Day Two BSR Conference Highlight: Oceanographer Sylvia Earle

BSRSure, the BSR conference brought together CSR thought leaders to discuss the latest sustainability strategies. But the Day Two highlight for me was listening to the oceanographer Sylvia Earle, author of several books including her latest, The World is Blue.

Ms. Earle was soft spoken, but delivered a powerful lecture on the current state of our natural systems, particularly our oceans, providing an important context for why socially responsible business practices are important in the first place.

The ocean is home to half the earth’s species and provides half our atmospheric oxygen produced by phytoplankton photosynthesis.  But we are so concerned with carbon, she warned, that we often neglect our oceans.

All of the ocean’s species, from the one-cell phytoplankton to the largest ocean predators, are now threatened by human activity, namely by the things we are putting in and the things we are taking out.

Due to the dumping of toxic pollutants, hundreds of oxygen-deprived “dead zones” now mark our coastal waters. Since the mid-20th century about half our coral reefs have died or suffered sharp decline.

sylviaearle2During this same time, almost 90% of the big fish – tuna, swordfish, marlin and large ground fish such as cod, halibut, skates and flounder – have been seriously depleted by irresponsible fishing practices, such as trawling.

Ms. Earle encouraged everyone to consider and understand the real cost of putting seafood on our plates. Asked what type of seafood she eats, she responded, “I don’t. I like mine alive.”

How’s that for context?

The BSR conference has gotten bigger and better every year, reassuring us that corporate sustainability strategies are becoming more mature and more mainstream day-by-day.  At the same time, we’re lucky to have leaders like Slyvia Earle to remind us why we do this.

Jim Witkin is a writer and researcher based in Silicon Valley focused on business, technology and the environment. His work has been featured in the New York Times and Guardian newspapers on topics that include: sustainable business practices, clean tech, the environment and next generation transportation technologies. He holds an MBA in Sustainable Management from the Presidio Graduate School. Contact him at

One response

  1. Obama wins nobel peace prize. Why?
    Hard to believe that a U.S. President can win a peace prize while engaged in two wars.
    Can some one please inform me as to why Obama has gotten a Nobel Peace Prize when he has yet to do what he has gotten the prize for?

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