“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.”
These are the timeless words of world-renowned oceanographer Dr. Sylvia Earle. It’s no wonder she was named Time Magazine’s first “Hero for the Planet”. As the first female chief scientist of NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), she holds an exhaustive list of firsts that include holding the world record for the deepest dive in an un-tethered submersible.
If the ocean were to pick one person on earth to tell the world its story, it would be Sylvia. Like waves lapping at the shore, beckoning you to come closer and explore the water. Sylvia’s stories draw you in and leave you hungry for more.
Coupled with her intense passion and tireless determination to protect our marine habitats, Sylvia reminds us of the power of the ocean’s currents and their causal role in shaping our planet. The fierce beauty and force in Sylvia’s work is captured below.
The Life-giving Connection: Water and Woman
So why do these stories and ocean exploration matter? For so many reasons beyond today’s World Water Day. Sylvia, is the ultimate embodiment of the sea; a constant duality of intensity and serenity. This juxtaposition is captivating in itself, but it also reveals a hallmark consistent with all womankind. Consider the social constructs of our world.
They often dictate that women should be docile and calm, not unlike the placid, inviting waters of favored vacation beaches. But beneath that tranquil surface, bold new ideas and powerful aspirations rage like the unseen ocean currents carving out underwater mountains whose heights dwarf Mount Everest. In the case of both women and water, society has a habit of vastly underestimating our depth and our worth.
Stop reading for a moment and take two slow, deep breaths. I’ll breathe with you.
Now consider that one of those two life-giving breaths was provided for you free of charge by the sea. The ocean produces half of the oxygen we breathe. More accurately, our planet’s marine habitats are home to the myriad creatures that produce 50% of the O2 in our atmosphere.
A fifth of our oxygen is made by a microscopic marine cyanobacterium with the catchy name, Prochlorococcus. It’s the most abundant photosynthetic organism on Earth. How many of us truly appreciate the life giving qualities of the ocean? It sustains us with food, jobs, and recreation, while also providing a relatively stable climate.
Just like the women who literally give life to the world, the ocean is consistently undervalued and taken for granted.
We use it as a garbage dump, a supermarket, and a playground all at the same time, rarely realizing the egregious errors in our behavior. That calm, idyllic surface beguiles us into ignoring the tumultuous truths in the depths. Eight million tons of plastic are dumped into our oceans annually, yet it still appears to be clean.
More than 80% of global fish stocks are either fully exploited or over-exploited, yet our stores never seem to have a shortage of seafood. We’ve reached the end of the line of how much abuse our oceans can take, and it is time for each of us to become better stewards of our precious marine resources.
As Sylvia says, “We need to respect the oceans and take care of them as if our lives depended on it. Because they do.” As strong, progressive women, we need to use our innate connection to the sea – to advocate for and protect it. Let’s celebrate by pledging to protect the blue heart and lungs of our planet by making life choices that support a better, more sustainable future. (Photo below of Sylvia in action)
Here are a few simple ways to be more mindful of how you use water. Start by saying no to single-use plastics. Recycle and reconsider how much energy you use. Think about what you eat, help clean up our waterways, elect political representatives with an understanding of science, and advocate for ocean conservation initiatives.
The ocean has a story and it’s our story, too. Together, we are all the voice of the ocean and it’s time for us to be loud.
My Connection to the Blue
My personal story follows an obsession with everything aquatic. It began as a child mesmerized by the topical fish gracing the historic halls of Chicago’s John G. Shedd Aquarium. Now, at thirty-one, my love for the sea has blossomed into a multi-faceted career involving science, music, writing, and underwater photography. Together they weave my wanderlust with a new entrepreneurial venture focused on saving our water.
Blue Ring was born on World Oceans Day in 2017 in an effort to create a new method of ocean conservation, accessible to and inclusive of everyone wanting to better understand and protect our seas. Blue Ring is a Benefit Corporation that allows people to “marry” the ocean for a membership fee of $25 annually in return for a blue silicone ring or pendant. I spell it “mery” though as in la mer, the sea.
Via many small-scale purchases, Blue Ring will support, the funding of globally significant ocean exploration and conservation projects to positively shape the future. The first goal is to raise $5 million for two 1000-meter, dual-classed citizen submersibles built by Deep Ocean Exploration and Research (DOER). This will require 200,000 people to mery™ the ocean.
These submersibles are symbols of hope dedicated to exploring and documenting unseen places. They offer us new insights about the world we share and our exciting relationship to it. I hope you’ll #MeryTheOcean at www.bluering.blue and pledge your commitment to the sea.
Editor’s note: WomanScape is a proud supporter of World Water Day, and excited to welcome Alex Rose in her new WS series, “Blue Your Mind”. WS has written before on the power of women and water but Alex offers a most unusual and compelling voice.
She is an accomplished biologist, diver, musician, and underwater photographer who is literally harnessing her passion for life. She is the Science Editor and writer at Ocean Geographic Magazine, and Managing Editor of Ocean Geographic Explorers. Be sure to subscribe to WS so you don’t miss Alex’s adventures each month.