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Let's protect the oceans like national parks

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    So, of all my childhood memories,
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    there is one that stands above the rest.
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    And that is the time that my brave parents
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    rented an RV, packed it
    with me and my brothers,
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    and drove west
    from our house in Minneapolis,
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    out to Yellowstone National Park.
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    We saw all the sights, like the geysers,
    we stopped at the Badlands,
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    but more than any of the places,
    I remember this as an adventure.
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    This was my introduction to the Wild West.
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    But it wasn't until I got older
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    and I learned more
    about the National Park System
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    that I realized just how lucky I was.
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    One, to have that experience,
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    but also that, hundreds of years ago,
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    people had the foresight
    to set aside the very best places,
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    the very best ecosystems
    in the country, for everyone.
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    And for future generations.
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    And to really appreciate
    just how prescient that idea was,
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    you have to go back
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    and you have to look at the history
    of the National Parks Service.
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    So, a lot of people know, the first
    national park was Yellowstone, in 1872.
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    A lot of people think of John Muir,
    the poet, naturalist,
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    who was such a visionary
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    in getting people inspired
    by the idea of conservation --
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    that we need to take
    the best places and protect them.
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    He had an audience in very high places --
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    there's a great story
    of Teddy Roosevelt and John Muir
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    going hiking, in Yosemite,
    during his presidency,
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    four days, completely off the grid,
    just the two of them.
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    Can you imagine a president
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    actually just going completely
    off the grid for four days?
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    (Laughter)
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    No tweeting.
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    (Laughter) (Applause)
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    Like that idea.
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    (Applause)
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    But he had a great impact
    on Theodore Roosevelt.
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    And he created dozens of national parks,
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    hundreds of thousands of square acres
    of national wildlife refuges.
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    It was an important administration,
    but it wasn't a done deal.
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    Even less than 10 years
    after he created all of those new places,
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    the future of those places
    was very much in doubt.
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    And it wasn't until this guy,
    Stephen Mather,
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    a businessman from Chicago,
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    wrote an angry letter
    to the Department of the Interior, saying,
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    "You guys aren't doing a good enough job
    protecting and preserving these places."
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    Then, something was done about it.
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    The Department of the Interior
    wrote him back.
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    "Mr. Mather, if you care
    so much about this,
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    why don't you come to Washington
    and do it yourself?"
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    (Laughter)
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    And he did.
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    He took a job at the Department
    of the Interior,
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    but more importantly,
    he started a campaign.
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    He actually had a meeting
    two blocks from here, in 1914,
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    in California Hall,
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    and he brought together the park
    superintendents and a few other people
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    who cared about this idea of conservation.
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    And they put together a plan,
    they hatched a campaign
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    that eventually led to the
    National Park Service in 1916.
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    And that's really important.
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    Because it went from an idea
    that we should protect these places
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    to an actual plan,
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    a way for people to enlist
    and carry that idea forward
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    for future generations,
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    so little kids like me can go
    and have these amazing experiences.
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    That is the history
    of the National Parks on land.
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    The ocean, what I want
    to talk to you about today,
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    is a completely different story.
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    And we are almost precisely
    100 years behind.
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    So, the first marine
    sanctuary was in 1972,
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    after the oil spill in Santa Barbara,
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    people got interested
    in taking that concept
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    and applying it
    to underwater environments.
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    We've had our own John Muir,
    who's Dr. Sylvia Earle,
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    who's been a tireless advocate
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    for creating these marine
    protected areas around the world.
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    So, I know there's a lot
    of bad news about the ocean,
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    there's plastic pollution,
    coral bleaching, over-fishing --
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    it's hard to take it all in sometimes.
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    But this idea of setting aside
    places for nature is working.
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    Science tells us that if you
    set these places aside,
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    nature will come back
    and we can keep the oceans healthy.
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    So we know this idea works.
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    And Dr. Sylvia Earl
    has been influential, like John Muir,
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    with administrations --
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    George W. Bush and Obama
    were both fantastic ocean presidents,
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    creating marine protected areas
    all around the country.
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    This is not a conservative idea
    or a liberal idea,
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    it's not even an American idea,
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    it's just a good idea.
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    (Laughter)
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    (Applause)
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    But --
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    (Applause)
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    Here we are, a few years later.
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    And now the administration is proposing
    to roll back a lot of the progress
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    we've made in the past 20 years.
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    So, so, don't mourn -- organize.
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    We need to do what
    Stephen Mather did 100 years ago.
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    We need to start a campaign
    to get people engaged with this idea.
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    And I think we need a league
    of citizen scientists for the ocean.
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    And I've seen glimpses of this future,
    and I know that it's possible.
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    My friend Erik and I started building
    underwater robots,
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    these little swimming cameras
    with lights that you can see underwater.
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    We started building these
    in his garage five years ago,
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    and we've watched that grow
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    into this community of thousands
    of people around the world,
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    who believe that everybody
    should have access to these places.
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    We all deserve the tools
    to go and explore.
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    There's stories like Laura James,
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    who used her robot to find out that
    sea stars in her area were dying.
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    And she started this whole
    citizen science campaign,
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    collected data and drove awareness
    for sea-star wasting syndrome,
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    to try and figure out
    what was happening there.
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    There are stories of fishermen in Mexico,
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    who used the robot to create
    marine protected areas
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    where Nassau grouper were spawning,
    to protect the future of this species.
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    It's really amazing stuff.
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    We found that if you give
    people the tools,
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    they'll do the right thing.
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    But we need to take it a step further.
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    And, actually, I think we can dust off
    Stephen Mather's playbook.
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    So what did he do?
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    So, the first thing that he did
    was he focused on infrastructure.
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    So 1914 wasn't just
    a time for the parks,
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    it was also a time for the automobile,
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    the Model T was rolling off the line,
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    and Stephen Mather understood
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    that this was going to be
    an important part of American culture.
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    And so he partnered with highway
    associations around the country
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    to build big, beautiful highways
    out to these parks.
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    And it worked, he's basically
    invented car camping.
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    And he knew that if people
    didn't go to these places,
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    that they wouldn’t fall in love with them
    and they wouldn't care.
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    So that was a really insightful
    idea that he had.
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    The second thing they did,
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    was they focused
    on visionary philanthropy.
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    So, Stephen Mather was a successful
    businessman from Chicago,
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    and anytime there was
    a parks association that needed funding,
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    anytime there was a highway
    association that needed funding,
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    they'd step in, write
    the checks, make it happen.
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    There's a great story
    of his friend William Kent,
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    who recognized there was a small patch
    of redwoods left on the base of Mount Tam,
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    and so he quickly bought the land
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    and donated it
    to this National Parks effort.
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    That's Muir Woods today --
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    it's one of the most popular
    national parks in the whole country.
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    My parents are visiting here
    from Minnesota,
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    and they don't really even
    care about this talk,
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    all they're talking about
    is going to Muir Woods.
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    (Laughter)
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    But the last thing is critical --
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    Stephen Mather focused on engagement.
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    In one of the first meetings that they had
    around this new system, he said,
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    "If you're a writer,
    I want you to write about this.
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    If you're a business owner, I want you
    to tell your clubs and your organizations.
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    If you work for the government,
    I want you to pass regulation."
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    Everybody had a job.
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    "Each of you, all of you,
    have a role to play
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    in protecting these places
    for future generations."
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    Each of you, all of you.
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    I love that.
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    That's the plan --
    simple, three-point plan.
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    I think we can do the same.
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    So, this was the headline
    when Obama created
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    the Papahanaumokuakea National Monument:
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    "Lots to see, but good luck
    trying to get there."
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    But like Mather, we should focus
    on the technology of our time,
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    all of this new, amazing,
    digital infrastructure
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    can be built to engage people
    with the oceans.
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    So, the National Marine Sanctuary
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    has created all these
    wonderful VR 360 videos,
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    where you can actually go
    and see what these places look like.
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    Our team is continuing to build new tools,
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    this is our latest, this is
    the trident underwater drone,
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    it's a diving submarine, it's sleek,
    you can fit it in a backpack,
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    it can go down to 100 meters,
    deeper than most divers can go.
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    It can see these environments
    that most people have never had access to.
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    New tools are coming
    and we need even better tools.
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    We can also use
    more visionary philanthropists.
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    So, when Erik and I started this,
    we didn't have any money,
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    we were building this in his garage.
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    But we went to Kickstarter.
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    And we found over 1,800 people,
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    almost a million dollars
    we've raised on Kickstarter,
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    finding other people who think,
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    "Yeah, that's a good idea.
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    I want to be a part of that."
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    We need more ways for people
    to get engaged
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    and become visionary
    philanthropists themselves.
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    We've also had
    traditional philanthropists,
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    who've stepped up to fund us
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    in the SEE initiative --
    the Science Education and Exploration,
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    who are going to help us get donated
    units out to people on the frontlines,
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    people who are doing the science,
    people who are telling the stories,
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    inspiring communities.
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    You can go on to OpenExplorer.com
    and see what people are doing,
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    it's hugely inspirational.
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    And it will also, hopefully,
    spur you to get involved.
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    Because there is plenty of room
    to get involved.
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    We want to hear what ideas you have
    for telling these stories.
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    Because that's just it --
    this is all about engagement.
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    There's all sorts of interesting,
    new ways for people to participate
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    in the protection of these places.
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    And the understanding.
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    Like, Reef Check -- scuba divers
    are going down and swimming transects
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    and counting fish and biodiversity data.
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    They're getting the information we need
    to protect these places.
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    If you're going down to the beach,
    participate in MPA Watch.
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    Document what activities you see
    going on in these different areas.
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    There is room for everybody
    to participate here.
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    And that's just it, that's what we need.
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    We need to build a future
    for our grandkids' grandkids.
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    Last month, I went out sailing,
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    and we got out to the Farallon Islands,
    25 miles off the Gate.
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    And most people think of this
    as kind of a bird sanctuary,
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    but we took our robot, and we sent it in.
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    And the people on the boat were astonished
    at the life beneath the surface.
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    I mean, these are really,
    really important ecosystems.
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    Really, and this is a whole
    wild world we haven't yet explored.
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    And we have an opportunity right now,
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    just as they did 100 years ago,
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    to protect these places, to put in a plan,
    to keep people engaged.
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    So last year, when the executive
    order came out,
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    putting all of the progress we've made,
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    all of these new marine protected
    areas, under review,
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    there were over 100,000 people
    who commented online.
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    Almost all of these letters were saying,
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    "Don't do it; protecting these places
    is the right thing to do."
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    My message to those 100,000 people,
    those 100,000 letters is:
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    don't wait for Washington.
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    We can do this ourselves.
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    Thank you.
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    (Applause)
Title:
Let's protect the oceans like national parks
Speaker:
David Lang
Description:

You don't have to be a scientist to help protect the world's oceans, says underwater drone expert and TED Fellow David Lang -- in fact, ordinary citizens have pulled together to save the planet's natural treasures many times in history. Lang asks us to take a lesson from the story of the US National Parks Service, offering a three-point plan for conserving underwater wonders.

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Video Language:
English
Team:
TED
Project:
TEDTalks
Duration:
12:13

English subtitles

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