This is a living planet. Look around. Mars, Venus, Jupiter. Look beyond our solar system. Where else is there a place that works, that is just right for the likes of us? It has not happened just instantly. It is vulnerable to our actions. But it's the result of four and a half billion years of evolution, of change over time. And it changes every day, all the time. It would be in our interest to try to maintain a certain level of stability that has enabled us to prosper, to not wreck the very systems that give us life.
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Ten percent of the big fish still remain. There are still some blue whales. There are still some krill in Antarctica. There are a few oysters in Chesapeake Bay. Half the coral reefs are still in pretty good shape, a jeweled belt around the middle of the planet. There's still time, but not a lot, to turn things around.
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The image of Earth from space transformed our view of ourselves. It is maybe the most important image that exists - because we can see ourselves in context in a way that otherwise would be really hard to explain. It should inspire us to wonder about it, to want to know everything we can about it and do everything we can to take care of it.
We are all together in this, we are all together in this single living ecosystem called planet earth. As we learn how we fit into the greater scheme of things, and begin to understand how the system works, we can plan ahead, we can use the resources responsibly, to show some respect for this inheritance that goes back 4.6 billion years.
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When some people look at a shrimp they think, "Hmm. Delicious." When I look at a shrimp I think, "You're a miracle, absolutely incredible. Your ancestors have gone back hundreds of millions of years." And to develop a thing as simple as a shrimp cocktail, you have to calculate the hundreds of millions of years that have preceded that moment where you're sitting there with your sauce and fork poised.
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As a child, I was aware of the widely-held attitude that the ocean is so big, so resilient that we could use the sea as the ultimate place to dispose of anything we did not want, from garbage and nuclear wastes to sludge from sewage to entire ships that had reached the end of their useful life.
There is a terribly terrestrial mindset about what we need to do to take care of the planet-as if the ocean somehow doesn't matter or is so big, so vast that it can take care of itself, or that there is nothing that we could possibly do that we could harm the ocean...We are learning otherwise.
Santa Monica Bay is less polluted today than when I first moved to the area in the 1970s, because actions have been taken to avoid putting some of the noxious materials into the sea. I think people are more aware than they once were, the air is cleaner, water generally is, in spite of the fact that there are more people.
If Darwin could see what we now see, what we now know about the ocean, about the atmosphere, about the nature of life, as we now understand it, about the importance of microbes - I think he would just beam with joy that many of the thoughts and the glimpses of the majesty of life on Earth that he had during his life, now magnified many times over.
People ask: Why should I care about the ocean? Because the ocean is the cornerstone of earth's life support system, it shapes climate and weather. It holds most of life on earth. 97% of earth's water is there. It's the blue heart of the planet-we should take care of our heart. It's what makes life possible for us. We still have a really good chance to make things better than they are. They won't get better unless we take the action and inspire others to do the same thing. No one is without power. Everybody has the capacity to do something.
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Earth as an ecosystem stands out in the all of the universe. There's no place that we know about that can support life as we know it, not even our sister planet, Mars, where we might set up housekeeping someday, but at great effort and trouble we have to recreate the things we take for granted here.
Why does evolution matter? There is so much about the evolution of life, the development of life on Earth that should rivet the attention of everyone to understand where we've come from and where we might be going. We need to understand the world around us if we are to succeed as a species on the planet.
My first breath was just...it just seemed impossible that you could actually breathe underwater. I knew in my mind it was possible, but actually experiencing it was such a gulp of joy and I feel it every time I go under the ocean. I love doing it, to be able to feel weightless, to spin on one finger, to do somersaults, to be like a graceful ballerina - even with a huge tank on your back you can do the most extraordinary things.
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People I know who succeed don't mind working. Those who are competent seem to like doing things well -- not stopping because they haven't accomplished what they wanted to on the first go-round. They're willing to do it twenty times, if necessary. There's an illusion that the good people can easily do something, and it's not necessarily true. They're just determined to do it right. I was impressed by hearing one of the women at Radcliffe talk about writing a poem, how many revisions a single poem sometimes has to go through -- fifty or sixty revisions to come out with a poem sixteen lines long.
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The living ocean drives planetary chemistry, governs climate and weather, and otherwise provides the cornerstone of the life-support system for all creatures on our planet, from deep-sea starfish to desert sagebrush. That's why the ocean matters. If the sea is sick, we'll feel it. If it dies, we die. Our future and the state of the oceans are one.
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Look at the bark of a redwood, and you see moss. If you peer beneath the bits and pieces of the moss, you'll see toads, small insects, a whole host of life that prospers in that miniature environment. A lumberman will look at a forest and see so many board feet of lumber. I see a living city.
Ocean acidification - the excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that is turning the oceans increasingly acid - is a slow but accelerating impact with consequences that will greatly overshadow all the oil spills put together. The warming trend that is CO2-related will overshadow all the oil spills that have ever occurred put together.
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The Arctic is a place that historically, during all preceding human history, has largely been an icy realm with an impact on ocean currents. That, in turn, influences the temperature of the planet. The Arctic is now vulnerable because of the excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, with a rate of melting that is stunning.
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It's an appreciation for life generally, every bit of life, the smallest creature that lives in the intestines of termites that make termite life possible - to the leaves that turn out oxygen and grab carbon dioxide and with water make simple sugars that feed much of the world. I mean, these are everyday miracles.
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We want to think of ourselves as truly special creatures that are unique in the universe and, well, we are. And we have that capacity to wonder, to question, and to see ourselves in the context of all of life that has preceded the present time, and all that will go off far into the future, one way or another.
For humans, the Arctic is a harshly inhospitable place, but the conditions there are precisely what polar bears require to survive - and thrive. 'Harsh' to us is 'home' for them. Take away the ice and snow, increase the temperature by even a little, and the realm that makes their lives possible literally melts away.
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If we could magically transport ourselves back to the young Earth, when it was only a billion years old or two billion years old or three billion years old or four billion years old, we wouldn't be able to survive. We would have a hard time surviving if we were transported to the time when dinosaurs were around.