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Rising Seas, Moving to Higher Ground

Move the human story forward! ™ ideaXme

Release Date: 01/20/2021

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Richard W Smith, oceanographer and ideaXme world's oceans ambassador interviews John Englander, President and Founder of Rising Seas Institute and author Moving to Higher Ground: Rising Sea Level.

Rising Seas

Climate change and rising sea levels are changing the boundary lines of our world, and, if left to continue at their current pace, pose considerable financial, ecological, and societal threats.

So how can we combat rising tides in order to build for a better and more resilient future?

To discuss the issue of rising sea levels, the ramifications they cause, and how we can mitigate their threat, oceanographer and ideaXme world's oceans ambassador Richard W Smith sat down with John Englander.

John Englander

John Englander is the founder of the Rising Seas Institute, a nonprofit "think tank and resource center" to advance the understanding of potential solutions to future flooding.

Richard W. Smith, ideaXme world's oceans ambassador: [00:01:13] I'm Rick Smith, the ideaXme Oceans ambassador, an oceanographer and aquatic chemist with Global Aquatic Research.

Richard W. Smith, ideaXme world's oceans ambassador: [00:01:25] Today, I'm joined by John Englander. He's an oceanographer, author and a renowned sea level rise expert who helps businesses and communities adapt to a rapidly changing climate. His best-selling book, High Tide on Main Street: Rising Sea Level and the Coming Coastal Crisis has been listed by Politico as one of the top 50 books to read. He has a new book coming out April 6th this year, Moving to Higher Ground: Rising Sea Level and the Path Forward. He's the founder and president of the Rising Seas Institute and was previously the CEO of the International SeaKeepers Society, The Cousteau Society and The Underwater Explorers Society.

John Englander's History of Oceanographic Work

Richard W. Smith, ideaXme world's oceans ambassador: [00:02:00] I'd like to explore the relationship between humans and coastlines. I would also like to take a deep dive into your history of oceanographic work and experiences. John, please tell us a little bit about yourself and how you started this very interesting and inspiring career in oceanography.

John Englander, President and Founder of Rising Seas Institute: [00:02:22] Thanks. I'm glad to. My path is very unconventional, but I think more and more, everybody's path these days is unconventional. So, it's perhaps the normal now. I studied Earth Science (or Geology, as it was called at the time) in college and economics – and I was also a scuba diving instructor. This was back in 1972 to kind of date me or age me.  The ice ages or the Pleistocene, more properly, or paleo geology was the title of the course. Ancient geology fascinated me because I understood for the first time that ice ages were a recurring cycle in Earth's history and that as the ice sheets waned and grew, that sea level moved up and down 120 meters, about 400 feet and that just kind of blew my mind. Then when I was diving in the Bahamas and the clear water, I was a diving instructor during summer breaks from college, I found an ancient sea level 200 feet underwater and suddenly this clicked. Now, I didn't think it would change in my lifetime. Fast forward and I had decades in the diving industry after I graduated college and then I led a group to Greenland in 2007. It was there that it all kind of came together, that I realized, wait a minute, we are seeing sea level change, the early stage of it and this is something that human civilization has not experienced.

John Englander, President and Founder of Rising Seas Institute: [00:03:55] The last time sea level was higher was 122,000 years ago when it was seven meters or 25 feet higher than today. So that blew my mind and I decided to write a book, but that took a lot more research. Somebody said it was kind of like my doctorate course in effect, which I never did. But writing the book is like that, of course, it's a thesis that is reviewed and vetted. That's been my path. It was kind of one thing leading to another, as happens for so many of us.

Richard W. Smith, ideaXme world's oceans ambassador: [00:04:30] It sounds like you've spent a lot of your lifetime diving and probably have a huge number of experiences, I'm really interested, as an oceanographer, in some of the work that you did with The Cousteau Society and Jacques Cousteau. Could you tell us a little bit about that?

John Englander, President and Founder of Rising Seas Institute: [00:04:48] Sure, Cousteau died in June '97. I was very involved in the diving industry, which he helped create, but he had kind of gone off on his own path for years, but we gave him an award. I was chairman of a group called Ocean Futures at the time, started by the diving industry. I got Jacques to come over to Orlando, Florida, in January of that year; this was a culmination of some meetings we've had where he was going to receive this award. We spent some time together and to my surprise, he asked me to become CEO of The Cousteau Society, which was just something I never would have expected. But I sold my dive business in the Bahamas and Jacques and I spent, I guess, three days, almost day and night talking to each other. Unfortunately, by the time I started working for him, he was in the hospital and three months later after that, he passed away. It was a turning point in my life because here was a guy that probably taught more oceanography to more people than anybody else ever. As you may recall, he had this regular TV program that was just fascinating and he had a great perspective because he'd been doing this for more than 70 years. It's hard to believe. He died at age 87. So, it was a real privilege and inspiration and got me to think of the world differently. He had a unique perspective, and I was privileged to share some of that.

Richard W. Smith, ideaXme world's oceans ambassador: [00:06:24] I know from some of my own personal experiences diving, I'm a recreational diver as well. We will be talking about sea level rise today, but I'd just like to give a quick shout out to diving in coral reefs and I'd just like to say that for me, they've been some of the best opportunities I've ever had.

Richard W. Smith, ideaXme world's oceans ambassador: [00:06:30] What is the current state of diving with some of the changes we've been seeing in the ocean today? We're not going to go too much into this, but things like ocean acidification and warming, just parts of the ocean changing as we know it, how are people adapting to that as divers?

John Englander, President and Founder of Rising Seas Institute: [00:07:06] Well, I'm not involved in the diving industry anymore, and in fact, it's been a year since I did my last dive. So, I still dive occasionally, but having thousands of dives, mostly in the warm waters of the Bahamas, et cetera as well as being under the polar ice cap and in many places in the world, diving has changed quite a bit but the magic of being weightless and the exploration aspects of diving, I think will always be there.

John Englander, President and Founder of Rising Seas Institute: [00:07:32] The reefs have certainly changed, as you've just alluded to, from the warming temperatures, from the excess nutrients that we're putting in the oceans, the various diseases, pathogens that are getting in, the algaes, the changing ecosystem from the demise of sea urchins which used to eat the algaes that suffocate the reef.

So, most of the sea urchins are gone. Most reefs today are covered by this brown green algae or they've turned white from coral bleaching. There have been a lot of things happening to coral reefs, which were a special aspect of the ocean for people like you and me and millions of people, of course, tens of millions of people. Continues....For complete transcript please visit www.radioideaxme.com