We humans have an ancient and enduring obsession with technology. Whether it be flint or silicon, we are constantly molding the materials of our environment to bring greater value to our lives. Take, for instance, the Leonardo da Vinci invention pictured above. Hundreds of years before the Industrial Revolution, this Renaissance man’s mind was sprouting complex schematics that used mechanical advantage to bring greater efficiency. What force, do you reckon, da Vinci had in mind to turn those grinding wheels? Perhaps beasts of burden tethered and yolked? Or maybe the current of a nearby river? Some natural resource is needed to turn those gears.
Catalyzed by the Industrial Revolution in the late 19th century, our world is dominated by machinery and electronics. What was once a water-powered mill in a sleepy Tuscan town is now thousands of dams spread across the major rivers of the Earth. What began as a simple fishing reel has now evolved — for the sake of efficiency — into industrial fishing operations. Agricultural technology now allows us to make millions of tons of fertilizer that increase crop yield, but also create massive aquatic dead zones. Our adoration of oil not only powers globalization, but also gives us events like the Deepwater Horizon spill. (The oil is not gone, by the way.)
Technology is not necessarily destructive to our environment. It’s the way we choose to use it that matters. In fact, we live in a time when our technological abilities are greater than ever. The power of human intelligence and ingenuity has never been stronger: we are, at this point in time, more equipped to tackle immense environmental issues than ever before.
Take this iconic photo, for instance. For all the rocket science that went into putting a man on the moon, this one photograph had an enormous impact on the human psyche. Before we could conceptualize that the Earth is our life support system. But after seeing our globe ensconced in the inky chill of space, we began to know the true fragility and importance of our environment. Only through knowing can we begin to care.
There are amazing technologies today that are helping us explore and know our ocean. They are fueling our fascination with the marine world and bringing about a global awakening to care. Take, for example, the high-tech submarines built by DOER Marine: these technological marvels descend thousands of meters into the ocean — and through ice shelves — to explore worlds yet unknown. Or take the recent Catlin Seaview Survey, which is documenting the underwater world in unprecedented detail. You can now, quite literally, take a stroll around the most beautiful coral reefs on our planet. Incredibly, NASA scientists are now using ocean water itself as a fluid lens that enables low flying drones — and maybe one day satellites — to create 3D models of coral reefs on centimeter level scales. This technology, called Fluid Lensing, is a promising step forward for oceanography. (We have a Mission Blue video coming your way that will describe this in more detail.)
If we allow ourselves a level of optimism, we could conclude that, while technology has helped us destroy the environment, it also offers us a way out. We are connecting with the ocean like never before, and this deeper connection is leading more people to care and act in the race to reverse ocean decline. At Mission Blue we embrace technology as a force of exponential positive potential. That’s why we partner with organizations such as Google and Netflix — to reach humanity on a massive level that engenders real care and hope for our ocean’s future. It is a feature of our San Francisco organizational DNA: we advocate the responsible and radical use of technology to build a future with a healthy ocean. Join us.