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Struik Nature

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

“The Oceans are Dying” – An Interview with Sylvia Earle about Saving and Protecting the Seas

South African CoastsSylvia Earle, marine biologist and advocate for healthy oceans, was recently interviewed by Ian Frazier for Outside.

Earle, who is the author of South African Coasts: A Celebration of Our Seas and Shores and a number of other successful books, believes that the oceans are in serious trouble. She spoke about the various abuses of the earth that have left much of the oceans’ former beauty “dead and rotting” and which continue to wreak chaos and destruction on marine environments.

In an attempt to make a difference to the health of the planet, Earle has established Hope Spots – “protected places in the ocean where dumping, mining, drilling, fishing, and all other forms of exploitation are prohibited” – all over the world.

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Almost the first thing Sylvia Earle said to me was, “The oceans are dying.”

We were at a small dinner in Manhattan last fall, celebrating the New York premiere of a documentary about her called Mission Blue. As the world’s best-known oceanographer—Sylvia is to our era what Jacques Cousteau was to an earlier one—she feels a heavy responsibility. In her lifetime, she has seen the ocean damaged in ways humans never thought it could be. The ongoing disaster leaves her mournful, desolate, and sometimes scary to talk to. Since her first dive, in a sponge-diver’s helmet in a Florida river when she was 16, she has spent 7,000 hours, or the better part of a year, underwater. In the depths, swordfish and bioluminescent fish and humpback whales in midsong have swum by her, done a double take, and stopped to check her out. From her life’s experience, she has become no longer really terrestrial. She is like a super-apex sea creature that has somehow wound up on dry land and is walking around and telling everybody about the terminal ruin humans are inflicting on her home.

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