Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Blue Fever

Melbourne, Florida. In recent years we've seen unprecedented and disturbing trends take shape in our planet's oceans. As scientists estimate the loss of 90% of large predatory fishes and potentially half the world's tropical corals, humankind's footprint on the ocean is more visible than ever. But there is hope. A global network of passionate marine conservationists are becoming increasingly vocal and ever more tech-savvy in terms of communicating the ocean's plight.

Enduring mainstays of marine conservation such as Dr. Sylvia Earle and Jean-Michel Cousteau are now being joined by a host of concerned scientists, explorers and emerging advocates who are adding their voices to a global call to action asking us to rethink how our species interfaces with the ocean environment. Considering the sometimes gloom and doom statistics facing the wet part of our planet, it is not surprising to see growing concern and new leadership take shape. However, it is the means by which these salty saviors are communicating that raises an eyebrow. Traditional written media, policy wonking and boring research briefs are overshadowed by a wave of film, new media, innovative exploration and youth-geared cool factor. It is as if the innovative precedent set by Jacques Cousteau, considered by many to be the grandfather of ocean messaging, has been exponentially magnified by the latest generation. And right in the thick of things are Cousteau's actual grandchildren. Both Fabien and Philippe Cousteau have followed in the family footsteps to bring the ocean to the populace of 21st Century.

But the Cousteau men are just a few of the many young voices speaking out for the ocean. Ocean Revolution, a youth movement launched by sea turtle biologist J. Nichols, is geared at preparing the next generation of ocean leaders. These future leaders are even now utilizing on-line tools never before imagined, such as Google Earth's new ocean layer. This recent expansion of Google Earth allows desktop explorers to not only roam our planet's cities and above water-terrain, but also below the waves to the deepest depths of the ocean. The layer is riddled with stunning graphic bathymetry, vivid imagery and compelling stories of our watery world. Users can scout surf sites, visit with satellite-tagged whales and sharks in real time, or learn what can be done to restore healthy oceans.

Another young person to watch is Roz Savage, who recently spoke on a panel of explorers at the Blue Vision Summit in Washington, D.C. Roz, a native of Great Britain, was the first woman to solo paddle across the Atlantic. Not satisfied with that accomplishment, she also recently paddled from San Francisco to Hawai'i and plans to complete the trans-Pacific voyage to Australia in coming months. And aside from accomplishing monumental physical feats, Roz uses satellite technology to send out podcasts and written updates of her voyages and concern for the oceans onto the Internet. The following clip from YouTube tells her story:

In upcoming months look forward to more compelling ocean media at the Blue Ocean Film Festival, for which registration recently began. The festival, which will take place in Savannah, Georgia from June 11-14th, 2009, will be a showcase for films meant to inspire people to protect our oceans and the life within. This is the 2nd such film festival this year. The San Francisco Ocean Film Festival, which just recently wrapped, also drew large numbers and showcased spectacular films on our ocean planet.

Finally, marine scientists and conservationists from the world over will soon converge in Washington, D.C. for the 1st International Marine Conservation Congress (IMCC) on May 19-24th, 2009. Using everything from submersibles to satellite tags, these ocean professionals employ increasingly innovative tools to gain better insights into the ocean and what can be done to protect it. What new tools, inspiring media and creative solutions will emerge from this next gathering of the minds? We'll have to wait and see...

Image credit: Octopus: NOAA

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