Within the past few hundred years, human activity has devastated the natural world and caused nearly irreversible environmental damage. Due to rapid climate change, marine species have been subject to these adverse conditions, among these, ocean acidification and warming waters have had a very severe impact on many keystone species such as corals, sea stars, and other marine invertebrates within these ecosystems. A recent study published in Science, suggests that the average time between bleaching events has nearly halved since 1980. This is great cause for concern because these organisms represent the basis of all marine life and the health of the ocean itself. If the trend of high mortality rates of these species continues, the potential consequences are severe. As Dr. Sylvia Earle, a National Geographic explorerinresidence and the first female Chief Scientist of NOAA, once said, “No ocean, no life. No ocean, no us.”
Mission Blue is a documentary available on Netflix that tells the story of Dr. Earle’s mission to save the ocean as well as her own personal journey of being a female scientist. Dr. Earle began her career as an oceanographer while attending Florida State University, graduating with an undergraduate degree in botany in 1955. While attending FSU, she was given the opportunity to dive using SCUBA technology, being one of the first scientists to ever try out this new technology. This was a very new and exciting innovation in diving technology. Before the 1950’s, diving was regarded as extremely dangerous before Jacques Cousteau’s invention of the Aqua Lung. She then graduated with a master’s in botany from Duke University and went on to write her thesis concerning algae in the Gulf of Mexico. She later earned her Ph.D. from Duke University in 1966.
Earle became distinguished and extremely accomplished over a short period of time due to her dedication to science and her passion to explore the unknown. In the film, she states, “Every time I slip into the ocean, it’s like going home.” When asked, “Aren’t you a radical about protecting the oceans?” Earle replied, “If I seem like a radical, it may be because I see things that others do not.” She has seen so much change within the ocean’s ecosystems since she began diving nearly 63 years ago. This is the experience driving her to want to create change. She believes that we need the ocean just as much as the creatures living in it.
This film is incredibly powerful and encourages viewers to consider their own contributions to environmental issues and what we can do to fix them. The film educates viewers about past oceanography expeditions, environmental disasters, and scientists who are leading the fight to save the oceans. I highly recommend watching it if you are a fan of nature documentaries, James Cameron, or just want to be inspired!
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