1. What’s one fact everyone should know about the state of our oceans?
Ninety percent of the heat we’re generating by burning fossil fuels is being absorbed by the ocean, which as a result, is becoming warmer, more acidic, and less hospitable to the diversity of life that lives within in and along its coasts (including humans).
2. With all the devastation that’s happened, what keeps you hopeful that we can turn it around?
I’m more frustrated than despairing, because we know what the solutions are. Stop killing fish and they tend to grow back. Don’t produce 100 million metric tons of disposable plastic every year, and it won’t end up choking turtles or concentrating toxins through the food web. What we lack is not solutions, but the political will to scale them up faster than the problems.
3. You have done everything from writing, speaking, filming—even happy hour events. What has been the most effective way to persuade minds and hearts?
You protect the things you love. I talk about how the ocean has been a source of wonder, thrills, and solace in my life and other lives and people relate because, as JFK said, “We all come from the sea.” I try and give people the tools to protect or restore the places along the shore or offshore that mean the most to them—be they divers, surfers, sailors, or simply beach walkers who stand by a coastal sunset and share in the awe and wonder.
4. Is there a place that’s particularly special to you?
The 1,100 miles of California coastline is my favorite small piece of our blue planet, including a particular Northern California tide pool where I shared a first kiss with a woman who would become a great partner in my ocean and outdoor life adventures before she crossed over the bar.
5. What can our readers do today to turn the tide?
Be a seaweed (marine grassroots) activist. Read my book 50 Ways to Save the Ocean. Generally, what’s good for the ocean also tends to be good for your health, pocketbook, or sense of well-being. Go to www.bluefront.org and look through our Blue Movement Directory of some 1,500 ocean protection groups. Pick one and get in touch. Become a change maker, but don’t forget to also get wet.
David Helvarg organizes other seaweed rebels through his organization the Blue Frontier Campaign. His new memoir Saved by the Sea: Hope, Heartbreak and Wonder in the Blue World will be published this spring.