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On a Mission for the Ocean.

Updated: Apr 25, 2023

If you saw a child falling from on high, how would you respond?

This is the intensity that Dr. Sylvia Earle brings to her lifelong work researching and advocating on behalf of the world’s oceans. You can watch it all in a 2015 documentary now on Netflix called Mission Blue.

Sylvia began her love of the ocean growing up in New Jersey and then moving to Florida. The ocean was her backyard and she has not stopped helping people see the ocean as part of our collective life-support system. At 84 years of age, she has seen first-hand how these living waters have been broken by human impact. Without the ocean, Earth would just be a bigger version of Mars.

Dr. Sylvia Earle. Photo from

When she was born, there was just one oil well drilled into the Gulf of Mexico. Now there are 33,000. In 1975 there was one dead zone in the ocean – an area devoid of so much oxygen that no life can exist. In 2014 there were more than 500 dead zones. Between 1950 and 1998 there have been over 100 nuclear bomb tests on ocean waters. Half of the world’s corals have died in the past few decades.

Meanwhile, only 5% of the ocean has even been experienced by humans, with even less of it researched. Dr. Sylvia Earle spends over 300 days a year teaching people about the state of the oceans based on scientific research. As the only woman on an Indian Ocean expedition in 1964, she reflects that their biggest discovery was how much they didn’t know.

Because of so many human impacts, including chemical agriculture and industrial over-fishing, the ocean is now covered in critical “Hot Spots” in dire need of our attention and protection. Responding to this challenge, Dr. Earle has started her own ocean movement – her Mission Blue. The goal is to protect ocean waters like we do land. Marine parks would ban fishing, dumping and drilling. With such protections, these waters can recover and act as examples of hope.

As one of the world’s leading ocean scientists, a woman who broke through systemic gender stereotypes, and as a tireless role model to protect this shared commons and sacred gift, Dr. Earle now creates “Hope Spots”.

For World Oceans Day on June 8th, consider watching Mission Blue, sharing your reactions, and lending your hand in this hope. The Federation of Sisters of St. Joseph Blue Community project is actively engaged in water education and advocacy. Explore this website to widen the mission.

By Paul Baines
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