But that was that was transformative. It's what led me to start working with engineers to build submersibles, personal submersibles one person systems initially now working on on three person systems to be able to have an experienced pilot and to observers diverges if you will. But anybody can drive the submarine. That's the joy. I mean, most submarines require a dedicated pilot. And if you're there as a passenger, you get to have the view but you don't have the controls. And it's like going with a diver piggyback, you don't have control about where to go. You just have to go along for the ride, like a taxi driver or passenger. So I am thrilled to now be again, looking over the shoulders of engineers and really seeing that vision come through that you can take one or two or three or more people but three person systems now there's still small enough so they can be transported in a standard shipping container to places anywhere in the world and go down to 1000 meters while it's into and below. The Twilight Zone was really eternally dark except for bioluminescence. Oh, yeah.

Matt Waters:

We, when I was teaching back in Thailand a number of years ago, you know, we'd take people on their first night dive and you'd waft around in the water at the end of the dive so they could see the bioluminescence and the sparkle's everywhere.

Sylvia Earle:

It's ethereal.

Matt Waters:

I can't imagine what it's like deeper down, it must be an amazing sight.

Sylvia Earle:

I don't know why people resist night diving. For me, it's the best. It's really well, for one thing, it simulates what it's like, all of the time, in most of the living space on the planet. Because when you think about it, where is life on Earth, most of it's in the ocean. And most of it is below where light penetrates. average depth of the ocean is 4000 meters, the maximum 11,007 miles down. And there's life, all the way from the surface to the greatest steps and even beneath the bottom of the ocean, for at least another kilometer or two, depending on where water is able to trickle down through the bottom of the ocean, and provide that basic ingredient that all life needs is water, of course, not Sunlight, sunlight, powers, photosynthesis, carbon capture. You know, it's what has shaped nature the world we live in. But below where sunlight penetrates, life prospers, greatest abundance, the greatest diversity of life on Earth, lives in the dark, all of the time. And it's cold, but it's beautiful. What's great as divers are able to be at the upper edge of this vast realm that makes Earth habitable for all life, whether it's ocean or terrestrial. We all need the ocean. I think one of the questions that you put to me in advance of this, of this conversation was your favorite underwater creature? Well, that's one thing, but my favorite sea creature, if you put it that way, it's got to be humans. I mean, I love my species. I am one. I have kids, I have grandkids. What many people don't appreciate is that we're sea creatures. We need the ocean. Every month, every business watches any whale, or any coral reef, no ocean, no life. No us. So anyway, there you go.

Matt Waters:

Let's let's expand on that one. Because I mean, everybody talks about how the world needs the oceans and its inhabitants. And its plankton and its sharks, and how, how can we actually put that into perspective that people will truly understand. I think trying to get the information across sometimes gets a bit sideways and people lose the reality of of what we need.

Sylvia Earle:

That is the biggest problem facing our species facing the ocean facing our future. That is, people don't know the knowledge is there. The knowledge is available. The good news, it's there and it is available. And more and more people are tuning in, since that first view of Earth from space that really marked the beginning of about new wave of looking at the whole world as one system. Many scientists and philosophers and just people generally had already taken this into account that everything connects. A class I took in botany at Duke University back in 19. I think it was 19. It was in the early 60s anyway. No, it was before that was in the 50s because I had a 10 year break, getting married and having kids and all that between kidding. My master's getting my PhD was in the 50s when Dwight though So ecologist showed an image that showed it was just a circle, just filled with crisscross lines. And it was looking at how everything connects to everything else, he figured it out and he wasn't alone. But he graphically portrayed that you touch one part of or pull on one of these little strings and the whole system is influenced. If you pull hard enough, you really can shake the whole world now, here we are, we can see that what happens in the winds, crossing the center blows sand all the way across the Atlantic Ocean, that land in the Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico, and bring with it the spores of fungi that have caused diseases and corals. That, you know, we couldn't make those connections until we had enough information to be able to connect the dots. We haven't known God geologically. How the world functions how continents move around that plate tectonics, did not understand the nature of plates. phytoplankton in the ocean do the heavy lifting in terms of generating oxygen, capturing carbon? Yes, trees do a lot of it. Thank you trees for helping keep me alive and all the rest of us. But plankton in the ocean, phytoplankton does much, much more has done so long before the retirees gradually changing the atmosphere of Earth from what was mostly carbon dioxide, and nitrogen into what we now have still a lot of nitrogen, but 20% oxygen, and just enough carbon dioxide to power, photosynthesis to keep green things growing, producing food continuing to generate oxygen. But we didn't know until fairly recently in the course of human civilization, I think we live at the sweet spot in time. It's the first time that we've been able to understand how everything does connect. And that we're part of this really intricate, closely wired system, that what we do to nature we're doing to ourselves. And we've been so oblivious, that we've consumed big chunks of our life support system, thinking that nothing we could do, we're just these tiny little primates, we've surely can't alter the nature of nature. But here we are in 2021, saying what we put into the atmosphere what we put into the ocean, what we taken from the land, clear cutting force, we've taken from the ocean, clear cutting the ocean, so that 90% of the sharks, the tunas, the swordfish, so many creatures, just on my watch your watch, we've we've been watching this collapse of the very systems that we need to maintain a habitable planet. So a lot of people still don't haven't gotten that message. The knowledge is certainly there anybody can put the pieces together because we got this great puzzle with pieces coming into place. So how do we know what the weather's going to be like? in a couple of weeks, we used to look at the Farmers Almanac and thought that we had worked out heads up about what it's going to be like next March. But in fact, we were beginning even then to see patterns and make rough predictions about what we might be able to expect, based on experience from the past. But now we're up in the sky, with satellites with instruments that can take measurements, look at the whole world and, and hold the world in our hands if you will, inside and see it calculated measure it and predict with far greater accuracy than old Farmer's Almanac ever could. And we take it for granted are starting to anyway. But there's so much more that we we need to understand and appreciate and put on the balance sheet, which is why mission blue really got started to try to be a conduit for information and a conduit for the message that we must take care of the natural world land and sea are focuses on the blue part as if our lives depended on it, because they do so it's an investment in your life, to plant a tree, to protect a reef to let the fish instead of this, you're really hungry. But the fish stay in the ocean. Because they are so important. And we have taken so many for so long that the populations are in serious decline. So, people ask me if I eat fish, and I say, I used to, I know what they taste like. But I also know the code important they are and that I want my fish alive in the ocean. And all the rules regulation, the laws that are in place favor those who don't care about them alive, they want them as a source of money. Yeah, mostly, it's, I mean, most of the heavy fish. industrial fishing is not about feeding people. This is about feeding your bank account. It's wildlife is his money, monetizing wildlife. We used to do it with birds, and elephants, just about every other living thing on the land. Basically, we've, we've changed that habit. We haven't changed with respect to ocean wildlife. Except whales, we did change with whales, seals, sea lions, are fellow mammals, but not fish. I guess we'll get there someday, I hope we do. Because it's the key to the blue carbon. Part of the carbon equation, if we can just keep more fish in the ocean will keep more carbon in the ocean will heal the processes that have taken hundreds of millions of years to develop in our favor. And it's taking us a few decades to significantly he'll break those systems, carve them up and sell them out.

Matt Waters:

I think you hit the nail on the head there as well. It's all about money at the end of the day. people wanting to make monies and have a comfortable life for themselves and not thinking of others and other species on planet Earth.

Sylvia Earle:

We think of fishes free free goods, anybody can go out and take them and no, you don't have to pay anybody to do it. You have to get there your boat costs something. But perversely, the large scale industrial fishing fleets that are now extracting millions of tons of ocean wildlife, the biggest wildlife trafficking, because wildlife trade on the planet is ocean wildlife. And we don't think of it that way. We think of the pandas and polar bears and birds and things, but its biggest wildlife trafficking is in legal extraction of wildlife. subsidized with in most countries with large industrial fleets have large industrial subsidies, fuel subsidies, loans to gear up and end agencies that foster the extraction of ocean wildlife, not the care of Western wildlife. Some countries have both Australia has both the United States as both we have conservation methods at the same time. We have we have investments to help fishermen catch fish and market them and get a cure that works. Find where the fish are so that they can be curving, commercially extracted in Yep, it's a false accounting, because I don't see how we can possibly imagine that fish are free. Yeah. There's a cost to all of us when we take them out of the ocean.

Matt Waters:

And it's a massive cost for that for those that can see it is a massive cost. My only fear is that the increase of awareness is slower than the increase in the people who want to grab more money from from the oceans. Well, hopefully we can reverse that somehow.

Sylvia Earle:

Part of the the reality is and the communication is absolutely the key that the rate of being able to share knowledge, the way we are right now is unprecedented. It's really the best hope we've got. And it's one of the principal things that mission blue does is to have a robust form of communicating to the public. We have expeditions to these special places that champions have nominated as hope spots, and there are 140 hope spots now globally, many more in the wings that go through process of review by a council of scientists. We work with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, to have this process, have a place that you know and you love and you're willing to commit, commit to doing something to go for where it is to get to a better place, more protection, ultimately for protection for places like, how about the Coral Sea? How about the Great Barrier Reef, it's now about 1/3. Protected that even within the Marine Park Authority, that means that two thirds is open for extraction, or exploitation of one form or another. It's not like national parks are the land where you don't shoot the birds, you don't cut the trees put in many of the places in the ocean that are called parks, including in my country, the National Marine Sanctuaries actually encouraged sport fishing. It's a way to (Matt - really?) get people out to enjoy the ocean. Well, I for me, there's no joy in killing things. I'd much rather encourage people to go die, then go see these creatures, and respect them. And if you get if you really like Eugenie Clark, she gets to know, a fish or a pair of fish or a family of fish year after year, after year, that fish lives right there. And you get to Jane Goodall took 15 years getting to know individual chimpanzees and families really well their social structure, their habits, their personalities. So there are individuals who are doing this with whales. Shane Giroux, who's a whale situs has been working with a family family and resident population read families poro. In Dominika in the Caribbean, he recognizes the Big Mama wheels that stick around, like for their lifetime their residents. And so to the daughters, the young males, when they're seven or eight years old, they take off, they go see the world, but then they come back, they come back and say Hey, how's it going? You know, whatever they say, in way mom? Yeah. How the sisters doing anyway. But it's getting that long experience of getting to know a place and getting to know individuals, respecting them as neighbors, if you will, his fellow creatures on this amazing miracle of a blue planet. So the champions that we have now around the world are just so important to working with their communities working with their governments working internationally, we want to encourage protection of the high seas beyond national jurisdiction that's about half the world in divers really represent a powerful voice, you know that you those of you who get wet under the surface, you know, that fish and sometimes the same fish repeatedly that Barracuda that that is really curious and tends to follow you around. I mean, never got a bite you but he's really wants to know who you are. I think you're watching the fish and Barracuda. They're watching you. Yeah, but other fish too, to be there. Like any other creature, I suppose they're curious.

Matt Waters:

You get to recognize the individuals and absolutely picking up on that there was a there was a I can't remember he posted it now. But it was a photo of a barracuda. Richelieu rock on the west coast of Thailand. Went up maybe last week. I knew exactly which fish it was because it's in exactly the same spot. It was three and a half years ago when I was living living and dive in there.

Sylvia Earle:

If you look closely, now sometimes it's it's a little tricky because that but if you look at a school of fish, they all look alike, right? If you look a crowd of people shopping, it'll holiday and they all kind of look alike. They certainly must look alike to a bird flying over. Oh, they're these primates. They all look alike. But you know, it's not just what we wear. That sets us apart. We have faces, we have You know, posture and personnel anyway, it is so obvious when you really study a school of fish, or a group of parrot fish, or certainly as Shane Giroux and others who've studied whales. Another individual Randy wells has studied dolphins in the region around Sarasota, Florida. He's been studying them now for almost 50 years. He's gone through generations of bonds and offspring and sees how is observed and documented. Not just casually, but I mean, even sampling the DNA to make sure that his observations are, are accurate because again, like all humans, we have our unique fingerprints, we have our unique DNA. So the dolphins soju, potato Cod, so the lobsters, everyone, it's such a big idea. The chemistry of life is so consistent across all the great diversity of life and Yep. This is so filled with potential that every single individual is different. I love it. It's it's, it's to me the greatest miracle of life if we can have that consistency coupled with diversity.

Unknown:

Yeah, I want to mention Christina Zenato and her girls are sharks. And we say about the you know, when you look at Mass, he said Little Christina on the seabed and a massive sharks around it. So the unknowing eye its just a mass of sharks.

Sylvia Earle:

Yes,

Matt Waters:

she's known some of those sharks individuals.

Sylvia Earle:

Yes,

Matt Waters:

well, 13 years, they've got their own names, they come and have a little siesta, whether it's brilliant,

Sylvia Earle:

and, and they you know, we resist saying that they become quotes friends, but they certainly recognize individuals they and behave differently around different individuals. It's true with cats and dogs and horses, why should it be any different from from sharks who recognize individuals and their familiar pose no threat. Whereas a newcomer might go in and behave in a different fashion. appear to be aggressive. And whoosh the sharks would be gone? Yeah, right.

Matt Waters:

Yep. And it's the The nice thing I like about it, is that it gets rid of that old belief for rubbish saying that fish and flight 30 seconds of memory one's well out the window. Anyone who believes that nowadays is deluded?

Producer of Scuba GOAT:

G'day scuba goat listeners Rod here, producer of the show, I hope that you're enjoying this episode, and that you're subscribed and following the pod on your favorite app. Please keep an eye out for the all new scuba go website coming soon. Now, back to Matt and the show.

Matt Waters:

I want to go back to mission blue and the hope spots. And you mentioned we've got the same as 140 hope spots now.

Sylvia Earle:

So far,

Matt Waters:

cool. Now, I was gonna ask how they're created and how it all comes about. I would actually like to pose that as a particular location in the Solomon sea in Papua New Guinea. And it's off the coast of Oro province, and it's called cape Nelson. I used to work there. And it is, without a shadow of a doubt one of the most beautiful places I've ever visited and had the pleasure to dive. And I've taken a few people back there as well. If I wanted to propose cape Nelson, as a hope spot, what's the process? How would I go about that?

Sylvia Earle:

The easiest thing to do is go to the mission blue website and ask that question. And step by step. You can be led through how to submit an application to the HubSpot Council have this volunteer group of global scientists are not there to say yes, this qualifies. No, it doesn't know they're there to help you. Get from through the process and to help you not just to get a place noted as officially recognized as a hub spot, but you become part of this network of hope. This family of places where information is shared, gathered and shared, images are put into the system. That stories, good good news, bad news. Here's my problem, here's how I solved it, I've got a problem. And he got any advice, those kinds of things become available to those who become a part of the network. And it's public. I mean, anybody can tune in to this. But one of the things that is important is to be able to essentially define that the area so it becomes a place so that there's a map that indicates what piece of the ocean is under consideration is a hope spot. And within that area, to do what you can to characterize it, who lives there, if you are able to either get, get a take or get photographs, if you're able to consistently or even from time to time gather information, data, there's a place to go to put that in the system so that change over time can be assessed and measured. So that you hope that next year, you'll see that there's, there's progress improvement, or not. If not, then what's going on, you share your stories, share your concerns. And the real goal is to develop full protection, whether it's, you have to do that. But like the land where people can own a chunk of land and protect it. In the ocean, it takes working with the government, locally, nationally, or in the case of the high seas. internationally. It may seem daunting, but that's how it works. And it doesn't work. People do have influence, use your power, use your knowledge, your superpower of knowing, and special edge you have those who explore under the surface. tell people what you see anyway. So we work with the company called iSeries of global Information Systems, company space in California. So that every place has a story map. And this framework where you can put data, images, stories, so that your hopes what becomes a place really a place you can embrace. People were tend to be placed based there you get to know a place your home. And you can extend that into the ocean. Some of these places that have been designated, are quite intimate, but others are very large, like the Sargasso Sea is a huge area and it no one country owns it. But it is a part of what what these are a respect. And there is an alliance of people the Sargasso Sea Alliance, working with governments in the whole region to try to enhance protection for the Sargasso Sea. And in other cases, one example is in Mexico, Cabo pulmo is, so few square miles. But it really is loaded with great stories about efficient community that saw that the fish were disappearing, decided to stop killing them, started caring for them started to realize their greater value alive, then, on our plates. And there, they have a thriving dive tourism operation that is, is more consistent than when you take 30 year old fish out of the ocean, it's gone. It's free. But once it's out of the ocean, doesn't doesn't even come back in 30 years, you've disrupted the system. And some of the fishing techniques that are now being applied are not just hook in line extract and there's a hole left in the system but trawling is devastating. It takes the whole ecosystem on and so much bycatch. It's it's a very messy business. So we're trying across the board to eliminate destructive techniques for extraction of wildlife.

Matt Waters:

Well, we got a destructive technique going on down here. And it's been going on for years. And that's the shark nets and drum lines off the coast of Queensland and New South Wales. And, you know, horrible news come through a few days ago of a humpback whale that's been caught up in one of the nets. And it's just keeps happening time and time again.

Sylvia Earle:

I visited Vueler Davis at the shark. I think they call it the shark Research Institute. And this was, we think that would have been about 19. In the 1970s. The first No, no, sorry. I did have a foot that was not in Australia. That was in South, it was in South Africa, really Davis, the same thing that was same idea that you have these nets. And the idea is to keep people safe. Well, you're not keeping people safe by killing sharks. We need the sharks, they keep us safe, that keeps the ocean safe. But it's so seductive. Because we have this mindset that sharks are dangerous, or we're protecting ourselves, right? Good shark, the only good shark was a dead shark. And that South African facility, it was in Durban, you're there that have the same mindset that we now see in Australia. That and, and along the wherever those circuits are being deployed?

Matt Waters:

Yeah, it's it's something that people are fighting against. And I was speaking to Andre Borell, a couple of episodes ago, he was the director of Envoy Shark Cull, great documentary. If you've not seen it yet, you can find it brilliant. Rick focuses on the shark nets and how antiquated they are. And, and, quite frankly, how dangerous they are for us as humans, because the catch that's occurring in the Nets is actually on the inside, not on the outside. So the sharks have already been in so the waters were were splashing around, and then going out again.

Sylvia Earle:

In 2020, the International the meetings in Davos, World Economic Forum, the International Monetary Fund, had commissioned a study about the value of whales with respect to the carbon that they hold, connected to climate, carbon value of whales, and they calculated about a trillion dollars worth of carbon is held in the number of whales that now exist on the planet, as it relates to climate blue carbon. So if it works for whales, it has to carry over it has to be the same for sharks, how much blue carbon is captured, sequestered and ultimately under normal circumstances would be taken to the depths of the ocean where long term carbon storage takes place. And while they're living, carbon based units, they're giving back nutrients the power of the phytoplankton, just as whales when they eat, they give nutrients back to the ocean. In foster the photosynthesis is so vital for carbon capture. Oxygen production, it's the system it's the way the world works. Yeah, those are out there killing sharks, because they think they're doing something good or doing something terribly wrong. terribly bad for not just the sharks. All of us are paying the price. So I don't know what it's going to take. I tried with every way I know how. If you come up with some brilliant ideas that you can communicate to your listeners, to your friends to anybody. We've got to it's not just about fins. It's about sharks. It's about tuna. It's about Cod. It's about orange roughy. It's about krill. It's about the living ocean that holds the planet steady. This is a climate issue. We know forests are really critical to capturing, holding and sequestering carbon, we would protect forests, with climate in mind. We must protect the ocean with climate in mind. That's I think it's one of the greatest opportunities we now have to quickly make an enormous difference for for the carbon carbon capture.

Matt Waters:

And that's it. We are living in the time now where we've got so much information, we can actually do something with it. Yes, rather than being blinkered and blind and downright rude, we can do something with this information that we've got, and we can make the world a better place.

Sylvia Earle:

So getting the kids involved, getting the kid in grownups involved, you know, what I love about diving is that it makes everybody kind of like, like a kid again, you, you take someone who's spent his or her life, behind the desk, or wearing a coat and tie or whatever it is, and you take them out into the ocean. It's just so disarming. It's a great leveler, it really truly is. And suddenly, you begin asking questions that you wouldn't think of asking. If you never take the plunge, if you never dive in. I'm such an enthusiastic supporter of diving is a transformative experience. My mother actually waited until she was 81. Really, and I don't know why I thought I tried. I didn't try hard enough. I, literally, I, I just I get so wrapped up in all the other things that I was doing. And she seemed perfectly happy doing all the things she was doing. But she, she will tell you, don't wait till you're 81 if you can, but if you are, it's not too late. You can take diving at such a wide range of, of, of effort and expense, or whatever it is, you can make it really easy, really simple. Really, just like a walk in the park and clear warm water. And of course, snorkelers are part of this, of this army of, of power to transform the world. But you can always go a little deeper and I, as you know, dedicated to developing submersibles that can take kids and CEOs, and anybody that men will never grow up. either decide whatever the gender DMA is one of the things I tried to express in, in this book to take people on a journey to to be able to, but not too many people do what I've done, read it cover to cover. But there is a journey of beginning a middle and an end. But within it, there's stories that you can take one bite at a time. But together they tell the story of the ocean, but in particular this I mean, how do people overcome the lack of gills? What is it? How have we technologically in a remarkably short period of time been able to go from standing on the shore and being able to go to the deepest part of the ocean. Only a handful of people have done this. But some have only half people people have stepped on the moon. And we've come a long way since stepping on the moon. We're getting there more rapidly now in the ocean. But we're still lagging far behind access to the skies above. Yeah, but let's get with it.

Matt Waters:

Again, on the book front, I've got to say, I'm not a massive reader. I'm not the kind of person that picks up a book and starts reading. I'd rather go and do something else, like dive in or photography or whatever. However, I think it's been must be seven, eight years since I've actually read a book cover to cover. Ocean is the first book that I have done from cover to cover.

Sylvia Earle:

That's two of us haha.

Matt Waters:

Oh, I've thoroughly enjoyed it is mesmerizingly beautiful with so much information. It's fantastic.

Sylvia Earle:

And thank you for diving into that endevour.

Matt Waters:

Like I said in the introduction I never thought I'd be talking to you about a National Geographic book. I mean, it's amazing but The book is due out later this year,

Sylvia Earle:

comes out in November. And the opportunity to use the pandemic as a time of reflection. And just trying to put the pieces together not just the observations that I've had the privilege of gathering over the years. But by by really examining the massive amount of information that has been accumulated, we've learned more about the ocean. Since the 1950s, since I began diving, then during all preceding human history, he imagined in the 1950s, the idea of continents move around was still considered mostly something to laugh about, that there's a way that you can move the Continental masses on a scale that now we know has happened, and that they're in constant motion is just happens to be slow motion. Yeah, geologically stately pace, like a very long time long distance dance. We did not even know where to start asking questions and tried to find the answers like, who first discovered the existence of oxygen in the atmosphere who first identified the presence of viruses? When did we first know about photosynthesis? There's so much that we did not know 500 years ago, when the first circumnavigation of the world took place. When you think about everything that we take for granted today, language, have the ability to talk to people the way we're talking, you're on the other side of the world, or we're talking of sharing images and stories. That's such a gift that we now have available to us. So for me, being able to kind of kick back over the last year plus two years, actually, I've started in 2019. But was, it was almost something I probably would have tried to do. But I would not have been as effective at assembling the pieces that have come forth in this book. Had I continued my usual running around the world schedule have tried to pack in as much as I could. Especially being in the ocean as much as I could.

Producer of Scuba GOAT:

Hey there listeners Rod here again, apologies for breaking in. But just wanted to let you know that Sylvia's book, National Geographic Ocean A Global Odyssey is being released November this year, but is already available for pre order on line, you'll find a link in the show notes, make sure to go and reserve your copy. And don't forget to subscribe to the pod. Now, back to Matt and Sylvia.

Sylvia Earle:

Early 2020, I was in the Seychelles and then hit dry dock.

Matt Waters:

Yeah,

Sylvia Earle:

until until just a couple of weeks ago, I was able to go to the Azores for a brief visit to launch a new hope spot in the doors and got back in the water again, and really soaked it up. dry rot is a terrible thing. It's a took a lot of hours.

Matt Waters:

If I'm, if I'm successful with the hope spot for cape Nelson, you'll have to come and open up. I'll be your guide.

Sylvia Earle:

Let's let's do it, I would be so happy to work with you on that.

Matt Waters:

I would be amazing. It's a beautiful, beautiful location

Sylvia Earle:

is and we should do everything we can to keep it that way. Some hope spots start out in great shape. And our job is to not let them degrade. Many of them. Like right here in San Francisco Bay. It's a hope spot. But it is not exactly pristine. There are places in it that are remarkably in Good, good condition, despite all the changes, but overall, we know that we can take actions right now that will go from where we are to a better place. That's what the hub spots are about. create this empowerment of people to do what they can to make the world to make the ocean better. Every day, we can do things, it's not hopeless, by any means,

Matt Waters:

It is a location that's just not being hit by commercial fishing, etc, etc, just yet. But I think it's it's one of those locations in the world that is, and can easily be a target. So to be able to protect, it would be fantastic. prevent it before it starts,

Sylvia Earle:

I heartily encourage you to do it, and anyone who's listening, if there's a place that you know, when love from what to help, or look at those that already exist, I love the idea. And we are working with Paddy, that we're working with other organizations as well. But to get divers to use their mighty powers of observation, and photography, their sense of, of adventure ever of caring, and when they are diving in a hope spot, to to be a part of the action, identifying and control the website and find out who the champions are locally. And, be in, get involved, do what you can to be a part of the action. And if place, you know and love, like what you're describing in Raja Ampat, you know, take the initiative, you know, you can become a champion, you can find a champion that you can work with in the area. And it's really exciting, we are making progress. Going back to when I began diving, as I said, there were no areas of the ocean that were protected. The Great Barrier Reef in 1975, the Park Authority was really a pioneer in that endeavor. And they still have a way to go to be embrace all of the park that they call a park with enhanced protection. Right now, most of it is really still open for various kinds of exploitation. But those areas that are really highly protected today 3% doesn't sound like much, but it's so much more than even going back to 1990 when there was a fraction of 1%. So we're beginning to scale up, maybe we'll get to that tipping point where it accelerates. That's what we're aiming for to get 30% by 2030. Half of the ocean, at least by 2050. Yep. Why? It's our life support system. We're really protecting ourselves by protecting the ocean. What could be more exciting than that, and knowing that it works, when you embrace a place with care and take the pressure off. It's amazing how fish tend to come back. Or you can go too far, we have lost many species on my watch, we've, we've taken pieces of the thread of the fabric of life, just pull them out, they're gone. Yeah, we can't put them back. But we certainly don't have to let it get any worse. We have the power to protect, we certainly know how to destroy, but we also have this superpower of understanding and, and taking action strategically, in ways that really count. That's what that's what keeps me excited every day. talking with you, thank you for the chance to share stories and and listen to you.

Matt Waters:

Sylvia it's fantastic. It really is and I feel truly honored to be speaking to you about what we both love. And then having the opportunity to read my first book in seven, eight years. what's the future for us? What's your thoughts on our future? You know, we've just touched on the power but the reality Are we on that cusp of improvement?

Sylvia Earle:

We have a choice. We know what to do. The evidence is all around us that our life support system is in decline. We know why? There are a lot of other creatures on earth and freely smart. I keep thinking about dolphins and whales and elephants And I've met some pretty smart fish my time. But they cannot know what we know what you know what 10 year olds have today know, that no humans could know, at the time that I was a child, the children of today are really cause for hope. Because they have grown up in a time when knowledge is been more accessible than any time in all history. And there's more knowledge there meaningful knowledge, knowledge that we know how to provide food for ourselves, without killing the ocean, we got the evidence, we know what to do, we know how to feed ourselves. With a lighter touch on the land, we can restore much of, of the of the surface of the planet, land and sea together, and more effectively use parts that have already been converted without carving up new, wild, productive areas, we should not take another inch of Intact Forest, we really should not, we should say thank you, for us for keeping me alive. And it's, it's true with deserts too, we need healthy desert systems because their answers they are about how life can go on with other very dry circumstances. And certainly in Australia, so much of Australia is naturally dry. But there's life there. They've got strategies for survival, that we could learn a great deal from, how do they do that, instead of plowing went up and trying to irrigate it, and turn it into something that we think of is better. Maybe we are losing some of the best secrets to life by destroying these, these special, wild, natural areas. And the same is true in the ocean. We look at a muddy place or a sandy area. And we think there's nothing there until you really look and realize that they're just so full of life in the ocean itself, that places that you can just embrace with your arms are filled with creatures. And they're going about the business of, of eating and being eaten with the flow of nutrients, the chemistry of life, the miracle of life. And we we can be a part of, of all of that with an insight and awareness that no other creature has the capacity to do that. Dolphins must be aware of the diversity of phytoplankton, they're probably curious about jellyfish in the tiny little creatures that they can see as they're swimming through the ocean. But they don't have the body of knowledge that we have about the chemistry of life, how it all ties together, they may have a general sense of it in a way that we're just beginning to grasp. But when you think about what we have the special capacity to understand and take action, that that can result in a place in the universe that is an enduring home a long term place for us, or we can continue doing what we're doing now. It just consumed the natural world. And then it's gone. And so we're we think about maybe 5% of the old growth forest remain in North America. We've managed to level the amazing old trees. These systems have taken all preceding history to come together. And we have just torn them apart. Thinking that we're improving an old Marsh that's been around for 20,000 years. And we think we're improving it by tearing it up and putting a parking lot right there. Or hotel right on the waterfront. There used to be so but about a third of San Francisco Bay has been filled and there were skyscrapers on what used to be The Bay and the 1800s much of that dredging and filling took place to convert ocean to land. It's happening all over the world. We call it reclamation. We call it development. These are false words. Yeah. It's not development, the end of the scale is not. And we're not reclaiming anything. We're claiming it. But we're not reclaiming it. was ours in the first place. Anyway, we have to give back. Well, it's time to take what we know the knowledge and to aggressively if you have questions, don't just be content with ignorance. Ask you know there a lot of things we still don't know, I think the biggest discovery of all time is the magnitude of our ignorance and, and respect for what we don't know. If you can just get that through our collective minds. It might cause us to be less aggressive about converting what remains of the natural wild places to short term use that we think of is an improvement. Because basically, it's not deep sea mining. Right now, we're taking these ancient systems taking literally hundreds of millions of years, in the deep sea, places never disturbed by human activity before. Even the deep sea fishing hasn't gotten to 4000 meters down. But there are now billions of dollars invested in mining the deep sea with these amazing machines. It is amazing. you admire the engineering, but you also are horrified at the thought we would deliberately go tear up intact wild places that are part of the carbon cycle, part of the network of existing life that we would deliberately unravel for short term gain. It really makes no sense at all. I have a question for you. Have you been diving in Sydney Harbour?

Matt Waters:

I have. I love it. It's cold. It's not there's not tropical water. But yeah, I do love it. We were down. Yesterday, yesterday went down to Shelly Beach. We didn't dive. But it was just looking absolutely beautiful. And we're so lucky here. It's It's a beautiful, beautiful underwater world here.

Sylvia Earle:

Have you heard the big cuttlefish?

Matt Waters:

Oh, yeah.

Sylvia Earle:

Aren't they the best?

Matt Waters:

The center center show at the moment. We've got a Facebook group has over 4000 divers in it nowadays just for Sydney. We have like visibility reports is called Sydney Viz or Viz and constantly the cuttelfish open little videos and photos and all the other underwater species we have. In fact you've dived over here, aye?

Sylvia Earle:

Oh, yes. Yes.

Matt Waters:

And you saw our PJ's, our little port Jackson's?

Sylvia Earle:

Yes, absolutely.

Matt Waters:

Plenty of those played around at the moment.

Sylvia Earle:

It's what I think about how so many people have are depriving themselves of the joy of getting to know the part of the planet that makes our existence possible that they don't, don't just dive in, and how many people in Sydney have not done what you've done? There is that concern that keeps some people out of the water and it really baffles me why that is. There's sharks out there. And don't eat me. I used to the early days. Be a little bit concerned. When I saw sharks underwater, because of the this idea of they're out to get me and now I'm concerned when I don't see sharks And that's most of the time, because it's a sign that the ocean is in trouble when you don't see sharks. And the more people have actually gone into the ocean, the more it's obvious that sharks are not out to get us. Every once in a while, maybe a shark will, out of curiosity perhaps, or maybe sometimes hunger because we've taken all their food for our tables, and left nothing much the rest of the creatures out there. But, you know, we take so many bites out of them, millions of sharks that are consumed, either as Super steaks, or just their fins. It's just crazy, that we have an appetite for sharks. It just doesn't make any sense. That why we should do this? Yeah, what are the kill them for sport? Would it kill them, because you think you're doing something good for the world, that's really perverse, we really must change that.

Matt Waters:

And it's people all over the world, everyone who has an opinion and the right opinion on how we need to protect sharks. And it's a combination of all those people coming together that's actually going to make their voice heard. And we compare the media nowadays to what it was in the 80s, following Spielberg, and jaws, etc, etc. I think they're all bait, they still do, say shark attacks rather than shark bites, which is more correct. We are we are seeing this, this lean towards an improved view of sharks. And not only come from all of those individuals that have got a collective voice.

Sylvia Earle:

And you have some real champions Ron and Valerie Taylor, based in Sydney for so many years, but they started out thinking as a device that you had to fear sharks. And they became very, very strong voices for protecting them, because they could see what divers can see for themselves. They're not a threat. And in fact, they're beautiful. And they're really important to the integrity, the health of the ocean, which is important to our health. And I also love the fact that it was Valerie Taylor, who was successful in getting a part of the Great Barrier Reef protected to really protect fish, the potato cod in the cod hole that people used to go and revel in the experience of being around these giant fish bigger than you, man. I mean, a lot heftier than you. And they were curious, they're like puppies gathering around the divers, I had the joy of diving there. Oh, goodness, I guess in the in the 1980s. But it was not protected. And at first and I mean, Valerie was heartbroken when she went back to visit this special place and and somebody had come there and just fish them out just killed them. They're easy to kill. Because they just like big puppies. They sit there its like spearing a sofa, to spear, a big grouper. They're, they're innocent, they're curious, they're not out anyway. So she was infuriated and motivated and successful.

Matt Waters:

I want too get on the show at some point, because there's a good mate of mine, Don silcock. I had him on the show last week and we were talking about bits and pieces and he just, you know, yeah, I was I was diving down at Clifton gardens the other day and popped up and had a good quick chat with Valerie Taylor .....What why won't you texted me So I could come down and say hello!? Hahaha.

Unknown:

She is a global treasure. And what she has witnessed working with Stan Waterman working with Peter Benchley, working with people who have had such influence over the fate of sharks over the years good and bad. Eventually had no idea pure eventually who wrote Jaws had no idea what of what he was setting loose on the world. Just unintentional, he spent most of the rest of his life trying to give back.

Matt Waters:

But yeah, you know, these things happen. I've got I'm Andrew Fox is coming on at some point. Rodney Fox's son. Yes, he's a massive advocate for the bigger sharks.

Sylvia Earle:

He could be really angry at the sharks But no, he realizes that it's their ocean. Really? It's ours too. But no, he's one of the greatest champions for sharks, despite the fact that he almost died from being sampled by one.

Matt Waters:

Yeah. At the other end of the scale, I've got a couple of friends. I'll tell you a quick story. Yes. back, I was probably about 910 years ago now. sat at a bar on a beach on the island of Koh Tao in Thailand, not me. But two of my friends, Dan and Laura. And they were chatting over a beer on how to protect sharks. And they came up with the idea. looking out over the beach, there's a smaller Island just off the coast, called Nanyang. So they decided it would be a good idea to swim around the island in the name of sharks. So I Think or Swim for sharks was was born over a beer with these two chatting about it at the bar. And Nanyang is 3.4 kilometers around. So they had a race. The next year, they had another race. And it continued. And it's continued to grow. And, you know, a bit unfortunate with the pandemic hitting, but it's not stopped them from doing this when the sharks around you. And since then, in the last year or two, because people can't travel there today, they've started popping up doing their own little swim for sharks around the world. Now, today, about nine hours after we finish this chat, Dan and Laura and a few other people are going to be swimming. Crazy as they are, they're going to be swimming in a lake in the UK. And it's going to be the first swim for sharks ever done. In the UK.

Sylvia Earle:

I love that. People were afraid, afraid to go in their bathtub for a while after Charles came out. Swimming in a lake is a great idea.

Matt Waters:

So how about if you don't mind, Silvia, could you give them some words of inspiration that they can mull over while freezing themselves off kilometers in a lake in the UK?

Unknown:

Well, they certainly have my strong support, and I salute them for standing up, not standing up for diving down getting in there. I personally think they're a little bit crazy. Whatever it takes, I think all of us should figure out what can I do hover, wild and crazy. It might seem to others. If it works for you, then go for it. And sometimes it will attract attention and make a difference in a way that if you were just like writing a book might not have the same impact. But we do our artistic thing and whatever whatever ways really motivate you go for it.

Matt Waters:

What's what you've got an abundance of motivation, but we've got the book that's coming out in November what's what's next what's what's coming next for Sylvia

Sylvia Earle:

onward and downward (HAHAHAHA) working on little submarines, to to initially have access to 1000 meters to the edge of light, where the Twilight Zone and to really engage as many people as we can possibly encourage to go see for themselves. There should be fleets of these little 1,2,3 passengers some small enough to be transported. But safe. Technology has been been really developed, tried and true. Overall since the 1960s using acrylic spheres as the transparent pressure halls to enable people to safely make these excursions down to Yes, deep when you're holding your breath go 2000 liters 1000 not 100 1000 liters but there's still beyond that. A few people have gone to full ocean depth I would love to be able to have glass is the material That would inspire engineers to be creative. We know that it can be done glass spheres, smallish ones, you know, 30 centimeters across can, but you need to get big ones big enough and safe enough for humans to go. So you can go with looking at a tiny porthole to the deepest parts of the ocean that's been done first time in 19/62 time in 2012, with James Cameron, or recently with Victor vescovo, has made several dissents and taken individuals down as observers to full ocean depth in the Mariana Trench. And it's tremendous that we now can say with confidence. Absolutely. This is like flying in the sky. There was a time when people thought that was a ridiculous idea until somebody did it. And now everybody's doing it, if you will. And I don't fear traffic jams underwater. We do have traffic jams on the surface that shipping traffic has become just such a important commercial endeavor. But it's also had some impact that we need to evaluate and rethink. But under the surface, the biggest problem is people don't know what's there. And they're casual about destroying it. Because they don't know, they think it doesn't matter. If I could take fishermen down in little submarines to look what happens when you trawl the ocean floor. before and after. Here's what a natural, healthy sea surface on the bottom of the ocean looks like. Here's what happens when you bulldoze it. Here's the destruction you cause and it doesn't go away. There's troll marks. So they're, like, permanently. Yeah. And that's even more. So the deeper you go into the place where mining is now proposed, because the processes there move truly at a geological pace. But we're proposing on a mega scale, to carve up these last wild places in the deep sea. And we're putting ourselves at risk. I don't mean individuals who are out there doing it, although that's part of it. They're not going down. They're sending robots, we're sending heavy machinery. But we do need to go and observe it and witness it and expose it and stop it. We just can't afford it. We can't afford to lose more of the wild places that are needed to hold the planet steady, recover some of what has been lost.

Matt Waters:

And that's a that's a good point there. It does have the opportunity to recover if we give it space and time to do so.

Sylvia Earle:

Some places recover more readily than others. But in the deep sea, the processes move at a much slower pace. We fish live longer. I mean, some fish, even a coral reef live to be 40 or 50 years old. But the think about orange roughy when they first began to be extracted when they were discovered in large quantities around seamounts. Nobody asked how old they were, or what they were doing in these gatherings while they're apparently breeding aggregations. And they've been stripped away. And it turns out that it takes 25 years or so. For them to mature. They don't spawn every year. They can live to be more than a century old. Greenland shark is thought to live to be at least four centuries old. And they're being commercially extracted from the North Sea. I don't know why there's a market for them.

Matt Waters:

And they don't mature sexual maturity for Greenland sharks, like 150 years old.

Sylvia Earle:

Something like that. You know, it's just whatever it is. It got to be if you think in terms of value worth dollars and cents, it got to be worth more to us alive than dead. If so much we'd like to know about them. How do they live? What do they do what what about Their nature enables them to live so long. Might there be secrets we could unravel? about, about their chemistry about their their life story that would help increase our longevity? And I don't know, they're just questions. We may never have a chance to ask if we lose them.

Matt Waters:

Yeah, yeah. And that's the thing, we've got to stop, you know, losing species. I mean, you've mentioned tuna a few times now. And it's probably the most commonly known fish in the sea, and on the supermarket shelf, but when you put it into perspective, and look at like the bluefin tuna and and its own sexual maturity and trying to reproduce with, we're pulling them out of the water quicker than they were, then then they're breeding.

Sylvia Earle:

It takes a lot of tuna to have even a few tuna, you know that. But they, it looks like the world should be wall to wall with tuna, because they, when they spawn have so many opportunities for these little tiny fish to be creatures to populate the ocean, but they're also they are part of the food chain. They're part of the nutrient cycle part of the ocean chemistry that most of the eggs produced never make it through the gauntlet of the carbon cycle inaction, the nutrient cycle inaction that you get to a point where they're so futuna that that reproduction is diminished, that the number of eggs that even get fertilized is not the same as when you've got masses of simultaneously spawning adults. It's true with Cod, it's true with a lot of these mass spawning species. There are others that, like sharks, that have very few young By comparison, every shark Well, every fish counts, no matter what the appearance of it, is, when you see a massive School of herring, you think oh, there's so many we could never eliminated or either with our JavaScript there and take as many as we can. But actually, we've taken so many of the small fish that their numbers are declining as well. That means the food chain, think of all the creatures that require little fish, for for their sauces, they cannot get to phytoplankton. I think you asked me the question in in preparation for this conversation, what is your favorite undersea creature?

Matt Waters:

How do you say it because I can't even say I can see the word but I can't say it...

Sylvia Earle:

you can say it slowly. It's pro chloro caucus. You can say it pro playgro caucus. That's it prochlorococcus it's easy, once you let it roll off your tongue a few times, put it in a in a, you know, a poem or a song. And produce, you got it locked in your brain. It'll stay there. These are the organisms that were discovered for the first time in 1986. Really, and are now known to generate maybe 20% of the oxygen in the atmosphere. So what else don't we know that's out there down there, making the earth habitable for us? Because they're so small. Apparently the smallest photosynthesizing creature on the planet that we know about so far Anyway, what else is out there? It's it's kind of bacterium, blue green. Used to be classified that category of life is, is algae, but we now know the bacteria. But there's so abundant, so widespread a number of variations on the theme of prochlorococcus but collectively, from polar oceans to the tropics, they are doing the heavy lifting along with diatoms. With cooker litho forwards, I could have put that one in there too because the heavy lifting in terms of capturing carbon and and for Writing food for large numbers of creatures in the sea. But prochlorococcus? I think, because, first of all, it's a relatively new discovery of great importance. It's like a wake up call. Yeah, what else? Are we destroying changing out there? Just because we haven't known how to look for it until now. We should use the precautionary principle. If you don't know. Why would you presume that that a higher better use of let's say, a rain forest is to turn it into a sugarcane field, then there is that its original composition of this, these diverse systems, they think of how much forested land all over the world has, has been destroyed in my lifetime. I mean, directly deliberately, because we did not value we did not understand the value. It's a difference in terms of cost. And, and a true value. I value my life. It's hard to put dollar sign on it. Yeah, we should value the life of all of humankind going forward and all the rest of life on Earth, it's currently at risk because of us, and mostly of us not understanding the consequences of our actions. That's, I can look back and say you didn't know you didn't understand. really terrible what you did. But you didn't know. So. Okay. But now we know. Now, there's no excuse. Yeah, let's do something about it. Why would we eliminate even one more old growth tree? Let alone one old growth forest, or an old growth coral reef, or an old growth Deep Sea, manganese nodule field, which is older than all the others put together? Yeah. Yeah.

Matt Waters:

Silvia, it's been an absolute pleasure talking to you. And I sincerely thank you for coming on the show. And I also thank you for everything you've done.

Sylvia Earle:

So much more to do. I need everybody to pitch in, you know, oh, yeah. And the great thing is we all can we, that's, your people think that it's hopeless. I'm just one person. Just one person times 8 billion makes all the difference in the world. Just imagine if I started doing one thing. And somebody else starts doing one thing in a positive way. And we're all doing things in the other direction right now that are dragging us down. All it takes is commitment. Like those champions for the hope spot saying, I'm going to step up and do something right here. And I've got to bring you all along with me. Oh, very soon you got this wave. I think we're perilously close. Yeah, a lot of doom and gloom, rightfully so about the tipping points for disaster, whether it's an pandemics that the court we're going through right now could be the first likely to be the first of many, because we've so set ourselves up to be susceptible to pandemics. And look at climate change. We're so close to the edge of going past the point where no matter what we do, we're going to continue to see an increasingly overheated planet. And with with that, we go into infinity over the edge. But there's also the other tipping point where the this awareness is certainly growing. The other tipping point about embracing the land the sea with real care, hope spots, mission blue is one approach. Others National Geographic has a project called pristine seas, identifying some of these last wild places and doing whatever is possible to encourage full protection. The United Nations saying 30% by 2030 So there's this wave. If we could just tip in the right direction instead of the wrong direction. We're on a roll right now let's go for it. Let's protect the diversity of life. Let's get the divers speaking with a sense of purpose of doing their part. We come from such diverse backgrounds, we who serve we who dive we could go to the sea and ships where you would love nature, whatever, who the which, which community you wish to be a part of, or part of all of them. said, Yeah, do what you can. And let's let's go tipping.

Matt Waters:

Yeah. And it's, it's communication. Communication is key. If we have communication, we can tip in the right direction. She don't know you can't care. Sylvia, I think, I think I should let you get on with your day now. And, again, I applaud you for everything you've done and continue to do. And I appreciate you taking your time to come on the show.

Sylvia Earle:

I salute you for what you're doing. It's, all in this together. Yay!

Matt Waters:

Thank you very much Silvia. And thank you all for listening. Goodbye, everybody.

Introduction
Sylvia's introduction to scuba
Marine biologist turned decompression nurse
It was that creative scientist teacher, Harold Humm
Safety has come a long way since J-valves
The zen of saturation diving
JIM & Submarines
Life on earth lives in the dark
Living in the "sweet spot in time"
Hope spots...140 and counting
Scuba GOAT advert
Sylvia, what's the process for me to create a new Mission Blue Hope Spot?
Cabo Pulmo - An example of realisation
You're not keeping people safe by killing sharks
A trillion dollars of blue carbon
It's not just about fins...this is a climate issue
National Geographic Ocean - A global odyssey
Scuba GOAT advert
Cape Nelson, we HOPE to go diving!
What divers can do to help
What does our future look like?
Champions, known and unknown, it all counts...
What is next for Sylvia?
Sylvia's favourite animal - I can't even say it!
1 person times 8 billion makes all the difference
Lets go tipping!