Placeholder Image

Subtitles section Play video

  • Fifty years ago, when I began exploring the ocean,

  • no one -- not Jacques Perrin, not Jacques Cousteau or Rachel Carson --

  • imagined that we could do anything to harm the ocean

  • by what we put into it or by what we took out of it.

  • It seemed, at that time, to be a sea of Eden,

  • but now we know, and now we are facing paradise lost.

  • I want to share with you

  • my personal view of changes in the sea that affect all of us

  • and to consider why it matters that in 50 years we've lost --

  • actually, we've taken, we've eaten --

  • more than 90 percent of the big fish in the sea,

  • why you should care that nearly half of the coral reefs have disappeared,

  • why a mysterious depletion of oxygen in large areas of the Pacific

  • should concern not only the creatures that are dying

  • but it really should concern you.

  • It does concern you, as well.

  • I'm haunted by the thought of what Ray Anderson calls "tomorrow's child,"

  • asking why we didn't do something on our watch

  • to save sharks and bluefin tuna and squids and coral reefs and the living ocean

  • while there still was time.

  • Well, now is that time.

  • I hope for your help

  • to explore and protect the wild ocean

  • in ways that will restore the health and,

  • in so doing, secure hope for humankind.

  • Health to the ocean means health for us.

  • And I hope Jill Tarter's wish to engage Earthlings includes dolphins and whales

  • and other sea creatures

  • in this quest to find intelligent life elsewhere in the universe.

  • And I hope, Jill, that someday

  • we will find evidence that there is intelligent life among humans on this planet.

  • (Laughter)

  • Did I say that? I guess I did.

  • For me, as a scientist,

  • it all began in 1953

  • when I first tried scuba.

  • It's when I first got to know fish swimming

  • in something other than lemon slices and butter.

  • I actually love diving at night.

  • You see a lot of fish then that you don't see in the daytime.

  • Diving day and night was really easy for me in 1970

  • when I led a team of aquanauts living underwater for weeks at a time

  • at the same time that astronauts were putting their footprints on the moon.

  • In 1979 I had a chance to put my footprints on the ocean floor

  • while using this personal submersible called Jim.

  • It was six miles off shore and 1,250 feet down.

  • It's one of my favorite bathing suits.

  • Since then, I've used about 30 kinds of submarines

  • and I've started three companies and a nonprofit foundation called Deep Search

  • to design and build systems

  • to access the deep sea.

  • I led a five-year National Geographic expedition,

  • the Sustainable Seas expeditions,

  • using these little subs.

  • They're so simple to drive that even a scientist can do it.

  • And I'm living proof.

  • Astronauts and aquanauts alike

  • really appreciate the importance of air, food, water, temperature,

  • all the things you need to stay alive in space or under the sea.

  • I heard astronaut Joe Allen explain

  • how he had to learn everything he could about his life support system

  • and then do everything he could

  • to take care of his life support system.

  • And then he pointed to this and he said: "Life support system."

  • We need to learn everything we can about it

  • and do everything we can to take care of it.

  • The poet Auden said, "Thousands have lived without love.

  • None without water."

  • Ninety-seven percent of Earth's water is ocean.

  • No blue, no green.

  • If you think the ocean isn't important,

  • imagine Earth without it.

  • Mars comes to mind.

  • No ocean. No life support system.

  • I gave a talk not so long ago at the World Bank

  • and I showed this amazing image of Earth

  • and I said, "There it is! The World Bank!"

  • That's where all the assets are!

  • And we've been trawling them down

  • much faster than the natural systems can replenish them.

  • Tim Worth says the economy is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the environment.

  • With every drop of water you drink,

  • every breath you take,

  • you're connected to the sea.

  • No matter where on Earth you live.

  • Most of the oxygen in the atmosphere is generated by the sea.

  • Over time, most of the planet's organic carbon

  • has been absorbed and stored there,

  • mostly by microbes.

  • The ocean drives climate and weather,

  • stabilizes temperature, shapes Earth's chemistry.

  • Water from the sea forms clouds

  • that return to the land and the seas

  • as rain, sleet and snow,

  • and provides home for about 97 percent of life in the world,

  • maybe in the universe.

  • No water, no life.

  • No blue, no green.

  • Yet we have this idea, we humans,

  • that the Earth -- all of it: the oceans, the skies --

  • are so vast and so resilient

  • it doesn't matter what we do to it.

  • That may have been true 10,000 years ago,

  • and maybe even 1,000 years ago

  • but in the last 100, especially in the last 50,

  • we've drawn down the assets,

  • the air, the water, the wildlife

  • that make our lives possible.

  • New technologies are helping us to understand

  • the nature of nature,

  • the nature of what's happening.

  • Showing us our impact on the Earth.

  • I mean, first you have to know that you've got a problem.

  • And, fortunately, in our time,

  • we've learned more about the problems than in all preceding history.

  • And with knowing comes caring.

  • And with caring, there's hope

  • that we can find an enduring place for ourselves

  • within the natural systems that support us.

  • But first we have to know.

  • Three years ago, I met John Hanke,

  • who's the head of Google Earth,

  • and I told him how much I loved being able to hold the world in my hands

  • and go exploring vicariously.

  • But I asked him: "When are you going to finish it?

  • You did a great job with the land, the dirt.

  • What about the water?"

  • Since then, I've had the great pleasure of working with the Googlers,

  • with DOER Marine, with National Geographic,

  • with dozens of the best institutions and scientists around the world,

  • ones that we could enlist,

  • to put the ocean in Google Earth.

  • And as of just this week, last Monday,

  • Google Earth is now whole.

  • Consider this: Starting right here at the convention center,

  • we can find the nearby aquarium,

  • we can look at where we're sitting,

  • and then we can cruise up the coast to the big aquarium, the ocean,

  • and California's four national marine sanctuaries

  • and the new network of state marine reserves

  • that are beginning to protect and restore some of the assets

  • We can flit over to Hawaii

  • and see the real Hawaiian islands ...

  • Not just the little bit that pokes through the surface,

  • but also what's below.

  • To see -- wait a minute, we can go kshhplash! --

  • right there, ha --

  • under the ocean, see what the whales see.

  • We can go explore the other side of the Hawaiian islands.

  • We can go actually and swim around on Google Earth

  • and visit with humpback whales.

  • These are gentle giants that I've had the pleasure of meeting face to face

  • many times underwater.

  • There's nothing quite like being personally inspected by a whale.

  • We can pick up and fly to the deepest place:

  • seven miles down, the Mariana Trench,

  • where only two people have ever been.

  • Imagine that. It's only seven miles,

  • but only two people have been there, 49 years ago.

  • One-way trips are easy.

  • We need new deep-diving submarines.

  • How about some X Prizes for ocean exploration?

  • We need to see deep trenches, the undersea mountains,

  • and understand life in the deep sea.

  • We can now go to the Arctic.

  • Just ten years ago I stood on the ice at the North Pole.

  • An ice-free Arctic Ocean may happen in this century.

  • That's bad news for the polar bears.

  • That's bad news for us too.

  • Excess carbon dioxide is not only driving global warming,

  • it's also changing ocean chemistry,

  • making the sea more acidic.

  • That's bad news for coral reefs and oxygen-producing plankton.

  • Also bad news for us.

  • We're putting hundreds of millions of tons of plastic

  • and other trash into the sea.

  • Millions of tons of discarded fishing nets,

  • gear that continues to kill.

  • We're clogging the ocean, poisoning the planet's circulatory system,

  • and we're taking out hundreds of millions of tons of wildlife,

  • all carbon-based units.

  • Barbarically, we're killing sharks for shark fin soup,

  • undermining food chains that shape planetary chemistry

  • and drive the carbon cycle, the nitrogen cycle,

  • the oxygen cycle, the water cycle,

  • our life support system.

  • We're still killing bluefin tuna, truly endangered,

  • And much more valuable alive than dead.

  • All of these parts are part of our life support system.

  • We kill using long lines, with baited hooks every few feet

  • that may stretch for 50 miles or more.

  • Industrial trawlers and draggers are scraping the sea floor

  • like bulldozers, taking everything in their path.

  • Using Google Earth you can witness trawlers,

  • in China, the North Sea, the Gulf of Mexico,

  • shaking the foundation of our life support system,

  • leaving plumes of death in their path.

  • The next time you dine on sushi, or sashimi,

  • or swordfish steak, or shrimp cocktail,

  • whatever wildlife you happen to enjoy from the ocean,

  • think of the real cost.

  • For every pound that goes to market,

  • more than 10 pounds, even 100 pounds,

  • may be thrown away as bycatch.

  • This is the consequence of not knowing

  • there are limits to what we can take out of the sea.

  • This chart shows the decline in ocean wildlife

  • from 1900 to 2000.

  • The highest concentrations are in red.

  • In my lifetime, imagine,

  • 90 percent of the big fish have been killed.

  • Most of the turtles, sharks, tunas and whales

  • are way down in numbers.

  • But, there is good news.

  • 10 percent of the big fish still remain.

  • There are still some blue whales.

  • There are still some krill in Antarctica.

  • There are a few oysters in Chesapeake Bay.

  • Half the coral reefs are still in pretty good shape,

  • a jeweled belt around the middle of the planet.

  • There's still time, but not a lot,

  • to turn things around.

  • But business as usual means that in 50 years,

  • there may be no coral reefs,

  • and no commercial fishing, because the fish will simply be gone.

  • Imagine the ocean without fish.

  • Imagine what that means to our life support system.

  • Natural systems on the land are in big trouble too,

  • but the problems are more obvious,

  • and some actions are being taken to protect trees, watersheds and wildlife.

  • And in 1872, with Yellowstone National Park,

  • the United States began establishing a system of parks

  • that some say was the best idea America ever had.

  • About 12 percent of the land around the world is now protected,

  • safeguarding biodiversity, providing a carbon sink,

  • generating oxygen, protecting watersheds.

  • And, in 1972, this nation began to establish a counterpart in the sea,

  • National Marine Sanctuaries.

  • That's another great idea.

  • The good news is

  • that there are now more than 4,000 places in the sea, around the world,

  • that have some kind of protection.

  • And you can find them on Google Earth.

  • The bad news is

  • that you have to look hard to find them.

  • In the last three years, for example,

  • the U.S. protected 340,000 square miles of ocean as national monuments.

  • But it only increased from 0.6 of one percent

  • to 0.8 of one percent of the ocean protected, globally.

  • Protected areas do rebound,

  • but it takes a long time to restore

  • 50-year-old rockfish or monkfish, sharks or seabass,

  • or 200-year-old orange roughy.

  • We don't consume 200-year-old cows or chickens.