Saving The World Through a New Perspective
Dr. Sylvia Earle displays samples to aquanaut inside TEKTITEOAR/National Undersea Research Program (NURP) / Public domain
What is a world without our oceans? The painful reality of losing our desperately needed oceans and having them dry up is very real at this point, and oceanographer and marine biologist Dr. Sylvia Earle has spent the past sixty-five years of her life dedicated to finding the solution. Growing up in a small town in New Jersey, Sylvia Earle was able to create a strong relationship with nature in her own unique way. Being an explorer of her backyard and her mother being called the “bird lady” of the town, Earle and her family have always had a connection to nature and the way living species and substances survive in it (Tippett). Sylvia Earle first fell in love with the ocean after moving to Florida as a teen, finally being able to discover an entirely new world in its environment. After considering the oceans to be the most demanding thing on earth, Sylvia Earle was able to become one of the most important marine scientists to ever live. By addressing present-day issues and being a true supporter for marine protection, Earle is a powerful woman in this science field. She is able to set an image for younger women to follow, that it is possible to put your dreams into action while also serving a very important social issue. Sylvia Earle is not only seen for her advocacy of young women in the sciences, but she is also one of the greatest advocates for protecting the ocean due to her in-depth work with her programs that are proposed to relieve and study the problems associated with the decay of the ocean and revive its life from destruction by humans.
Sylvia Earle is one of the greatest role models, not only due to her scientific achievements but also because she is a strong advocate for young women in the science fields. Due to the fact that women oftentimes don’t pursue a career in the field of marine biology, Earle is trying to push “boundaries” in our current society. Sylvia is teaching young women that they have a chance to follow their dreams and to actually consider participating in science in their future. By contributing to the experiment of an all-women submersible habitat to study the coral reef, the Tektite Project in 1970, she set the bar high for women by working with hands-on material as a marine biologist in the US Virgin Islands (Rafferty). Consisting of five women, “aquanauts,” all living at the bottom of the ocean floor, they worked for two weeks straight, showing society that they have just as much qualification as any other scientist. In fact, this changed the way women were seen as scientists: these women were so passionate about their jobs, they were able to finally be taken seriously. Dr. Earle even stated that they were called “aqua-babes, aqua-bills and even aqua-naughties,” at the beginning of this trial, but it didn't phase them (Tippett). The demeaning men of this time could call them anything, “as long as they let [them] go [do their work]” (Tippett). Though these women were practically made fun of, and degraded, they were strong enough to not let those names get to their heads. It didn't make them think any less of themselves as marine biologists, demonstrating the message of not letting anyone think less of who you are as a whole. But that was not Sylvia’s only accomplishing roles. In 1964 she shipped aboard with 70 men, making her the only woman for the following six weeks (Frazer). This voyage went all around the world, specifically to the Indian Ocean, so these scientists could dive and collect different types of algae (Tippett). These explorers were the first of many to dive where no humans have ever been before: meaning no habitat destruction nor any pollution yet. By being present at such significant dives, this was the beginning of women's representation and incorporation in marine biology. Dr. Sylvia Earle is seen as one of the greatest oceanographers because of her call to action for setting examples so the next generations can be inspired to save the ocean, by paving a path for more women to be involved in this scientific industry.
Sylvia Earle has been part of changing marine biology by contributing to new scientific advancements that have been able to refine the way we understand and work with species of the ocean. As years have passed, technology throughout the world has adapted; the technology used for scientific reasoning has advanced, helping us understand our world better. Dr. Earle was fortunately able to be part of these improvements, providing her understanding and knowledge of the oceans and its environments to help create the greatest innovations for studying the ocean. For instance, Sylvia Earle was one of the first scientists to use the JIM suit during a dive. The creator of JIM suits, Jim Jarrett, came up with the idea of making a diving suit made of metal so there was no change in pressure (Tippett). Similar to a submarine, this suit provided the mobility to walk around on the ocean floor and still be protected at the same time. Earle had the opportunity to use this JIM suit and be the first person to ever walk on the ocean floor, 1,250 feet below the surface (Tippett). Through new equipment, Earle was not only able to set a living record, but she was also able to create a wave of change in the way marine science could be conducted. In a similar manner, in the early 1980s, Earle, with the help of her then-husband, Graham Hawkes, founded the Deep Ocean Engineering and Deep Ocean Technology. This foundation created the “Deep Rover,” a submersible vehicle that could reach the depth of about 1,000 meters beneath the sea surface (Rafferty). Sylvia Earle began shaping marine science by being part of these new oceanic inventions and was then able to contribute to the way we understand the ocean through creating her own projects, in order to benefit our knowledge.
Earle was also able to help change the way marine science was conducted by creating the project DOER. In 1992, Earle had created DOER in order to provide a means of submersible “robots” to the government and scientists in need. Now controlled by her daughter, Liz Taylor, this company continues to sell “remotely operated underwater vehicles” to different companies and the government (Frazer). This company has helped fix the problems associated with the ocean by creating a smaller submersible vehicle that has the ability to work on “offshore oil rigs and unclog water tunnels” through mechanical arms (Frazer). Similar to the Deep Ocean Engineering and Deep Ocean Technology foundations created in the past, that single company helped shape this new modern corporation for our modern day society. As Earle once said, “New technologies are helping us understand the nature of nature; the nature of what happening, showing us our impact on the earth” (Earle). By creating these types of companies for buyers' own good, these buyers are using this kind of technology to understand more about what’s beneath us. DOER helped change the way marine science was conducted, by creating new ways to work on the ocean through mechanical work and structure of their inventions. By using technology as such, and understanding more about the oceans, the assumptions and truths of our destruction have overcome all, protruding into our everyday lives, therefore giving Dr. Earle another reason to help.
Dr. Sylvia Earle prepares to dive in a JIM suit.OAR/National Undersea Research Program (NURP) / Public domainn
Hope Spots have left us in a world of desire for our new, vivacious and lively oceans. Dr. Sylvia Earle’s project “Hope Spots” sets an example of protecting the oceans from death. By touching upon the topics of global warming, coral bleaching, overfishing and pollution, Earle created a project in order to save particular areas throughout the entire world. These hope spots are targeted areas in the world where “fish[ing and] deep-sea oil and gas” are not allowed, in order to ensure that this part of the ocean can recover (Garling). By taking the ecological stress off of these certain areas, scientists are finally able to see growth in these sanctuaries and allow the ocean to recuperate throughout time (Garling). It is said that scientifically, “marine life bounces back when we take the pressure off marine ecosystems and give the fish, sharks, coral and phytoplankton some breathing room to regenerate and thrive [as they once did]” (Garling). Earle is showing society that it is easy for the oceans to be restored; the only thing humans need to do is to stop taking from them, and give it time for their properties to grow back (Garling). Similar to the subject of overfishing, fishermen are taking so much “product” and life from the sea, that they are giving those certain species not enough time to reproduce and replenish their population. Currently, about twelve percent of our oceans are now protected by Hope Spots, and are simultaneously increasing, creating a more preserved world for all.
Sylvia Earle is one of the greatest marine biologists and oceanographers in our present day society due to the fact that she has led such a change in our oceans. Sylvia Earle’s lifelong legacy is to “be kind to the world and the world will be kind to you.” By living this motto, she was able to become one of the strongest, most empowering women in the marine science field, who actually led and continues to lead a real change. Through getting everyone involved in her projects, teaching others about the ocean and understanding the problems associated with it, there is a higher probability of more people being interested in trying to save the fate of our earth. Our souls will forever be connected with the oceans no matter what, so we should be treating it with respect: “With every drop of water you drink, every breath you take, you’re connected to the sea” (Garling). The only way we will be able to successfully stop the destruction and decay of our oceans is to spread the message of all the subjects that are damaging the future of our generations; overfishing, carbon footprints, coral bleaching, global warming, pollution, the list goes on. If we keep continuing to treat our earth, our home, the way we have in the past, we will be forced to say goodbye to our beautiful big blue oceans. “No water, no life; no blue, no green” (Earle).
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Earle, Sylvia A. “The World is Blue: How Our Fate and the Ocean’s are One.” National Geographic, 2009.
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“Sylvia Earle Imagines Ocean ‘Hope Spots.’” TED: Ideas Worth Spreading, https://www.ted.com/ participate/ted-prize/prize-winning-wishes/mission-blue. Accessed 28 Feb. 2018.
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