Millennium 2000: Oceans Remain Earth's Last FrontierAired January 2, 2000 - 7:52 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: And finally, with growing worldwide concern for the climate and the environment, the next frontier we must all think about is the vast, uncharted realm beneath the sea.
BOB BALLARD, UNDERWATER EXPLORER: We have explored very little of our planet. Most of our planet is unexplored, particularly the southern hemisphere, where most of the world's oceans are situated. We haven't even done the Lewis and Clark expeditions in the deep sea that we did on land in the 1800s. In fact, the next generation of ocean explorers of the next millennium will explore more of earth than all previous generations combined.
SYLVIA EARL, EXPLORER IN RESIDENCE, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC SOCIETY: We've learned more about the ocean in the last half century than during all preceding history, and yet during the same period of time, more change has been brought about in the ocean, and change not really for the good, because of what we've been putting in and what we've been taking out. There's real cause for hope, but only if we take action right now.
The biggest problem comes from the commercial-scale taking of large factory ships that altogether take hundreds of millions of tons of wildlife from the sea over the past several decades. Actually, the total catch for a single year presently is nearly 100 million tons. How this affects us, ultimately, of course, is an open question. But one thing is for sure. To the extent that we influence and alter the nature of the ocean, we're monkeying around with our life-support system.
It's not just water, although water is critical to life. It's the single, non-negotiable thing that life requires, and most of it on this water-blessed planet is in the sea. But we have changed the chemistry of the oceans through what we have allowed to flow into the sea.
You know, we treat the ocean as the ultimate sewer. We think if we don't want it on the land, then let's put it in the ocean. And the illusion has been, the feeling has been that the sea is so vast, so resilient that there isn't much we can to harm it. We're learning otherwise right now, and that represents a turning point.
We're beginning to see it as astronauts have seen the earth, as one small, mostly blue planet, and the connectedness, the way that we all are tied together and that we are tied to nature and that nature has its roots in the ocean.
If we destroy or undermine the health of the environment -- that means the ocean environment, most fundamentally, is where most of the environment on earth is, after all -- then we are undermining our own future, and we are beginning to understand the relevance of the ocean to our everyday lives and what we do to the ocean, we do to ourselves.
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