How I Sea: David Helvarg, March For The Ocean

Source: The TerraMar Project - February 12, 2018 in Featured, TMP

How I Sea: David Helvarg, March For The Ocean
Photo David Helvarg

David Helvarg grew up watching Sea Hunt and Jacque Cousteau specials and bugging his mother to take him to the beach.  While he thought he’d become an oceanographer life took him in another direction and he became an award-winning journalist, war reporter and private investigator, also a bodysurfer and diver.  After writing his first ocean book, ‘Blue Frontier’ he founded the Blue Frontier Campaign in 2003 to try and mobilize solution-oriented grassroots (what he calls Seaweed) ocean activists who were offering effective solutions to the problems facing our public seas.

Photo: David Helvarg

Why are you Marching for the Ocean, and why should the rest of Americans (and the world for the matter) March?

We get so much from the ocean in terms of oxygen, rain, recreation, transportation, trade, food, national security, wind, wonder and awe, it’s time we gave something back.  Only by mobilizing in our millions to Wear Blue for the Ocean and March for the Ocean on June 9, during World Oceans Day weekend, can we begin to demonstrate the power of people acting together to turn the tide for a healthy ocean and clean water for all.

Unfortunately we now have an administration in D.C. that sees the ocean as little more than a gas station and a garbage dump, which is why we’ll also march to stop offshore oil drilling, end plastic and other forms of ocean pollution and protect our coasts at risk from climate disruption.  The Ocean is Rising and So Are We!


What kind of involvement have you seen from both ends of the political spectrum in the US  (Left versus Right) in regards to the oil drilling controversy? Are both parties generally on the same page (against drilling) or is there a significant divide?

 While our two parties leaders have divided over expanding fossil fuel production versus job-generating clean energy, on the ground and by the water the divide is less partisan.  Many elected officials representing coastal constituencies are now part of a groundswell of opposition to drilling and spilling both because it puts our already healthy blue economies at risk from another BP type-disaster and because of product liability – this product, used as directed overheats our atmosphere, our ocean and intensifies hurricanes like last season’s Harvey, Irma and Maria.  That’s why we’ll be marching at the beginning of the 2018 hurricane season. 

March For The Ocean

Photo David Helvarg

How have you seen the marine environment that you study change in your lifetime? Both in general and in the context of your work? 

We’re seeing global processes that once took eons changing in less than a human lifespan; rates of extinctions, climate regimes, ocean chemistry.   When I was 15 my mother took my sister and me to the Florida Keys.  Until then I thought I was born too soon to see alien worlds.  But then I got hold of some snorkel gear and saw colorful living rocks, shoaling fish, my first sea turtle and hammerhead shark and realized there’s an amazing alien world just beyond the seawall.  When I took that first plunge the Florida Keys had over 90 percent live coral cover.  Today, in the blink of an eye in which I’ve lived my life, that coral cover has declined to less than ten percent.  I’ve heard similar testimony from scientists, naturalists and regular citizens around the world.  We’re in a moment of crisis in which our actions and choices today will determine the kind of world we bequeath multiple generations of life to come.

What do you believe is the biggest threat to the marine environment? And why? 

The ocean is facing a cascading series of disasters from industrial overfishing, plastic, oil, chemical and nutrient pollution, loss of natural habitat and climate change.  We used to say think globally, act locally but now these multiple threats are occurring locally, regionally and globally and we have to respond at all levels.  When it seems overwhelming we can just remember Margaret Mead’s admonition, ‘Don’t doubt that a handful of dedicated people can change the world.  Indeed it’s the only thing that ever has.’  

March For The Ocean

Photo: David Helvarg

What’s the optimal outcome of the March? What does it hope to accomplish politically in the US?  

I believe the March for the Ocean will launch a new social movement based on the fact that we all depend on the ocean and also specific actions including campaigns to pass a congressional ban on offshore drilling, to get major fast food and coffee companies to eliminate their use of throwaway plastic and to plant and restore millions of acres of living shoreline that can protect our coastlines from sea level rise impacts. Retired California Congressman Sam Farr once told me California is the only state where a politician can win an election or lose her or his job based on where they stand on offshore oil and coastal protection.  After M4O I think that reality is going to spread to many more states both coastal and inland.

What’s one everyday thing that you believe any individual could do better to conserve the marine environment?

I wrote my book ’50 Ways to Save the Ocean’ based on a belief that everything we do every day has an impact on the seas around us.  The good news I discovered is when you educate yourself and begin to act you find that the things you can do for the sea also turn out to be good for you in terms of your health, pocketbook or sense of well being.  The first of 50 Ways is ‘Go To The Beach’ because we protect what we love.

How I Sea is a new effort by The TerraMar Project to dive into the minds of our global ocean community. We highlight opinions on conservation issues such as: marine pollution, overfishing, drilling, climate change, marine protected areas, scientific discoveries, and much more. Stay tuned for more.

Sign up today to become a citizen of our global ocean community and sign up for your very own passport to the world’s ocean by visiting us at: www.theterramarproject.org

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