â€œWe are committed to developing deepwater energy supplies offshore.â€ Those blunt words from the US Administration were put to oceanographer Sylvia Earle by Stephen Sackur late in a captivating BBC Hardtalk interview I watched a few days ago. What chance, he asked, did her message about the plight of the oceans stand in the face of the determination of governments to exploit the massive fossil fuel sources under the oceans?
Before giving her response Iâ€™ll briefly provide a little context. Sylvia Earle is a famed oceanographer who 40 years ago headed the first team of women so-called aquanauts in an underwater habitat programme.Â She was chief scientist at NOAA in the early nineties, has continued to be engaged in deep ocean exploration, was named Time magazineâ€™s first â€˜hero for the planetâ€™ in 1998 and received the 2009 TED Prize. Now in her mid-seventies she continues to be a strong advocate of marine reserves and ocean protection and exploration generally. Earlier in the Sackur interview sheâ€™d explained how the ocean dominates the way the world works and pointed out that most of life on earth, in terms of both volume and diversity, is in the ocean. Sheâ€™d outlined some of its importance for our own life. Imagine, she said, what changing the chemistry of the ocean might do.