The world’s biggest climate negotiations are taking place in November 2022 in Egypt. The UN’s 27th Conference of Parties, or COP27, gathers governments to agree to limits on carbon emissions and also to funding adaptations needed for life on a warming planet.
The greatest impacts of global warming include loss of biodiversity, more extreme and frequent weather events and environmental degradation. It is largely the most vulnerable communities on the planet that have been and continue to face these challenges. Pakistan for example is still recovering six months after devastating flooding killed thousands and displaced almost 8 million.
The latest report by the IPCC, the global panel of scientists leading work on climate change, notes that the “vulnerability of ecosystems and people to climate change differs substantially among and within regions, driven by patterns of intersecting socio-economic development, unsustainable ocean and land use, inequity, marginalization, historical and ongoing patterns of inequity such as colonialism, and governance.”
As activists gather at COP27, two longtime pioneers of environmental activism, Dr. Sylvia Earle and Captain Paul Watson, gave the keynote addresses at the 2022 Ohana Music Festival in southern California. Ohana’s Storytelling in The Cove stage brought together leading conservationists and environmentalists such as Earle and Watson, as well as researchers, and professional surfers.
Dr. Sylvia Earle, known affectionately as “Her Deepness” for her life-long work to conserve ocean ecosystems and species, and Captain Paul Watson, the alternately praised and heckled “pirate” of the open seas, committed to doing whatever it takes to stop illegal whaling and fishing, spoke to the gathered crowds.
“We shouldn’t be looking at life in the ocean as a grocery store where everything is free. When you take [life] out you’re damaging the very system that keeps us alive. …but maybe we can change when we know that our lives depend on really caring for life, rather than killing,” Dr. Earle said.
Their lifelong and absolute commitment to protecting the ocean and its creatures against all the odds has raised awareness of the cause and inspired many to get involved. Their dedication to speaking inconvenient truths has also made their lives difficult, especially when it means standing up to powerful corporate interests and muddling government bureaucracies.
What do these two activists have in common? They do not quit even in the face of being silenced by intimidation in various forms. What happens to the movement when activist voices are silenced? For Paul Watson, the answer is clear.
“You can take down an individual, you can take down an organization, but you can’t destroy a movement.”