The Ocean's Future Could All Hinge on One Woman
Tosten Burks - TakePart
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January 28, 2016

Mission Blue tells the story of world-renowned oceanographer Sylvia Earle as she travels the globe on an urgent mission to shed light on the dire condition of Earth's oceans. (Netflix)

Though the Paris agreement produced in December 2015 at the United Nations Climate Change Conference is generally considered to be more ambitious than cynics expected, one subject’s absence from the agenda particularly raised Sylvia Earle’s eyebrows: ocean conservation. “It’s baffling,” Earle told The Huffington Post. “At the conference, the headline was, ‘What is the future we want?’ That’s still the question.”

Earle, affectionately nicknamed “Her Deepness,” has been asking the question for as long as anyone. The 80-year-old marine biologist started studying marine science in the 1950s and earned her Ph.D. in phycology (the study of algae) from Duke University in 1966. Over the next two decades, she logged thousands of underwater research hours, led the first all-female team of research divers, set diving depth records, and founded Deep Ocean Engineering, which pioneered the future of underwater research submarines. In 1990 she became the first female chief scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“The sea coast everywhere has changed,” Earle told the Academy of Achievement in 1991 after taking the job. “What do we do? How do we make it right? One of the things that increasingly has become clear is that we are losing the standards, losing the models, losing the basis for good health of the planet.” The concerns Earle expressed then about pesticide use and the growing hole in the ozone layer over the Antarctic weren’t new, but they were under-researched, partly owing to technological limitations. “It is fundamentally essential that we have access throughout full ocean depth from the surface to the sea floor,” she said at the time.

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