Look at the bark of a redwood, and you see moss. If you peer beneath the bits and pieces of the moss, you'll see toads, small insects, a whole host of life that prospers in that miniature environment. A lumberman will look at a forest and see so many board feet of lumber. I see a living city.
People still do not understand that a live fish is more valuable than a dead one, and that destructive fishing techniques are taking a wrecking ball to biodiversity.
It's an appreciation for life generally, every bit of life, the smallest creature that lives in the intestines of termites that make termite life possible -- to the leaves that turn out oxygen and grab carbon dioxide and with water make simple sugars that feed much of the world. I mean, these are everyday miracles.
Earth as an ecosystem stands out in the all of the universe. There's no place that we know about that can support life as we know it, not even our sister planet, Mars, where we might set up housekeeping someday, but at great effort and trouble we have to recreate the things we take for granted here.
When I first ventured into the Gulf of Mexico in the 1950s, the sea appeared to be a blue infinity too large, too wild to be harmed by anything that people could do.
Even if you never have the chance to see or touch the ocean, the ocean touches you with every breath you take, every drop of water you drink, every bite you consume. Everyone, everywhere is inextricably connected to and utterly dependent upon the existence of the sea.
My mother was known as the 'bird lady' of the neighborhood. Anything injured, or any unusual creature somebody found, they would always come to our doorstep.
Why is it that scuba divers and surfers are some of the strongest advocates of ocean conservation? Because they've spent time in and around the ocean, and they've personally seen the beauty, the fragility, and even the degradation of our planet's blue heart.
If Darwin could see what we now see, what we now know about the ocean, about the atmosphere, about the nature of life, as we now understand it, about the importance of microbes -- I think he would just beam with joy that many of the thoughts and the glimpses of the majesty of life on Earth that he had during his life, now magnified many times over.
Just as we have the power to harm the ocean, we have the power to put in place policies and modify our own behavior in ways that would be an insurance policy for the future of the sea, for the creatures there, and for us, protecting special critical areas in the ocean.
Places change over time with or without oil spills, but humans are responsible for the Deepwater Horizon gusher -- and humans, as well as the corals, fish and other creatures, are suffering the consequences.
We have been far too aggressive about extracting ocean wildlife, not appreciating that there are limits and even points of no return.
For heaven's sake, when you see the enemy attacking, you pick up the pitchfork, and you enlist everybody you see. You don't stand around arguing about who's responsible, or who's going to pay.
We have taken the manatees out of the areas in the Caribbean and really elsewhere in the world, and this disruption to the system makes such systems vulnerable to changes as they come by, whether it's in terms of disease or terms or global warming for that matter.
'Green' issues at last are attracting serious attention, owing to critically important links between the environment and the economy, health, and our security.
Nothing has prepared sharks, squid, krill and other sea creatures for industrial-scale extraction that destroys entire ecosystems while targeting a few species.
We need to respect the oceans and take care of them as if our lives depended on it. Because they do.
Photosynthetic organisms in the sea yield most of the oxygen in the atmosphere, take up and store vast amounts of carbon dioxide, shape planetary chemistry, and hold the planet steady.
Everybody can make choices that will make peace with the natural world.
I've spent thousands of hours under water. And even in the deepest dive I have ever made, 2.5 miles (about 4 kilometers) down, I saw trash and other tangible evidence of our presence.
When some people look at a shrimp they think, "Hmm. Delicious." When I look at a shrimp I think, "You're a miracle, absolutely incredible. Your ancestors have gone back hundreds of millions of years." And to develop a thing as simple as a shrimp cocktail, you have to calculate the hundreds of millions of years that have preceded that moment where you're sitting there with your sauce and fork poised.
If Darwin could get into a submarine and see what I've seen, thousand of feet beneath the ocean, I am just confident that he would be inspired to sit down and start writing all over again.
Ten 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.
The burning of fossil fuels has altered the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere so rapidly and so abundantly that now, we are driving not just the warming trend, not just the sea level rise that is a consequence of the warming trend that is melting polar ice and alpine ice, but also ocean acidification.
Some experts look at global warming, increased world temperature, as the critical tipping point that is causing a crash in coral reef health around the world. And there's no question that it is a factor, but it's preceded by the loss of resilience and degradation.
The living ocean drives planetary chemistry, governs climate and weather, and otherwise provides the cornerstone of the life-support system for all creatures on our planet, from deep-sea starfish to desert sagebrush. That's why the ocean matters. If the sea is sick, we'll feel it. If it dies, we die. Our future and the state of the oceans are one.
That attitude of arrogance, that attitude of "It's all about me. It's all about what I can get out of life now" -- well, I'm personally driven by wanting to get out of my life the best I can achieve as a gift for those who come after me.
You should know what is taken out of the ecosystem in order to give you a moment's sustenance.
The ocean governs the climate and the weather, it is taking care of the temperature and it is shaping the chemistry of our planet.
Throughout all of human history we've enjoyed certain benign circumstances: an envelope of atmosphere, an envelope of temperature. A kind of resilience that if you cut down trees, then they'll grow back. You take fish, they recover. You put stuff into the atmosphere that you know is not good for us, but we can still breathe. We haven't awakened, generally, to the sense of urgency that does exist.
In the past few decades, Earth's natural systems have endured more pressure than in all preceding human history.
We are blessed with a place that is open to the universe and, despite this, supports this very thin envelope of air we call atmosphere, which holds just the right amount of oxygen for us to breathe.
We've got to alter our fossil fuel dependence and go to other energy sources.
I have come up at the end of a dive, and the boat was not where I left it. I had to take care of a buddy who did panic. But I was confident the boat would come back.
Throughout all of human history we have consumed the natural world. All creatures do. Birds do. Fish do. Earthworms do. We consume the natural world as a source of our survival. But no creature has ever consumed at the scale that humans have, and now there are seven billion of us. I think the good news is that a large percentage of those seven billion minds can work to make better decisions.
My parents moved to Florida when I was 12, and my backyard was the Gulf of Mexico.
I'm friends with James Cameron. We've spent time together over the years because he is a diver and explorer and in his heart of hearts a biologist. We run into each other at scientific conferences.
This is a living planet. Look around. Mars, Venus, Jupiter. Look beyond our solar system. Where else is there a place that works, that is just right for the likes of us? It has not happened just instantly. It is vulnerable to our actions. But it's the result of four and a half billion years of evolution, of change over time. And it changes every day, all the time. It would be in our interest to try to maintain a certain level of stability that has enabled us to prosper, to not wreck the very systems that give us life.
With care and protection, with safe havens in the ocean, there is still a good chance that we can turn things around.
We have the power to abstain from destructive behavior.
Only two percent of the ocean is fully protected right now.
If somebody dumps something noxious in my back yard, the dumper is the last one I would call on to repair the damage.
Hold up a mirror and ask yourself what you are capable of doing, and what you really care about. Then take the initiative -- don't wait for someone else to ask you to act.
There are now more than 4,000 places in the sea around the world that have some kind of protection. The bad news: You have to look hard to find them. What you find instead is destructive fishing, mining, gas and oil exploration.
With every drop of water you drink, every breath you take, you're connected to the sea. No matter where on Earth you live.
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.
What we put into the atmosphere in terms of burning fuel is unprecedented.
Bottom trawling is a ghastly process that brings untold damage to sea beds that support ocean life. It's akin to using a bulldozer to catch a butterfly, destroying a whole ecosystem for the sake of a few pounds of protein. We wouldn't do this on land, so why do it in the oceans?
The ocean is our life support system. No blue, no green. It's really a miracle that we have got a place that works in our favor.
There are some who would like to see the oil rigs removed right down to the ground once their job is done, and there are others, and I count myself among them, who think that once they are in place they begin to be adopted by life in the ocean as a habitat.
I have lots of heroes: anyone and everyone who does whatever they can to leave the natural world better than they found it.
The Arctic is an ocean. The southern pole is a continent surrounded by ocean. The North Pole is an ocean, or northern waters. It's an ocean surrounded by land, basically.
For humans, the Arctic is a harshly inhospitable place, but the conditions there are precisely what polar bears require to survive -- and thrive. 'Harsh' to us is 'home' for them. Take away the ice and snow, increase the temperature by even a little, and the realm that makes their lives possible literally melts away.
Ice ages have come and gone. Coral reefs have persisted.
If the sea is sick, we'll feel it. If it dies, we die. Our future and the state of the oceans are one.
Every time I slip into the ocean, it's like going home.
Many of us ask what can I, as one person, do, but history shows us that everything good and bad starts because somebody does something or does not do something.
Many of us ask what can I, as one person, do, but history shows us that everything good and bad starts because somebody does something or does not do something,.
Every fish fertilizes the water in a way that generates the plankton that ultimately leads back into the food chain, but also yields oxygen, grabs carbon -- it's a part of what makes the ocean function and what makes the planet function.
By the end of the 20th century, up to 90 percent of the sharks, tuna, swordfish, marlins, groupers, turtles, whales, and many other large creatures that prospered in the Gulf for millions of years had been depleted by overfishing.
Santa Monica Bay is less polluted today than when I first moved to the area in the 1970s, because actions have been taken to avoid putting some of the noxious materials into the sea. I think people are more aware than they once were, the air is cleaner, water generally is, in spite of the fact that there are more people.
The observations that have developed over the years have given us perspective about where we fit in. We are newcomers, really recent arrivals on a planet that is four and a half billion years old.
Eating wildlife is probably not the smartest thing that we can do in terms of maintaining the integrity of natural systems.
It's taken us a short time to change the nature of nature. In my lifetime, more change than during all preceding human history put together.
I am not in any hurry to grow up.
With respect to the ocean being the heart of our blue planet: We are often asked, 'How much protection is enough?' We can only answer with another question: How much of your heart is worth protecting?
Childcare is a huge issue for young women whose work may require them to leave their families for weeks at a time.
I find the lure of the unknown irresistible.
Nearly all of the major kinds of life, divisions of life, phyla of animals, occur in the sea. Only about half of them can make it to land or freshwater.
We still have the illusion that the ocean will recover. That even if we do have to lose sharks, people don't understand why this matters. The evidence is in front of us, and we fail to take it in and say, "Now I get it. Now I understand.
It's baffling why the issues relating to climate change -- which have far more obvious and tangible and much more clear-cut evidence about the cause -- have been slower for people to accept as a given.
We have become frighteningly effective at altering nature.
The oxygen cycle, the nitrogen cycle, the carbon cycle, the water cycle -- all of these are linked to the existence of life in the sea.
It is not too late to turn things around.
Forty percent of the United States drains into the Mississippi. It's agriculture. It's golf courses. It's domestic runoff from our lawns and roads. Ultimately, where does it go? Downstream into the gulf.
Life in the ocean makes Earth hospitable. We are sailing along in the universe and we have a blue engine that is making everything alright.
It's a fact of life that there will be oil spills, as long as oil is moved from place to place, but we must have provisions to deal with them, and a capability that is commensurate with the size of the oil shipments.
No water, no life. No blue, no green.
I suggest to everyone: Look in the mirror. Ask yourself: Who are you? What are your talents? Use them, and do what you love.
Like a shipwreck or a jetty, almost anything that forms a structure in the ocean, whether it is natural or artificial over time, collects life.
Since the middle of the 20th century, more has been learnt about the ocean than during all preceding human history; at the same time, more has been lost.
Everyone has power. But it doesn't help if you don't use it.
The diversity of life on Earth, generally, is astonishing. But despite those large numbers, it's also important to recognize that every species, one way or another, is vulnerable to extinction. And in our time on Earth... our impact on the diversity of life has been profound.
The oceans deserve our respect and care, but you have to know something before you can care about it.
Protecting vital sources of renewal -- unscathed marshes, healthy reefs, and deep-sea gardens -- will provide hope for the future of the Gulf, and for all of us.
Why does evolution matter? There is so much about the evolution of life, the development of life on Earth that should rivet the attention of everyone to understand where we've come from and where we might be going. We need to understand the world around us if we are to succeed as a species on the planet.
Historically, girls have not been encouraged to be scientists, to be explorers, and there's a social kind of constraint, of course. Having the responsibility, a disproportionate part of the responsibility, for caring for families, caring for children. I know this challenge from firsthand experience because I have three children and four grandsons.And some of the time I have spent as a scientist and as an explorer has meant choosing to not be with my children and grandchildren as much as I might otherwise have done had I not been a scientist, an explorer.
America gains most when individuals have great freedom to pursue personal goals without undue government interference.
Even our rules and regulations, our laws, our policies, favor the destructive nature of taking too much from the ocean and using techniques that are horribly destructive. We know they don't work. We know it's not sustainable.
When you think about the real cost of so-called cheap energy that has driven our prosperity to unprecedented levels, for some of us, to our horror, we've realized that this has the potential for burning brightly and then snuffing out.
I actually love diving at night; you see a lot of fish then that you don't see in the daytime.
What we once used as weapons of war, we now use as weapons against fish.