What comes to mind when you think about the ocean? Serenity? Marine mammals? Oceanic cycles? For Alanna Mitchell, it’s a feeling of urgency over a major crisis of what covers most of the planet. “The ocean is invisibly ill,” Mitchell, who Reuter’s called the best environmental reporter in the world, said during an interview on September 16th.
In her recently published book “Sea Sick”, Mitchell brings us on her vast research journeys over the span of 2 and a half years to learn more about the wide and open sea. “Before writing this book, I knew nothing about the ocean or its biological importance to the planet,” Mitchell confessed, “but that’s why I wanted to write it. I thought the world was just what I could see. I was ignorant.”
Most of us unfortunately find ourselves in this category and we are lucky to have Alanna Mitchell bringing the ocean to us. She was in Montreal for two days last week on a whirlwind tour of giving classes, interviews and a public presentation, which you can watch here.
Written in a highly accessible fashion, Alanna Mitchell explains the problems and solutions for our ocean, bringing us on the many adventures that laid the foundation for this fascinating account on our troubled seas. Her most frightening experience was while she was 3,000 feet deep in a submersible looking for deep-sea creatures with potential benefits for human diseases.
“I was paralyzed with fear and I didn’t see the point anymore. I had lost all hope,” Mitchell admitted after having traveled the world receiving grim reports on the state of the ocean. After two hours of being submerged, terrified and hopeless, she had an epiphany.
“I decided to have hope. It was a big turning point for me,” she said of her powerful experience. “Like forgiveness, hope can be a very powerful thing; very human and very hard to find, but once you find it, it can be incredibly transformative.”
Mitchell believes that the solution for our ocean lies in solving climate change. “We are changing the chemistry of the global ocean in ways it hasn’t changed in tens of millions of years and we’re setting the stage for major extinctions,” she said. “The world government needs to be doing a lot more.”
Meeting with Alanna Mitchell and reading her book demonstrated the fact that I, too, was like many of you; unaware of the ocean’s problems and the role we play in its well being. Mitchell leaves us with a message of hope: “We have a window here,” she said, “we’re at an extraordinary time in history where we actually have a chance to make a huge difference and I would love to see us take that up and run with it.”
The blood in our bodies is saline; an ancient link to our oceanic beginnings on this planet and as we only have one blood stream in each of us, so the planet only has one ocean. Whatever your occupation in life, as Mitchell said, look through our great window of opportunity and go full steam into a future that has a vibrant and healthy ocean system.