Election media in the US seems a frenzy to me, but I might be over-sensitive. Last week I noticed the headlines have me spinning. The e-mails are flying. Friends, people I've never met--women and men, we're all abuzz and (sigh) divided on what the mainstream media calls the "gender" or the "race" issues. Personally, for me, the problem is the "issue" issue. I worry that many people are listening to headlines and trivial "bytes" instead of researching the issues. Personally, I'm looking for inspiration and leadership on the issues that we global citizens face.
You may not have heard of Sylvia Earle, but I think she's doing more for our children's grandchildren than many political candidates have even considered. Recently, I heard the oceanographer, explorer, grandmother, and now National Geographic's Explorer in Residence speak about her life's work-- exploring, learning about, and teaching about the ocean. She told the story of how she grew up just before scuba diving, became one of the world first "aquanauts", and talked a little about why we should all go get in the ocean or go to the nearest ocean science (aquarium) institution as soon as we can--and take a kid with us, even if we have to borrow one, she says.
With quiet ease and strong conviction she talked about the ocean--what it does for us, what we're doing to it, and what each of us could do to halt the devastating effects man is having on the blue part of the big blue and green planet.
Until I heard Sylvia speak, I had naively failed to connect the ocean's fate with the fate of humans and the other life forms that depend on the oxygen/carbon dioxide exchange. I didn't understand the magnitude of the problems facing the "big green engine" (the video will explain this) inside the ocean. I didn't see the vastly declining fish population as a threat to my survival. I didn't understand that the acidification of the ocean affects the whole system, the very system that makes it possible for humans and other species to breathe the atmosphere. It's what makes the earth habitable, and if it's not working...Well, let's just say hearing her speak was an eye-opener for me. (Check out the video below to see what I mean.)
In spite of the fact that Sylvia has watched the decline of the ocean in her 40+ years as an oceanographer, she had much to say about what's possible. From protection and our Marine Sanctuaries to education you'll find her hand in nearly every organization and effort to save the ocean. She says we have 10 years to turn it around, and she's doing everything she can to make it happen.
Since Sylvia, there's been a quiet revolution in me. I'm not randomly purchasing or ordering fish without checking the Seafood Watch Guide . Now that I've been reminded of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and nurdles, I can no longer let a plastic bag drift across a parking lot or a bottle cap lay on the ground, because I know they'll find their way through the storm drains to the largest "landfill", the ocean. (Sylvia told a story of a recent beached whale autopsy that discovered 400+ pounds of plastic in the whale.)
Also, though I frequently feel saddened and hopeless by the biting divisiveness of the election process and lack of focus on the issues, Sylvia reminds me that history's greatest advancements for the human race rarely have come from the politicians. They come from the Sylvia Earles, Jeffrey Sachs, and Paul Farmers of the world, and the millions of regular people who have found a way to work effectively on the parts of the world they want to heal--inspiring us each to get involved, influencing politicians, creating a better world through their actions.
If you're having your own bout of hypersensitivity to the headlines and soundbytes, try this: Pick something you care about and find its "Sylvia Earle" to swim with--an impassioned, knowledgeable human who's doing their best to make a change and who inspires the best part of you to help. You can find some here at the Academy of Achievement, or here at TED, or just google your subject and look for someone to inspire you to change the part of the world you care about most.
If you're like my husband and LOVE the political circus, enjoy! It looks like it's going to be a wild ride. I recommend tuning out the bytes--go to the candidates pages and read the details on the issues, but stay out of the "us versus them" frenzy if you can. I don't think it's good for us. I long for the day we're all looking at possibilities instead of problems when we go through this process. If you'd like to take more of a global citizen stance in this election, check out One.org and see what they're up to with all the candidates for the US election for some perspective.
If you'd really like to learn more about Sylvia and her crusade to save our oceans, click on the links above, or check out her links here.