Riley Anne Mesnick and her Grampus

Yesterday I got a vivid reminder about how protecting the Earth is about people.

My son Jason Mesnick and his wife Molly became parents with the birth of Riley Anne.  My wife Irene and I were with them in the hospital with some family and close friends.

I will not publish any photos of the new baby yet.  No doubt they’ll be on websites, blogs, tweets and magazines on newsstands soon enough.  My granddaughter enters the world being famous.

Her beautiful parents are famous:

But I know what most people (even readers of People) don’t know yet: Riley is absolutely beautiful.  Innocent.  Vulnerable.  Heart-meltingly adorable.

Seeing her tiny face makes me want to protect her from anything that could hurt her. 

Clearly she’ll have lots of love.  But the biggest risk she faces is devastation of the Earth’s life support systems, including our oceans.

Riley needs to breathe, eat and drink.  The oxygen she breathes comes from the diversity of life (biological diversity).  The food she eats comes from biodiversity.  The water she drinks is cleaned by biodiversity.

Moreover, the medicines she’ll need sooner or later are made by or modified from the chemicals in living things.  And much of the beauty that will lift her emotions comes from the diversity of life.

In many crucial ways Riley is connected with the world’s trees, frogs, phytoplankton and tunas.  Many people and those we choose to govern us don’t understand those connections.  But they are life itself for us all, including Riley.

When the two older Mesnick boys were making their first babies, Irene and I discussed what I’d prefer to be called.

Grandfather sounded too formal.  Papa was already taken by Irene’s wonderful father.  Grand Dad reminded me of liquor.  Zayde sounded too traditional.  No, I needed a name that reflects who I am and want to be for my grandchildren.

I chose Grampus.

Grampus is a common name for the toothed whale more often called Risso’s dolphin, which scientists call Grampus griseus.

I love how they look: gray, often scarred by life, a face with a big, permanent smile that makes many people think warm, happy thoughts.  Seeing a grampus is good reason for joy.

That’s why, for Riley, her older brother and my two other beautiful grandchildren, I am Grampus.

As I held my granddaughter in my arms last night, she probably wasn’t worrying about extinction of sharks, corals, rhinos or rosewood trees.  Her sleep was untroubled by the growing risk of collapse of her ecosystems.  But she’s only a day old.  Worrying about the Earth isn’t her job yet.

That’s my job.  That’s the job of our leader, Lance Morgan, and our very effective Marine Conservation Institute team.  That’s your job too: taking care of the future.

Riley’s given me even more reason to help the world’s people and governments decide to leave a better future for our children and the millions of kinds of life that keep us alive.

Thank you, Riley.

Your loving Grampus

Elliott Norse, Founder and Chief Scientist, Marine Conservation Institute

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