Knowledge Institute Podcasts
Enric Sala on the Economics of Conservation
Enric Sala, National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence and author of "The Nature of Nature: Why We Need the Wild," explains how protecting wildlife and the environment is both ethically and economically crucial.
Hosted by Jeff Kavanaugh, VP and Head of the Infosys Knowledge Institute.
“You have to follow your purpose, not just your passion. And if you're good at one thing, just use it to fulfil, to achieve your purpose. And don't let anyone discourage you, don't play in a world of scarcity. Think of a world of abundance. If the current structure doesn't provide the job that you dream of, well, just dream about it. Create it. There are so many possibilities.”
- Enric Sala
Enric, in your new book "The Nature of Nature," you make the case for why we need the wild. Can you share a particularly poignant example of this?
Jeff introduces Enric
You once said you were born too late to earn a berth in the Calypso, the great oceanographer Jacques Cousteau's famous ship. How did you get started and what were some of your early influences?
In your foreword to the first book, "Pristine Seas," you describe being inside an ivory tower, "Yelling as loud as I could about the threats to the ocean, but very few outside could hear us." Looking back, did you really know what you were doing back then?
As a young assistant professor at the University of California, San Diego, you developed a graduate program bridging the gap between marine science, economics and policy. Talk about strange bedfellows. What was, and maybe why, was the immediate social relevance such an uphill battle?
How did you make the leap from academia to action?
Has your dream been fulfilled yet?
Can you tell more about your work with the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation as the National Geographic explorer-in-residence?
On a global scale, how close are we to [the iceberg] metaphor for catastrophe, and aside from luck, how do we avoid it?
What's a mindset that people can apply for their own businesses, based on this, to bounce back?
Given the situation we face today, how can we meaningfully apply the “triple bottom line” to the evolution of global society and systems?
Do you think that this hasn't taken off, besides the obvious conflicts of interests for some, because you've only recently established this calculus and these formulas, or has it already been out there for a while and you just simply can't get a decent hearing?
What are the key messages that change other people's thinking?
How do these metrics play into the great reset narrative of the upcoming World Economic Forum?
What about business leaders in the US, Western Europe, around the world, what can they do to expand their horizons from responsibility to resilience and maybe even regeneration?
One question, too, in terms of systems change, how do we bridge the disconnect between global problems and national politics?
In your view, how can a leader make the long-term decisions and investments that are required while operating in this short-term, highly uncertain world?
One of my colleagues has a 10-year-old daughter who, believe it or not, wants to be a marine biologist. What does this all mean, if you're speaking to a 10-year-old girl or boy about the possibility for them, with their lives ahead of them?
You wrote in your epilogue to your first book, "While I'm dreaming big, someone reminds I'm not dreaming big enough." What is your next big dream?
If we could swap seats and you could interview someone for this podcast, who would you recommend?
What resources can you recommend, either books or online resources, for further study?
Jeff Kavanaugh: After protecting vast swathes of our oceans almost half the size of the United States, Enric Sala wants to change the world, again. "Once we appreciate how nature works," he asserts, "We will understand why conservation is economically wise and essential to our survival. Enric, in your new book "The Nature of Nature," you make the case for why we need the wild. Can you share a particularly poignant example of this?
Enric Sala: In March 2019, there was a cyclone, Cyclone Idai, that devastated Mozambique. They had never seen such rain coming down so quickly in such short a period of time, and it created floods and it destroyed property and killed thousands of people. But it could have been worse, were it not for a national park. Gorongosa National Park is a place where natural grasslands are still there, and the natural grasslands were able to absorb an amount of rain equivalent of 800,000 Olympic swimming pools. That protection from floods helped to save property, helped to save human lives, while in the areas that were overgrazed by cattle around the park, the water just slid over the surface and created these devastating floods. So this is just one example of why we need the wild.
Jeff Kavanaugh: And protecting nature and the wild is our best insurance, and why it's economically sensible, is what we'll be exploring in today's conversation. Welcome to the Knowledge Institute podcast, where we talk with experts on business trends, deconstruct main ideas and share their insights. I'm Jeff Kavanaugh, head of the Infosys Knowledge Institute, and today we're here with Enric Sala, Director of National Geographic's Pristine Seas project. Doctor Enric Sala is a former university professor who saw himself writing the obituary of ocean life, and quit academia to become a full-time conservationist. As a National Geographic explorer-in-residence, he founded and leads Pristine Seas, a project combining exploration, research and media to inspire country leaders to protect the last wild places in the ocean.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Today, Pristine Seas has helped create 22 of the largest marine reserves on the planet, national parks in the sea, covered an area of 5.8 million square kilometers. A fellow of the Royal Geographic Society, in 2008 Enric was named Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum, and he has received numerous other awards which would take an hour for us to go through, so we're going to jump right in.
Jeff Kavanaugh: On August 25th 2020, Enric releases his most important book to date, "The Nature of Nature: Why We Need the Wild," an inspiring manifesto that makes clear case for why protecting nature is our best health insurance, and why it makes economic sense. His first book, "Pristine Seas," Leonardo DiCaprio wrote "Enric and Pristine Seas have already helped to inspire leaders around the world to protect our oceans with a clear strategy that uses the best of science, exploration and media." And with one of those world leaders, Prince Charles, writing the foreword for "The Nature of Nature," that message must be getting through. Not forgetting praise from such varied sources as the World Economic Forum and the Vatican.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Enric, thanks so much for joining us.
Enric Sala: Thank you so much for having me, Jeff.
Jeff Kavanaugh: You once said you were born too late to earn a berth in the Calypso, the great oceanographer Jacques Cousteau's famous ship. How did you get started and what were some of your early influences?
Enric Sala: Watching “The Undersea World with Jacques Cousteau.” Sunday evening in the '70s in Spain, we had only two TV channels and Cousteau was the man showing us the undersea world. I was totally fascinated since I was a little boy, and I spent my summers on the Mediterranean shores swimming and trying to emulate the exploits of my hero and the divers in the Calypso. That was my dream, that's how I got started.
Jeff Kavanaugh: In your foreword to the first book, "Pristine Seas," you describe being inside an ivory tower, "Yelling as loud as I could about the threats to the ocean, but very few outside could hear us." Looking back, did you really know what you were doing back then?
Enric Sala: I should go back and reread my foreword, I forgot about the yelling, but that's true. I was studying the impact of humans in the ocean, the impacts of fishing and global warming in academia, and we were publishing scientific papers describing with more and more data, more detail, how ocean life was dying. I found myself writing the obituary of ocean life over and over and over. I felt like a doctor who's telling you how you're going to die with excruciating detail, but not offering a cure. And then I decided to quit academia and work full-time to try to help restore the health and the productivity of the ocean.
Jeff Kavanaugh: And a little bit wetter, but a little more enjoyable outside the ivory tower, no doubt.
Enric Sala: I never regretted leaving.
Jeff Kavanaugh: I can tell from the times we've spoken. As a young assistant professor at the University of California, San Diego, you developed a graduate program bridging the gap between marine science, economics and policy. Talk about strange bedfellows. What was, and maybe why, was the immediate social relevance such an uphill battle?
Enric Sala: Well, when I became a faculty member at the University of California, San Diego, I went to an orientation meeting, and there was a Vice Chancellor for research, I think, who told us "Okay, you are going to be evaluated on three things. One is research, two is teaching and three is service. Research is the most important, you have to publish as much as possible." It's the publish or perish motto of academia. "Teaching, just teach one course per year, just because you have to do it. And service, really, that doesn't count. Be at least in one university committee," but they said, "You are not going to be evaluated for this." An evaluation means that you are promoted, your salary raises.
Enric Sala: So there were no incentives in academia to provide any service to the community or to society. But together with two colleagues, Jeremy Jackson and Nancy Nolton and a few others, we decided that we were not happy with that, we wanted to change it, so we got funding from the National Science Foundation to develop a program where we train students in marine science, economics, policy and communications, so they could understand how science plays in the larger societal context, in a policy context, and how scientists can actually become relevant members of society and not just isolated members of that ivory tower that you mentioned before.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Well, that's definitely being proactive. In "Pristine Seas," you describe how "One day I had one of these moments that materialize only a few times in life, when one would think that the entire universe conspires to open one's mind to another dimension, to the vision of a dream to be fulfilled," which is rather eloquent. How did you make the leap from academia to action?
Enric Sala: I stepped outside of the spinning wheel. In academia, I had students and postdocs and graduate students and classes and commitments, and it was just overwhelming. You don't have time to breathe when you are in that, like the hamster in the spinning wheel. So I took one year off, I went back to Catalonia, where I'm from, to think and read. And taking that time and that space was key because I thought, "Well, I wanted to be a diver in the Calypso, that's not an option now. I was an academic, I have done scientific expeditions, I published all this research. If I had to do one last project, what would that be?"
Enric Sala: So I decided to go to the places where not even Cousteau went to. The most remote, uninhabited, the wildest places left in the ocean, so we can understand what the ocean was like before, but also what the ocean of the future could be like, and make sure that these places are protected, they are saved before it's too late. And I thought, "Let's call this ‘Pristine Seas.’"
Enric Sala: So I came to National Geographic, I knocked on the door in January 2008, and I remember I gave them a PowerPoint presentation. I said "Hey, let's go to one place per year for five years and let's combine research, exploration and media to inspire the leaders of those countries to protect them." And that was the beginning of Pristine Seas.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Has your dream been fulfilled yet?
Enric Sala: It is, but I keep having nightmares. The problem is that we are winning battles, but we are still losing the war. We've got 22 places protected, over half the size of the US, but ocean life is being depleted everywhere else, and today only two and a half percent of the ocean is fully protected from fishing and other damaging activities. So part of the dream has been fulfilled, but the fight continues, and it feels like a Sisyphean task, I feel like Sisyphus pushing the boulder uphill and when we are up there, we take a moment to breathe and the boulder is back down the hill. "Oh no, let's do it again." So there is dream and there is nightmare living together.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Can you tell more about your work with the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation as the National Geographic explorer-in-residence?
Enric Sala: Yeah, Leo is a committed conservationist. He is the real thing, he is so concerned about the environment, and he has dedicated a lot of his own time to raise resources to support projects around the world to create protected areas and to save species. He has provided key funding for tigers and rhinos in Nepal and for elephants in Africa and for Pristine Seas. I was a member of his advisory board for the Foundation, he is a member of the advisory board of Pristine Seas and he has been key reaching out to the larger public, but also to leaders about the importance of protecting these places and he has one of the biggest megaphones on the planet, so it has been a fantastic collaboration.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Well, it's good to see somebody with that big platform applying it for good.
Enric Sala: And he has more followers on social than I think the National Geographic does, so… (laughs)
Jeff Kavanaugh: Yeah, absolutely. Staying with "Pristine Seas" one last time, looking at page 218 of that book, there's a picture entitled "Below the tip of the iceberg," And there's a diver swimming along under a bright blue sea, and I thought it was quite the metaphor because it describes in the book that just after that diver returned to the surface, a massive iceberg broke and capsized, a catastrophe luckily averted. On a global scale, how close are we to that metaphor for catastrophe, and aside from luck, how do we avoid it?
Enric Sala: Yeah, I'm glad you're mentioning the iceberg episode because yeah, that was pretty close, and we have a TV special on the National Geographic channel on Pristine Seas, a retrospective of a decade of Pristine Seas, it is going to be aired in September on the National Geographic channel, and one of the scenes is this iceberg capsizing on us in the Russian Arctic in 2013.
Enric Sala: We have already capsized in some areas, in some other areas we are still able to bounce back. One area where we have already gone into irreversible trajectory, at least for the short term, is for example the loss of sea ice in the Arctic. The Arctic Ocean is this white heart of the planet that expands in the winter as the sea water freezes, and it contracts in the summer as the sea water becomes warmer and the ice melts on the edges. So we had this expansion, contraction, expansion, contraction.
Enric Sala: The problem is that because of ocean warming and because of atmosphere warming, that heart is getting smaller and smaller and smaller and smaller, and the last scientific studies suggest that by 2035, there's going to be no more sea ice in the Arctic during the summer months, and there is nothing we can do about it. Even if we went completely carbon-neutral today, the inertia, and the ocean takes so long to warm and so long to cool, that it would take many decades for the ice to go back to normal level. So this is something that is already happening, there is no way to stop it. We could reverse it in the longer term, but same thing for species that are gone, there was a seal living in the Caribbean, the Caribbean monk seal, the last individual was seen in 1952. And other species that have gone, like the stellar sea cow, which is this, was this giant manatee-like creature that was 10 or 15-foot-long that ate kelps, and it was exterminated within a century of its discovery in the Pacific Northwest.
Enric Sala: But the good news is that for most ocean life, most species are still there, and we know that when we protect places, if we give the ocean some space, ocean life has an extraordinary ability to bounce back.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Given our audience and given the hopeful nature of this podcast as well, we don't want to just dwell on the negative. What's the metaphor, the analogy that you'd applied to business? People take it on the chin, you've got these setbacks, in some cases they're pretty dramatic, what's a mindset that people can apply for their own businesses, based on this, to bounce back?
Enric Sala: I think that the COVID pandemic is the best wake-up call we've ever had, because it has shown us that the emperor has no clothes, that our socioeconomic system and most of our business approach was based on very shaky foundations, because we've been building for growth, not for resilience. And the fact that so many people have died unnecessarily because our public healthcare systems were not public, but they were, in the United States at least, a mosaic of for-profit groups. The fact that so many people, tens of millions of people have lost their jobs and that companies didn't have the resources to be able to weather the storm, it was unfettered growth based on leveraging, based on credit, and that's not something is going to stand another global crisis.
Enric Sala: One thing we can learn from nature is that there have always been hurricanes and extreme weather events, at less frequency than now, of course, but nature has always come back. There were hurricanes in the Caribbean, the shallow coral reefs were turned to rubble. But they came back. Nature has evolved with these extreme events, and the species that are here, and the ecosystems that we see today, are the ones that were able to withstand and come back from these frequent disturbances, including some “black swans.”
Enric Sala: But we humans haven't built like this. We haven't built our businesses like this. I think this is a good wake-up call. How can we rebuild, how can we build back better so we will be prepared? Even if there is another large economic downturn, then we will have enough resources to be able to wait until the storm is gone and make sure that our employees, for example, don't lose their jobs. And of course, every business, every sector is different, but I think we can learn that from nature. How to build structures that are resilient.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Okay. Great food for thought. Once again, everyone, we're here with Enric Sala, founder of Pristine Seas and author of "The Nature of Nature: Why We Need the Wild." Recently we were honored to have John Elkington on this podcast, the man who originated the concept of the “triple bottom line of people, planet, profits.” John described it as a genetic code, a triple helix for change, of change, for capitalism. Tomorrow's capitalism. Given the situation we face today, how can we meaningfully apply the triple bottom line to the evolution of global society and systems?
Enric Sala: Wow, that's a fantastic thought. So, we need to break that myth that we have to choose between economic growth and nature, because there will be no economy without nature. We don't have financial markets on the Moon or Mars for some reason, right? We produced an economic report this year that shows that if we protected a third of the planet in national parks, natural reserves, marine reserves, that would help us prevent the looming extinction of one million species of plants and animals and the collapse of our life support system. That would help nature help us mitigate climate change by continuing to absorb much of the carbon pollution that we expel into the atmosphere, and that 30% of the planet protected would actually result in a greater economic output than the business as usual where we don't protect more and we continue eroding our natural capital.
Enric Sala: Not only that, but the benefits would outweigh the costs by a ratio of five to one. So for every dollar we invest in protection of nature, in protected areas, nature will give us five dollars in return at least. And even if we just looked at the cost of how much it would cost to protect a third of the planet, it's $140 billion per year. And you can think, "Wow, $140 billion per year, that's a lot of money." Well, today the world spends more on video games. And that's just a third of the money that governments use, and this is taxpayers' money, that is used to subsidize activities that destroy nature, that destroy our life support system. So if we want triple bottom line, we need to invest in the basis of human life, on the basis of the economy, which is our natural world.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Do you think that this hasn't taken off, besides the obvious conflicts of interests for some, because you've only recently established this calculus and these formulas, or has it already been out there for a while and you just simply can't get a decent hearing?
Enric Sala: I think we already knew that there would be no economy without a healthy natural world, even though we didn't have precise number as now, but there were estimates that the natural world provides free services to the global economy on the order of $125 trillion, with a T, $125 trillion every year. That's several times larger than the global GDP. So investing in nature would take maybe just one percent of the global GDP. So I think it's a pretty good investment to keep our life support system going.
Enric Sala: The problem is, as you said, that we didn't have a proper hearing. That the socioeconomic system, the way the economy has been working in recent history, perpetuates the worshiping of the golden idol which is GDP growth, and it's the wrong way to measure human prosperity, it's the worst way to measure human happiness, and it has nothing to do with people's aspirations or well-being. So I truly hope that this pandemic is going to be the straw that broke the camel's back and will make governments realize that we cannot prop up the industries of the past, we cannot invest in this now everybody wants shovel-ready investments, right? But we cannot go back to the past, that is the worst thing we could do. We need to build back better, and make sure that we save enough resources, we save enough capital for resilience. And that includes saving, protecting, restoring our natural capital, which is something that we cannot recreate despite our brilliant technology.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Related to that, again going back to Leonardo DiCaprio, he described you as an explorer and a scholar who explains how the natural world works and makes the case for environmentalism to both the brain and the heart. The heart case I understand, but what about the brain? Because that might be a way to reach other people. What are the key messages that change other people's thinking?
Enric Sala: When I was in academia, I thought that rational thinking was the only way, but I quickly realized that we humans are very good at ignoring information and making irrational decisions. And actually, two people who had a Nobel prize in economics recently confirmed that. So we flipped our mode of operations. First we want to reach the heart, and then the brain. We want these leaders to fall in love with these wild places. We take them to the field with us. If they cannot come with us, then we take these places to them through our films.
Enric Sala: Once they fall in love with these places, once they realize, emotionally, that these places are unique, irreplaceable, and that they need to be preserved, then we come with the information, scientific information, economic information, to show the benefits and also, not only benefits to the people living near this area, but also the benefits to them politically. So it depends who you are talking to, but I think that it's the combination of the heart and the brain that is the winner.
Jeff Kavanaugh: The rational thinking just justifies the decision you already made emotionally.
Enric Sala: Exactly. Confirmation bias.
Jeff Kavanaugh: How do these metrics play into the great reset narrative of the upcoming World Economic Forum?
Enric Sala: The great reset… that's exactly what we need now, because again, the COVID pandemic could have made us a big favor by making us realize that nobody is exempt from tampering with our planet. Today, the health of the richest person in the world is dependent on the health of the poorest person in the poorest country, and through our globalized lifestyle, it only takes one hunter to kill a chimpanzee, or somebody in a market in China to get in touch or eat a bat or a pangolin to create a pandemic with disastrous global consequences.
Enric Sala: So why has this happened? Everybody's worried about the response, and the cost is going to be, according to IMF, nine trillion dollars for the next couple of years, and everybody is worried about the response, should have gone into lockdown earlier… Yes, all of this is necessary, but the response to the pandemic, if we look at the cost, the ultimate cost is wildlife trade and consumption and the destruction of natural habitats. That's what gets these viruses on our doorstep. Today is COVID, yesterday was SARS, MERS, Ebola, Zika, HIV, all these infectious ... we have two new infectious diseases coming from animals every year in the last decade. So this is the time for the world to do this reset, and as I was mentioning before, build for resilience and prevent or reduce the risk of global crisis, reduce the risk of pandemics.
Enric Sala: Of course, no leader wants to invest millions of dollars in something to prevent something that might happen or not, but now we know that this crisis are just not hundred-year events or thousand-year events, are happening every decade now. So black swan events are going to become much more common if we continue this way. So this is the time to invest in reducing the risk of these diseases and in rebuilding our economic system so it is more resilient.
Jeff Kavanaugh: That all sounds great for the snow-capped peaks in Davos, for the mahogany and the ivory, United Nations General Assembly. What about business leaders in the US, Western Europe, around the world, what can they do to expand their horizons from responsibility to resilience and maybe even regeneration?
Enric Sala: Yeah, well, we have all these examples of company that have done the right thing and it has been more profitable for them, but I also hear CEOs who say that "Yeah, of course I'm going to invest in renewable energy, of course I'm going to go carbon neutral, of course I'm going to make sure that the water that gets out of my factory is as clean as the water that I imported, but I don't want to have the first-mover’s disadvantage. I don't want to have that short term pain. I need the government to set strict regulations so we have a level playing field, and then of course we'll innovate and do the right thing because we are not going to be the only ones left with the burden."
Enric Sala: So we do need businesses, business leaders, to push governments to regulate. That's number one, because it's in their best interest. But then leaders of companies, if, for example, the food sector, if I were the CEO of a food company, I would make it absolutely mandatory that none of our products come from activities that destroy nature... no further destruction of nature. No more trees cut. No more grasslands overgrazed. No more waters polluted. No more aquifers depleted. Depleting the natural capital.
Enric Sala: The natural world is like an investment account with this principle that produces all these returns. Well, we have been already eating away the principle. If our earth was like a bank account we already used all of the annual returns by September. So we're living off credit.
Jeff Kavanaugh: We’ve got a saying on the farm, it's called “eating your seed corn.”
Enric Sala: There you go. I like that one. Yeah. So yeah, if I were a CEO, I would make it absolutely mandatory that our activities are not going to be, our profit, our benefit, are not going to be based on further destruction of nature. No negative externality, zero. And this is something that few companies actually commit to.
Jeff Kavanaugh: One question, too, in terms of systems change, how do we bridge the disconnect between global problems and national politics?
Enric Sala: This is a big, big problem, because especially now, where we are in a world where it's "Me first," in some cases "me, only me," these nationalistic approaches, but again, let's use COVID as an example, it doesn't work. It's a fallacy. The America First, it's an illusion. We are all connected. We are all connected to each other human on the planet, and globalization happened decades ago, there is no way back, so pretending that we could survive alone within our walls, it's a total illusion. It's mad. But also, we depend on all these other creatures on earth, so we need a much more humble attitude.
Enric Sala: But I'm afraid that the pandemic hasn't been a wake-up call loud enough, because we don't see enough international cooperation on economic issues. We don't see enough international cooperation on health issues. There's been some lying, there's been some hiding information, there's been some delaying action for national purposes that has harmed the entire world. So what is it going to take? That's my fear about how many more pandemics we need for the world really to think of global problems? And we've done it before, there's unfortunately not many examples, but the Paris Climate Agreement, even though it was not perfect, and let's see if it's going to be implemented, at least that was a moment where the world came together and agreed that this is a priority. The Montreal Protocol for Ozone-Depleting Substances also came together.
Enric Sala: So we've done it before. But it seems that the world went back to a more nationalistic approach, and we need to get back out of that dark hole.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Klaus Schwab, founder of the World Economic Forum, described "The Nature of Nature" as "making a compelling case for why giving more space to nature is essential to human and economic prosperity." Schwab also recommends that every leader should read it and apply its insights, so all you leaders out there, read it.
Jeff Kavanaugh: In your view, how can a leader make the long-term decisions and investments that are required while operating in this short-term, highly uncertain world?
Enric Sala: Yeah, that's the trillion dollar question. The pressure from the shareholders to report quarterly profits. If somebody had an answer to this question, I think that it would have already happened, but I go back to ... there are people who have already done it. There are companies that have already done it, and I love the example of Yvon Chouinard, who owns Patagonia, who was the founder, and still it's a private company, Patagonia, he made a mistake. They had this fantastic book called "Let My People Go Surfing," which is my favorite management book. He was a pioneer in many aspects of business management and human relations, also, at work. And he made the mistake of just responding to the growth that the company was experiencing and hiring lots of new people and expanding markets. And then there was an economic crisis, and he had to fire hundreds of people, and that was so painful, that realization, that he cared about the people, not just about the profits.
Enric Sala: And he decided that he was going to make it mandatory for the company not to grow more than a small percentage per year. He was also the first who started that movement of one percent for the planet, donating one percent of the revenue to environmental causes. So what happened to his company? He has been growing steady while other companies have flopped. You see all this volatility, these guys have continued steady and they have a fantastic product that lasts for years. I have these t-shirts and pants and swimsuit and I've been using it for more than 12 years, because they look at quality.
Enric Sala: So he and others have proven that if you are not consumed by unfettered growth, you're going to be better not just in the long term, but in the medium term. But one difference is that his company is private. How do you do that with a public company where you have investors who just care about as large a return rate as possible? That, I don't have an answer. If I did, then I think I could sell lots of leadership guru books.
Jeff Kavanaugh: One of my colleagues has a 10 year old daughter who, believe it or not, wants to be a marine biologist. What does this all mean, if you're speaking to a 10 year old girl or boy about the possibility for them, with their lives ahead of them?
Enric Sala: When I turned 18 and I got my scuba diving license, I wrote a letter to Jacques Cousteau, saying I just learned to dive, I'm studying marine biology, I'll pay to come on your boat, I'll do whatever, I'll clean the decks, I'll clean dishes, and I got a very nice boilerplate letter from an assistant saying "Thank you, Mr. Sala, for applying, we have very few positions and a lot of other men, please send your CV and we'll consider you for the next opening." And I didn't know what a CV was. And now I see these kids writing and saying "Can I come and work with Pristine Seas?" Or "What would you advise?"
Enric Sala: So I would tell them, just do it. I had professors at university telling me "Marine biology, are you sure? There are no jobs." But look, I was able to craft my own job. I was very, very lucky that I got a faculty position at UC San Diego, and that was a fantastic decade of my life and I will be always thankful, but then I thought "Well, this is not my ideal job." And I came to National Geographic and I was able to create it. But you have to follow your purpose, not just your passion. And if you're good at one thing, just use it to fulfil, to achieve your purpose. And don't let anyone discourage you, don't play in a world of scarcity. Think of a world of abundance. If the current structure doesn't provide the job that you dream of, well, just dream about it. Create it. There are so many possibilities.
Enric Sala: Right now, of course everything seems so difficult in the COVID world, but there will be an after. A post-COVID. So just follow your passion and your purpose, and use what you are good at to achieve the change you want to see.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Fantastic. And I want to emphasize that point you made, I think too many folks, especially in the younger generation, fall in the trap of chasing passion, which may change, if not by the minute, but certainly frequently. But tapping into and discovering more of a purpose, there's something deeper, more abiding and more resilient about that. So thank you for highlighting that.
Jeff Kavanaugh: You wrote in your epilogue to your first book, "While I'm dreaming big, someone reminds I'm not dreaming big enough." What is your next big dream?
Enric Sala: Yes, it's very humbling to talk to people with a great vision of the big picture, and every time I think that we're thinking big, I realize that, oh. So we've helped to protect 22 places around the world, but that's only three quarters of all the ocean that is fully protected today, and that's less than three percent of the ocean. The science is telling us that we need at least 30% of the ocean fully protected by 2030 if we want to save marine life, if we want to help food security, to replenish fisheries around these areas, if we want the ocean to continue helping us to absorb carbon, pollution, and mitigate climate change.
Enric Sala: So we need to go from less than three percent to 30% of the ocean, fully protected. That's the next dream.
Jeff Kavanaugh: If we could swap seats and you could interview someone for this podcast, who would you recommend?
Enric Sala: I would probably have David Attenborough, because David Attenborough is not only one of the most charismatic people alive, he is the most trusted person in the UK and we all have grown used to his voice in our living rooms listening to all his BBC documentaries. Two years ago at the World Economic Forum in Davos, he said "I am a man from another era. I was born in the Holocene, and now we live in the Anthropocene, the age of humans." So he has this incredible perspective of how the world has changed from a world dominated by the biosphere, by nature, to a world dominated by humans. He has seen the most pristine places, and the most extraordinary natural spectacles on land, and he has seen them disappear.
Enric Sala: So he brings that perspective, that wisdom that age and experience bring, that I think few people in the world have. So David Attenborough it is.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Well, no arguments there, I've also gotten used to his voice from the Earth and the Blue Planet and everything else. What resources can you recommend, either books or online resources, for further study?
Enric Sala: If people are interested in solutions, which I hope they are, I love a book that is called "Drawdown," which is a collection of actions that if they can al l together, would solve the problem of global warming. "Drawdown." And if you want to know more about ocean conservation, I would encourage you to go to our website, pristineseas.org. Pristineseas.org. To learn more about why we need a third of the planet protected and why it makes economic sense, also there is another website, campaignfornature.org. Campaignfornature.org. And also there is a petition there to ask for leaders of the world to commit to protecting at least 30% of the planet by 2030 at the Conference of Biodiversity that is going to be held in China next year. That's a key moment, it's going to be as important, hopefully historic, as the Paris climate meeting in 2015.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Everyone, you can find details about what Enric just mentioned as well as contact information and other items we discussed on our show notes and transcripts at infosys.com/IKI in our podcast section. Enric, thank you so much for your time and a highly interesting and inspirational discussion.
Enric Sala: Thank you so very much, Jeff.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Everyone, you've been listening to the Knowledge Institute, where we talk with experts on business trends, deconstruct main ideas and share their insights. Thanks to our producer, Catherine Burdette, Kerry Taylor, and the entire Knowledge Institute team. Until next time, keep learning and keep sharing.
About Enric Sala
Enric Sala founded and leads Pristine Seas, a project that combines exploration, research and media to inspire country leaders to protect the last wild places in the ocean. Pristine Seas has helped to create 18 of the largest marine reserves on the planet, covering an area of more than five million square km (half the size of Canada). Sala has received many honors, including 2008 World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leader, 2013 Explorers Club Lowell Thomas Award, 2013 Environmental Media Association Hero Award, 2016 Russian Geographical Society Award, and he's a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. He serves on the boards of the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, Global Fishing Watch and the National Aquarium, and he advises international organizations and governments.
- “Cyclone Idai: How the storm tore into southern Africa” BBC - March 22, 2019
- Gorongosa National Park
- National Geographic- Pristine Seas
- “Your Next Box Set: The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau” The Guardian - September 20, 2012
- The Myth of Sisyphus
- Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation
- YouTube clip from National Geographic: Expedition Raw - capsizing iceberg
- “Studying The Ripple Effects of Shrinking Arctic Sea Ice” NPR - November 10, 2019
- “Caribbean Monk Seals Declared Extinct” MarineBio - June 9, 2008
- “The Giant Sea Mammal That Went Extinct in Less Than Three Decades” The Atlantic - April 19, 2017
- John Elkington, creator of the “Triple Bottom Line” (people, planet, profits)
- “What Is Confirmation Bias?” Psychology Today- April 23, 2015
- World Economic Forum
- Paris Climate Agreement
- Montreal Protocol for Ozone-Depleting Substance
- Forbes Profile: Yvon Chouinard
- “Nine Astonishing Ways David Attenborough Shaped Your World” BBC Teach
- What is the Holocene?
- “What Is the Anthropocene and Are We in It?” Smithsonian Magazine - January, 2013
- BBC Earth - “The Blue Planet”
- “Drawdown, the Book” - Project Drawdown
- Convention of Biological Diversity
Mentioned in the podcast:
Books by Enric Sala