Sylvia Earle on Ocean Conservation

Sylvia Earle on Ocean Conservation

This October, SXSW Eco will once again convene global experts and leaders in Austin, where they will discuss the latest data, trends and solutions to lead us towards a hope-filled, sustainable future. The annual conference focuses on environmental and sustainability issues like energy, smart planning, sustainable food, and increasingly, the ocean.

The conference announced last week that ocean legend, Dr. Sylvia Earle, is to give the final keynote speech. Sylvia Earle, also known as “Her Deepness,” is one of the world’s leading ocean experts. She is a marine biologist, a National Geographic “Explorer in Residence” and was the first female chief scientist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Sylvia has spent over 7,000 hours underwater, has designed submersibles and has founded or co-founded at least 3 companies, including an ocean exploration tech concern – Deep Ocean Engineering.

Dr. Earle has also founded a number of ocean organizations and nonprofits. Her amazing history and life is the subject of the recent Netflix documentary named after the nonprofit Mission Blue, which was founded after her 2009 TED talk.

Sylvia’s keynote at SXSW Eco, entitled “Sustainable Seas: The Vision and the Reality,” will share her hope of “true sustainability within a rapidly changing world” with the perfect audience.

“SXSW Eco brings together movers and shakers from around the world who are pushing at the forefront of change.” says Deb Castellana of Mission Blue, “For Dr. Earle to be giving the keynote address here is a great opportunity to highlight the ocean as a crucial player, on how all earth dwellers will survive moving into the future. We still have a small window of time during which we can affect change, and being able to deliver this message to this particular community is a great opportunity for us, and for the blue part of our planet.”

As in years past, SXSW Eco will feature the latest technologies, breakthrough programming solutions and best practices from across industries. The festival’s focus on the connection between technology, problem-solving and stewardship resonates directly to Dr. Earle’s life-work. As Sylvia herself states:

We need to continue to promote the technology and application of technologies for exploring the least known part of the solar system – and that would be the blue part of our own planet. We know more about what makes Mars function than about what makes the earth function. That’s unacceptable. You can’t take care of a place – or anything – if you don’t understand it.

According to Chris Sonnier, producer and program manager of SXSW Eco, Sylvia has been on their keynote hope list since the event was founded.

“Dr. Earle is the strongest voice for oceans the world has ever known, and Secretary Moniz directs perhaps the most significant efforts in our nation’s attempt to combat climate change,” said Sonnier. “Combining the highest level thinkers from such diverse fields is what SXSW Eco is all about.”

Like other SXSW festivals, the panels and features are submitted as ideas and then voted on. Those discussions and sessions with enough support are incorporated into the event. In 2011 there was “really not a whole lot on the table” when it came to the ocean, according to Chris. In 2012 a panel was held on sustainable fishing and fish sourcing. In 2013 there were a handful of panels ranging from fish stock monitoring to the ocean plastics.

“This year we have a number of great sessions including a panel on solutions and stopgaps to bycatch and a discussion on ocean noise,” Chris explains.

SXSW Eco’s latest keynote is just a crest in the rising tide of ocean awareness and action. Both at the festival and around the world focus is shifting towards the blue part of our planet. James Cameron brought us to the bottom of the Mariana Trench. The documentary Black Fish brought attention to the debate surrounding cetacean capture and containment, even affecting the business of the water park SeaWorld. Catlin Seaview Survey and Google have brought us an immersive experience through “underwater streetview.” Actor and environmentalist Leonardo DiCaprio pledged an monumental $7 Million for ocean conservation. This year we have even seen a congressional bill attempting to address the problem of marine debris.

“We are definitely seeing that the ocean is rising to the forefront as an important issue at conferences worldwide,” said Deb Castellana. “We expect that the upcoming World Parks Congress in Sydney, Australia will focus on protected areas in the ocean as well as on land – just what we have been working towards for years. And of course John Kerry’s ‘Our Ocean 2014’ conference in Washington this summer demonstrated just how seriously the world is beginning to take ocean issues – primarily ocean acidification, marine pollution and overfishing.”

For those who are not among the participants excitedly preparing for the October conference, you can still participate in the event and catch Sylvia’s address. As with past years, the conference bridges the virtual/real-world divide through live blogging, tweetups and even live streams of certain speeches and sessions on their website. Be sure not to miss Dr. Sylvia Earle’s keynote make this green festival, a little more blue minded.

Image of Sylvia Earle via

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