I have to blog. It’s in my blood, even if nobody ever reads it. But I just came back from Halifax, Nova Scotia.
I could say I was there to see the maples, which are greener this week than Seattle’s maples are. I could say I went there to see the street birds or the garden and roadside weeds, which always interest me. I could say I went there to people-watch. I love that too. Because looking at the diversity of life, including people, and seeing its beauty, importance and resilience makes me want to savor all the nature and people I can while I still can.
It’s never been about me. I’m just one person among billions and billions. It’s about life on Earth. Including people.
In my late 60s, I’m probably going to escape the worst of it. It’s my younger contemporaries I really fear for, including Millennials who are so angry at us Boomers for what we failed to do for them and their children, which means our beautiful grandchildren. I fear for all humankind, as do some who would spend billions to escape an Earth on fire.
Our world is rapidly becoming unlivable while our human species oscillates emotionally between mindless anthropocentrism and paralyzing fear, both of which cause most of us to behave very stupidly to our one and only biological life support system. A lot of people seem to think that we should shoot our seed to other places in the universe rather than saving the one planet we know that works for us, the Earth. That’s REALLY dumb. Definitely the wrong way to go.
Because we can still save the Earth.
It won’t be easy or cheap. It’s not a task for the faint-hearted. But unless we all want to die, we need to save the Earth. Doing that may seem so daunting that many people are hopelessly frozen as the world melts. But saving it—and doing it right now—is essential. There’s no more time to waste.
It’s as simple as that.
Giving a talk is always intellectually, emotionally and physically demanding for me. And because I hate leaving my loving mate, the hummingbirds I invite to my garden and the veggies I grow, I’m a homebody. I’ve not seen most of this world, but now I’m only wanting to go to places that are truly worthwhile because they can offer real lessons for how we humans can live on this Earth. Happily, I just did go to a place that has a winning, investment-worthy model for generating new ideas in sustainability: Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
I had to go back to Dal to see old friends including Drs. Aldo Chircop, thinker about international institutions (with whom I had the pleasure of working at the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992), Tony Charles, Susanna Fuller and others. And I went there to meet new colleagues such as Dr. Meinhard Doelle, Director of the Marine & Environmental Law Institute and Steve Mannell, Director of the College of Sustainability. I was so lucky to have Lauri MacDougall and Debra Ross caring for me. And of course, I went to share with young interdisciplinary students, into whose hands we are thrusting and entrusting the future, and people from Halifax’s sustainability community. I burned that carbon (which the School of Sustainability paid to offset) for you.
But most of all, I went to honor and celebrate Dr. Ransom A. Myers, who died much too early and fast in 2007. RAM had the most remarkable combination of deep mathematical skill, insight for applying it to fisheries and characteristically cheerful and clear-sighted optimism. He loved this world and had actually figured out ways for humankind to continue living on Earth, so we were in the same business. Of course, inevitably, putting his talents to work for saving the Earth generated some mean-spirited push-back from lesser intellects. But RAM was really on to some things essential to humankind’s continued existence on Earth.
Because I am still not done mourning him, I needed to return to his academic home again, to pay homage, and to see Dr. Boris Worm, RAM’s brilliantly accomplished colleague and heir, a marine scientist who sees with great clarity humankinds’ trajectory on very large spatial/temporal scales.
In a nutshell, I was willing to leave my hummingbird garden to engage young people in a place where sustainable solutions people intersect with institution-savvy people. And that’s important, because it is our existing or new institutions that will save us or not save us.
I went to Halifax to offer a part of the solution: the Global Ocean Refuge System. GLORES won’t end hatred, war, poverty, climate change or overfishing outside ocean refuges. But GLORES is an institution designed to create and maintain refuges for resilience for our world. It’s a basic idea: with enough protected places in the right locations, marine life in them can recover and recover the oceans when bad things happen (and they will happen). That’s really, REALLY important because we humans need marine life, as we do the seeds on which we’ve built our cultures.
In other words, GLORES is very much like the Global Seed Vault in Svalbard. A place to help us survive what’s coming. A Noah’s Ark. So that if humankind wants to continue on this Earth, we’ll have a fail-safe starter kit for healthy, productive oceans we need.
I have devoted my life to get to the point of offering a workable vision of this essential institution for humankind, this global ocean insurance policy. It’s the most important thing that 37.5 years in the conservation profession has taught me. It’s what my intellectual parents Rachel Carson and Aldo Leopold would have wanted.
So, to honor my friend RAM, I left the plans for our Ocean Seed Vault with my old and new friends in Halifax.
For us and nature, both.
Cover photo via Brian Skerry