Remember The Blue Planet

By Sheril Kirshenbaum | June 8, 2010 10:12 am

In an ever more connected and globalized world, we’re increasingly confronted with the ways in which our actions–whether political, economic, or other–can have enormous impacts in other regions. Unfortunately, when it comes to oceans, it has been easy to ignore the devastation that occurs below a seemingly pristine surface. Today is World Oceans Day and as Brett Israel points out, they make up 70 percent of the planet’s surface. And given that 95 percent remains unmapped, the marine realm is our generation’s great unexplored frontier.

After a disaster like the BP spill, images like this brown pelican drenched in oil remind us that we ought to be better stewards of oceans. But too often, we forget as soon as we turn the newspaper page or click a different url. Jeremy Jackson’s right: We’re wrecking oceans through overfishing, climate change, and pollution. So watch, listen, and most importantly, remember


Comments (7)

  1. interested bystander

    As a layperson who lives far from the ocean, listening to Jackson’s talk about the reality that the oceans (or at least the ones he studies) are in such bad shape, makes me so sad. My husband and I so enjoyed snorkeling for the first time on a recent vacation to Hawaii. A fish-less coral reef would be such a tragedy. I really had no idea that over fishing, pollution and climate change were adding up so much. People need to hear this.

  2. Roberta
  3. This is ignorant. The oceans are already destroyed. Calling them a “frontier” is an insult to any marine scientist. They are the most thoroughly raped places on the planet.

  4. GM

    After a disaster like the BP spill, images like this brown pelican drenched in oil remind us that we ought to be better stewards of oceans

    The attitude illustrated by the above sentence is the reason why we should be fighting against religion and for its complete eradication in any way possible. The anthropocentrism that has been drilled into our collective consciousness over the centuries is so pervasive and so self-destructive that there is no other way to make us understand what our actual place in the universe is and still have religion around

    We have no obligation to be stewards of anything; to think we do so is arrogance of the grandest scale. Humanity is not outside and above the environment, it is a subsystem of it. The environment is not there for us to forage on it and we’re not here to be “stewards” of the environment. The only obligation we have is towards our evolutionary imperative to survive, and this is the real reason why we should not be destroying environment.

    It would be useful if it is put in the proper “frame” more often

  5. Sean McCorkle

    Quite a powerful presentation. It continually escalates to the climax @16:00:

    So, um, what are the oceans gonna be like in 20 or 50 years? Um, well there won’t be any fish, except for minnows and, um, the water will be pretty dirty, and and all those kinds of things and full of mercury and etc. etc. and dead zones will get bigger and bigger and they’ll start to merge and we can imagine something like the dead-zonification of the global coastal ocean…

    God, all I could think of after that was:

    … so remember – Tuesday is Soylent Green day! (cue Beethoven’s 6th symphony, 1st movement.)

  6. Ian

    @4 “The attitude illustrated by the above sentence is the reason why we should be fighting against religion and for its complete eradication in any way possible.”

    Yeah, yeah – tell that to St Francis.

  7. GM

    As far as I am aware, St. Francis never mentioned anything about carrying capacity or the need to restrain human activities so that we don’t overshoot.

    Of course, while I do have a keen interest in the history of intellectual thought, when faced with the choice of learning something about the natural world and learning something about people’s misconceptions 800 years, I typically chose the former, so I may be wrong. Correct me if this is the case


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About Sheril Kirshenbaum

Sheril Kirshenbaum is a research scientist with the Webber Energy Group at the University of Texas at Austin's Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy where she works on projects to enhance public understanding of energy issues as they relate to food, oceans, and culture. She is involved in conservation initiatives across levels of government, working to improve communication between scientists, policymakers, and the public. Sheril is the author of The Science of Kissing, which explores one of humanity's fondest pastimes. She also co-authored Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future with Chris Mooney, chosen by Library Journal as one of the Best Sci-Tech Books of 2009 and named by President Obama's science advisor John Holdren as his top recommended read. Sheril contributes to popular publications including Newsweek, The Washington Post, Discover Magazine, and The Nation, frequently covering topics that bridge science and society from climate change to genetically modified foods. Her writing is featured in the anthology The Best American Science Writing 2010. In 2006 Sheril served as a legislative Knauss science fellow on Capitol Hill with Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) where she was involved in energy, climate, and ocean policy. She also has experience working on pop radio and her work has been published in Science, Fisheries Bulletin, Oecologia, and Issues in Science and Technology. In 2007, she helped to found Science Debate; an initiative encouraging candidates to debate science research and innovation issues on the campaign trail. Previously, Sheril was a research associate at Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment and has served as a Fellow with the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation at the American Museum of Natural History and as a Howard Hughes Research Fellow. She has contributed reports to The Nature Conservancy and provided assistance on international protected area projects. Sheril serves as a science advisor to NPR's Science Friday and its nonprofit partner, Science Friday Initiative. She also serves on the program committee for the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). She speaks regularly around the country to audiences at universities, federal agencies, and museums and has been a guest on such programs as The Today Show and The Daily Rundown on MSNBC. Sheril is a graduate of Tufts University and holds two masters of science degrees in marine biology and marine policy from the University of Maine. She co-hosts The Intersection on Discover blogs with Chris Mooney and has contributed to DeSmogBlog, Talking Science, Wired Science and Seed. She was born in Suffern, New York and is also a musician. Sheril lives in Austin, Texas with her husband David Lowry. Interested in booking Sheril Kirshenbaum to speak at your next event? Contact Hachette Speakers Bureau 866.376.6591 For more information, visit her website or email Sheril at


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