Save the people

Sea anemone-covered seafloor, Svalbard (Arctic Ocean, Norway).  Photo by Paul Nicklen, National Geographic

As things calm down I have abundant reason to be thankful.

There are still wonderful places with amazing living things.

And I’m thankful to the people whose words and acts have informed and inspired me. 
As we saw in Boston and West, Texas, there are people who make the world a better place.

My family, my friends and my heroes have taught me that.

Perhaps the greatest gift they’ve given me is a star to steer by.  A double star.  It’s actually a question:
Albireo, a double (binary) star in the constellation Cygnus (photo by Ken Lord)
“Is it good for the Earth and people?”  
That’s the star the Marine Conservation Institute looks to. What some in the business world call “the double bottom line.”
Some people understand that early on.  A lot never understand it.

It’s taken nearly all my life so far to realize this.

I’ve walked through forests and deserts, towns and cities.  

I’ve searched underwater in tepid crystal springs and chilly island coves, near populous cities and ancient monuments.

Always I’ve been hungry to get the close-up, the bigger picture and (most of all) how they fit together.

And I’ve always wanted to help save what I came to call biological diversity (later shortened to “biodiversity” thanks to one of my heroes, Harvard University’s Ed Wilson).

Seeing how things fit together isn’t been easy for people.  How we can save the oceans, fresh waters and the land… the ecosystems people depend on… when ecosystems are so complex?

The more I learn, the clearer it gets.
For most humans, it’s all about people.  People are very people-focused.
The biosphere (the layers of the Earth’s air, land and waters that have life, including people) is a complex puzzle.

The biosphere has so many interacting components, many of them still largely unknown by people, that it daunts even our supercomputers.

Here, for example is a “simple” food web for a southern California kelp forest.  Arrows show what eats what. The biosphere is much, MUCH more complex!

But if we accept the idea that the Earth is a good place for people, we can then envision general principles that allow us to create ways to guide us in living sustainably.

And—having touched on some of my deepest concerns in Blog 10—I’d like to devote this and some coming Blogs to Save the Earth to some principles and ways to maintain the diverse services we require to survive.

You already know some of the bad news.

The good news is that it’s possible to find a way to live well sustainably on our planet.

We don’t have to kill her (and us).

We don’t have to leave her.

We can stay here and celebrate life on Earth.

What do I mean when I think about principles?

They’re statements or questions you can say in one sentence that are always true.

In this case, principles for living on Earth.

A foundations for our actions, even when it seems the Earth is angry with us.

Two related principles from one of my heroes, planetologist and fellow Brooklynite Carl Sagan.
Whether that’s true or not, it would be very useful to know these principles, and how they work together so we could live in understanding and respect for our mother.
That would allow the recovery of the world’s species, whose workings maintain the conditions people need to survive and prosper…

Allowing us to live good lives in a beautiful world.

What a vision that is!


Elliott Norse, Founder and Chief Scientist, Marine Conservation Institute

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