By Andrew Kornblatt, co-founder of the Online Ocean Symposium
The Online Ocean Symposium is a digital forum that uses streaming video to connect and broadcast different voices from the ocean world. We have guests that speak on issues ranging from ocean acidification to plastic legislation to climate change. Each conversation is not only live-broadcast where the audience can ask questions directly of the participants, but it also is forever housed in YouTube.
For the past two years we have invited guests like Sylvia Earle, Bill McKibben, Don Walsh and most recently, Richard Branson, to discuss their work and passions as they relate to the ocean. We have hosted over 30 different Hangouts. Now the Symposium is honored to become an official partner of Mission Blue.
As partners in 2014 we were able to put together a Google Hangout on Air for Mission Blue during the State Department’s “Our Ocean” conference and five Hangouts for the World Parks Congress in Sydney covering different aspects of marine protected areas. It was a fantastic year in collecting ocean stories.
The Symposium began as a direct result of the work of Mission Blue. Two years ago, I had the pleasure of working on communications and coordination at the BLUE Ocean Film Festival. BLUE is a magnificent event that brings together scientists, advocates and filmmakers of the ocean though an annual conference.
One night before a full day of films, talks and forums, I went down to the hotel lobby to get some work done. I ran into Jenifer Austin of the Google Ocean Program, Dan Laffoley of IUCN and, her Deepness, Sylvia Earle. Jenifer invited me to join them for dinner at the hotel restaurant.
Little did I know that night would birth a new approach to communicating in the ocean world, and that it would change my life.
At the time I had only seen Sylvia’s Ted talk and knew very little about her background. Over the course of the evening, we discussed a full menu of ocean topics. We touched on how frustrating the political and commercial roadblocks to ocean protection were, how disheartening her lifetime of seeing natural species decline was, and how hopeful events like BLUE made her feel. Sylvia’s descriptions of the places she had been and seen – how diving in bioluminescent pools was like looking up through a blue universe only to break through the surface to see the galaxy shining above – will always stay with me.
That same conversation led us to the realization that there are countless organizations that are working on ocean efforts – many on similar projects. The group concluded that it would be valuable to have a forum for all of these different interests to inform one another and collaborate to get their stories heard. For the past two years the Online Ocean Symposium has been doing just that, and we look forward to what 2015 brings.