Sunday, March 8, 2009

Of Water and Oceans

The theme of water flowed through TED this year. Of course, the star was Sylvia Earle, an oceaonographer, explorer, author, lecturer, and passionate champion of the planet's oceans and winner of one of this year's TED Prizes.

Her powerful acceptance speech is already up on (click here). We've explored only 5% of the ocean - we know more about outer space than our own ocean deep. Yet, we've managed to ravage the ocean. She told us that over the last 50 years we've eaten over 90% of the big fish and destroyed over half of the coral reefs. In a friendly dig at fellow TED Prize winner Jill Tarter, director of the SETI project looking for intelligent life outside Earth, Earle wishes for the discovery of intelligent life among humans on this planet. Continuing the reference to space, she remarked that an astronaut does everything in his power to maintain and protect his life support system, yet we do nothing to protect our life support system, the oceans.

Her wish was to save the oceans before it is too late:

"I wish you would use all means at your disposal - films! expeditions! the web! more! - to ignite public support for a global netowork of marine protected areas, hope spots large enough to savce and restore the ocean, the blue heart of the planet."

This seems a worthy goal, as 12% of land on the planet is protected (what an amazing proportion!), but only 1% of the oceans.

We just received a wonderful book by Earle, Ocean, An Illustrated Atlas, in the TED Book Club. My granddaughter Jamie was enthralled with it, as I think you will be too.

You should also definitely take in the stunning movie Oceans when it is released in North America in the spring of 2010. We were treated to a preview of some of the 300 hours of this film. Conceived by Jacques Perrin, the $75 million film was 8 years in the making, four years in filming in 78 locations. Because Perrin's English is weak, Jake Eberts, the Canadian producer of the film (and producer of other films such as Chariots of Fire, Gandhi, The Name of the Rose, Driving Miss Daisy, Dances with Wolves) talked about the film - and what poetic proof of the majesty of the oceans Earle has urged us to save. New equipment was developed to move through the water alongside the marine animals - it gives a perspective never seen before in marine movies.

At a luncheon hosted by WWF, Dr. Jason Clay told us it's often hard to grasp intuitively the impact on the earth's water resources of anything we consume. He enumerated the amount of water used in a cup of latte:

0.1 litre for the water itself
2.5 litres to make the plastic lid
5.5 litres to make the paper cup and sleeve
7.5 litres to grow the sugar
49.5 litres to feed the cows that make the milk
143 litres to grow the coffee

He wasn't urging people to forsake their beloved lattes, since water - in the form of tropical rainstorms in coffee growing regions - isn’t in short supply. In comparison, rice farming uses 58 percent of “all water on the planet used by people for any purpose—farming, manufacturing, cooling nuclear power plants, swimming pools, showers.”

Charles Moore, at TED U, spoke about ocean pollution and showed some depressing images of plastic found on beaches and in the bellies of fish. Moore founded the Algalita Marine Research Foundation to do marine research, education and restoration. One of the papers he has published showed that plastic outweighs plankton by a factor 2.5 in the coastal waters off Southern California.


L.A.M. said...

Another great ocean movie is the recently released IMAX film "Under the Sea" film where people involuntarily reach out to touch magnificent never-before-seen underwater creatures as seen through 3D glasses.

Connects emotionally where rationale might fail.

Lib Gibson said...

Thanks for the reference - I'm sure other readers will appreciate as well.