The setting was a medium-sized, cosy auditorium. Not too grand, but enough to resonate the ambience of anticipation for the Conference on Attaining The Sustainable Development Goals, which also celebrates the 5th BES (WE’RE FIVE!), 15th MEM and 20th APCEL anniversaries.
Professor Matthias Roth first took the stage and gave an introduction of the BES programme, followed by our BES lecturer Dr Coleman whom, in the midst of a well-rehearsed speech couldn’t contain her emotions at meeting the heroine of her life.
She’s no ordinary hero – nothing like those who saved New York City countless times on the movie screens. Oceanographer Dr Sylvia Earle is the first Hero for the Planet. She’s spent more than 7000 hours underwater, she was the first person (not just the first woman!) to dive 1,250 feet (381m) into the deep blue ocean in a JIM suit. She’s paved the way for more women to be involved in expeditions and marine researches, but most importantly, Dr Earle founded Mission Blue, a non-profit organisation that is determined to garner public support to create marine protected areas, or in her own words, Hope Spots.
The expectations were palpable as Dr Sylvia Earle, 81, with all her enthusiasm, honours and contributions to marine science and conservation, stood behind the podium to start on the most inspiring lecture of the morning.
Dr Earle started by reminding all of us that despite all the things we aim to do for the environment – to build, protect and conserve – we must not forget to enjoy nature too. Every little component of our Earth is a mystery itself. However, while we can stand in awe of nature’s beauty thanks largely to the advance technology of the 21st century, we often carelessly overlook how man are utilising these resources at our disposal. Don’t forget this: those living resources we are taking away from our environment are more important when they’re alive. Remember how the problem of overfishing has led a massive decline of fish population? All capitalists see in those marine creatures were cash and profits. Fortunately, as our mindset slowly changed into one that treasures marine creatures when they’re alive rather than dead, our children will no longer learn about species such as the whales only in fossils.
That morning, Dr Earle reminded every single one of us in the auditorium that we have the power to change. Considering the uncertain stance and environmental outlook taken by certain countries in present times, Dr Earle encouraged us to have hope, as she always had with the fate of the oceans; the 50% of world’s corals has not been and should never be decimated, and the 4% of world’s tuna that are still swimming in our ocean. Dr Earle also stands strong in her faith in the power of individuals, believing that everyone is a change-maker.
All in all, don’t wait until you’re 81 to put on a diving suit and immerse yourself in the deep blue. If you get a chance to explore the oceans with your own eyes, take it. Just make sure to leave it more beautiful than how you found it to be.
Publicity, 5th BES Student Comm