RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—"It's a little weird that Sam Malone is talking to you about oceans," Ted Danson told a crowd of editors at Rodale's headquarters on a tour promoting his new book Oceana (Rodale, 2011). And it would be weird, if not for his obvious dedication to the cause.
Danson's ocean activism began humbly enough, when he was taking his daughters to the beach only to find it closed because of pollution. That was 25 years ago, and since then, he's devoted countless hours giving talks and even testifying before Congress and the World Trade Organization about ocean pollution, destructive fishing policies, offshore oil drilling, and climate change. Early on in his advocacy efforts, he formed a small nonprofit called the American Oceans Campaign that later became part of Oceana, the world's largest ocean conservation organization. "My mother was a very spiritual person," he said, "and she taught us that there's a lot that comes before us and a lot that comes after us, and while we're here, it's all about stewardship."
Danson's book, 300 pages of startling statistics and vivid photography, is his attempt to bring that stewardship to a wider audience. "I firmly believe we are at a tipping point," he said of the public's awareness of problems facing our oceans. "We can fix it in your children's lifetimes."
Before his presentation, Ted Danson spoke with Rodale.com about some of those problems and what even the most landlocked can do to help.
Rodale.com: Nearly a year has passed since the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. What do you think about the long-term health of the Gulf, and are you hopeful that the ecosystem there will recover?
|Ted Danson: I think we dodged a bullet to some degree, because of the currents particular to that day of the spill. If it had happened a year before on the exact same day, the weather would have done way worse things. As far as long-term, I think, sadly, you have to wait to see what the long-term is. Twenty times the number of infant dolphins have been washing up on shore than is normal. We have no idea what will happen to the bluefin tuna, where there is a major breeding ground, and we don't know what it was like for different fish populations to swim through those plumes. Only time will tell.|
The final official federal estimate of the Gulf oil spill was 171 million gallons. That's more than 15 Exxon Valdez spills.
Rodale.com: Of all the things you talk about in your book, from climate change to oil spills to destructive fishing tactics, what do you think is the biggest concern for oceans today?
TD: If you focus on overfishing, if you focus on the health of the world's fisheries, you pretty much bring everything else into the conversation, whether it's oil or energy or ocean acidification or pollution.
Some scientists believe that we could literally commercially fish out our oceans in the next generation or two if we continue to fish in such a destructive and wasteful way. That could have a huge impact on the world, besides the obvious moral question of, what right do we have, out of stupidity and greed, to wipe out an entire ecosystem? But also, a billion people depend on fish for their animal protein. Hundreds of millions of people depend on it for their livelihood. It's a $100-billion-a-year industry. We have the means to not fish out our oceans. We have the means, if we put our will to it, to make sure we have viable oceans that can support us for many generations.