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#GivingTuesday with Oceans 2050
Episode 416th November 2021 • St. Supéry #GivingTuesday Chats • St. Supéry Estate Vineyards & Winery
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Join St. Supéry CEO Emma Swain for an inspiring chat with filmmaker and environmental activist Alexandra Cousteau with Oceans 2050. Learn about her award-winning work in restoring the oceans to their former abundance, learning to swim before she could walk from her grandfather Jaques Cousteau, and the small changes we all can make to save the oceans for future generations.

Learn more at stsupery.com/givingtuesday and oceans2050.com

Transcripts

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All right.

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Happy giving Tuesday, everyone, we're really excited to be with you here today

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and celebrating our oceans again with Alexandra Cousteau,

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who is one of the founders of Oceans 2050

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and thinking about Oceans 2050.

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It just sort of inspires you by the name, knowing that

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we can restore our oceans to their future glory by 2050.

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That's even in my lifetime at my age.

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So I'm pretty darn excited about it because I grew up

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by the ocean and really enjoying the ocean.

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And to me, it's just so special and so important

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to the overall health of our planet.

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So Alexandra, you've been an environmentalist

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and an inspiration for over 20 years, working

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and founding important organizations like Earth Eco with your brother in 2000

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and just leading the charge to restore our oceans.

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So welcome.

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It's so great to have you with us here today.

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- Thank you so much, Emma.

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Well, Alexandra, can you tell us a little bit

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about how you got involved in restoring our oceans and

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and really knowing the science around how we can actually make this happen?

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Well, you know, the

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thing is I was born into the ocean work that I do.

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My grandfather, of course,

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was a world renowned ocean explorer and filmmaker.

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He invented scuba diving and started exploring the oceans

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back in the 1950s, right after the second World War.

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The oceans were largely intact and they were abundant, they were diverse,

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they were full of life and it was the life that he saw there

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that inspired him to go and make these films because he wanted

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to share that abundance of life with the whole world.

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And indeed, it was the

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first time that anyone had ever seen what was under the surface of the ocean.

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I mean, people didn't know that just 70 years ago!

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Which is kind of hard to imagine now with all of our National Geographic

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and BBC Blue Planet documentaries and knowing

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what's there is something that we take for granted.

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But that wasn't the case back then.

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And my father joined him on expedition

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and started seeing the degradation of the oceans

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and the sixties and seventies, and they started to articulate this

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ethic of conservation for the ocean.

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This idea that we need to protect what we have.

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And that was a really good message back then

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because we still had so much of the ocean left

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and it started

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changing, of course, the way people think about the oceans.

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The way they think about their own actions.

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Lots of non-profits were established, legislation and policy was passed, and

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people did, of course, become much more aware

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of a human impact on the oceans and that the oceans are actually finite.

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We can't just, you know, take as many fish as we want and dump as much trash

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as we want. Because they are finite.

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And I think that's something that we understand today.

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But over the course of my life, we have lost ocean.

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Every year we've lost fish and whales and life in the ocean

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a little bit more little bit more.

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Every year

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we've had net losses to the point where today we've lost half of our ocean,

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which

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is hard to believe that in such a relatively short

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period of time, we could empty the ocean of half of the life that lives there.

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But that is what we've done.

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And so it occurred to me after my children were born that

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they could be the generation of my family that writes the obituary for the ocean.

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And that was heartbreaking to me because I could swim before I could walk.

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My grandfather taught me to scuba dive when I was seven years old,

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and the oceans have always been

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so present in my mind and my life and my experiences, and

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I've watched them decline.

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I've watched the places that I loved as a child disappear.

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People ask me,

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Do I dive all the time?

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I don't, because many places

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feel like to me like they are filled with ghosts.

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And so I...There was there was a time, up to my children

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were born, that I was really concerned and really sad about this.

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And I called a friend of mine, Professor Carlos Duarte, who I think

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is one of the great marine biologists of this moment in time.

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And I asked him, I said, Is it inevitable

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that my children will write the obituary for the oceans or is there a chance?

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That we

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could bring them back to the abundance that my grandfather knew,

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and he said that actually it is possible.

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It's scientifically possible to rebuild ocean of abundance by 2050.

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And he was in the midst of writing a paper for Nature magazine about it.

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And that, for me, was a turning point.

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When I let go

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of conservation and embraced restoration

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as a fundamentally different pathway to a different future.

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And so that's what we're focused on.

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And the more we work on this, the more hopeful we become that

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we can actually chart a new path

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to an alternative future that is not

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A future where our oceans are dying and there's more plastic than fish

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and our children are watching

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the oceans just disappear.

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But that between now and 2050,

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we can see or start to see net gains every year

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in terms of ocean life and ocean abundance.

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And by 2050, our children will live

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in a world where oceans are abundant again.

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And it's pretty exciting, actually.

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You know, it's extremely exciting.

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I mean, some of the folks we've had on in the past have talked about

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restorative aquaculture and what they're doing along coastlines

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and what they're doing by farming in a sustainable manner in the ocean.

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But you're you're going so much further than that.

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You want to tell us a little bit about the different...

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you have five recovery wedges for the oceans.

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Shall we delve into each of those?

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Sure.

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Well,

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the first one that we were looking at is is ocean forests.

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Ocean forests are something that we don't know

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that much about, and in a general sense,

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we know a lot more about coral reefs

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or other ecosystems, mangroves, which are, of course,

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a type of ocean forest, but there's so many others.

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There's salt marshes or seagrass meadows.

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There's kelp forests,

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there's mangroves.

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There's these forests that are like forests on land.

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But well, they're like forests on land in terms of the fact that they

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they create habitat for biodiversity.

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They oxygenate the water like trees on land.

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Oxygenate the air.

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They sequester carbon,

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much like forests on land.

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They also protect coastal communities

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from extreme events like weather events.

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They deacidify the water because ocean acidification

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is a growing problem, with the climate changing

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as a result of carbon emissions.

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And those carbon emissions

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have this chemical reaction in the ocean that makes it more acidic.

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And so ocean forests can actually reverse that.

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So they have these extraordinary abilities to address

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many of the issues that we're struggling with.

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And the nice thing about ocean forests

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is that we can recreate a lot of those benefits

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by growing seaweed as a crop.

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And so our first project

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at Oceans 2050 was really to quantify the carbon

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sequestration of sea farms,

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to understand their contribution

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and to to mitigating climate change and to

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create a voluntary carbon protocol that would allow us

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to drive investment into seaweed farms as the

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best nature based solution

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that we have in the ocean that we can scale.

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And the nice thing about seaweed farms is that they have

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all of these same benefits in the ocean that wild seaweed forests do,

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but they also have all of these benefits

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for the communities that grow them.

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You know, there's about 24 farms

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in this global study that we've been doing around the world.

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From Canada, to Madagascar, to a 300 year old seaweed farm in Japan. And

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those farms represent about 27,000 families

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who are living from seaweed farming.

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And of those families,

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70% of

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people involved in seaweed farming are women.

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Which is exciting because it's really a way to

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accelerate the just transition and

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and find ways to both rebuild our oceans

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and provide for these communities,

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many of whom are former fishermen who can no longer fish

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because of overfishing and are finding an alternative livelihood and seaweed

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farming that coincidentally helps to bring the fish back.

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So we see a lot of promise and potential in seaweed farming

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and and are working to help scale that up through science and through

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carbon protocols and driving investment

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into helping to

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scale these farms so that we can

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we can scale seaweed farming up to 1000 times

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what is being done today without having a negative impact on the environment.

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- Wow -

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And when you're looking at the seaweed farm

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and you're bringing back more fish and more

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more diversity, how are you working with legislation to limit

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it getting overfished again as it rebuilds or managing the population within

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within the area that

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you're farming or the area that you're restoring?

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So that's a great question, and we need to be mindful

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that there's wild seaweed and then there's cultivated seaweed.

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And cultivating seaweed can actually help wild forests,

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in part by

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lowering the incentives to go harvest wild for us.

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So we're not advocating that people go harvest wild forests,

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and that's actually a problem in a lot of places.

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So the more seaweed we're able to grow to satisfy the growing demand for seaweed,

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the more we'll be able to actually protect those wild forests

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and even find ways to help restore them.

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Seaweed is being used for so many things

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now, and we're doing a lot of innovation in the West

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around how it can be used.

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So, for example, seaweed

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has long been used in food.

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That's something that the West doesn't really have a taste for outside of,

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you know,

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when you go eat it at a Japanese restaurant

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or a Korean restaurant or Chinese restaurant.

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But seaweed is now being - especially kelp, you know,

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you might have heard about kelp smoothies, kelp burgers -

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so people are starting to use kelp in a variety of ways, which is great.

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It's very healthy.

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It's also being

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used as an industrial feedstock for plastics.

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Plastic alternatives that are biodegradable,

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being used for cosmetics and nutraceuticals.

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And they're even doing a lot of research around using it for biodiesel.

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There's people that are testing out

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how it can be turned into phosphorus.

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It's being used as a fertilizer in other places, so that's great.

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The more we can use seaweed and grow it in an environmentally

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and socially responsible way and in a way that's regenerative to the ocean,

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the better off we'll be because there's a lot of industrial feedstocks

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for things such as plastic that come from

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oil and gas and are destructive to the environment.

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So we actually see seaweed farms

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as a force of good, a force for good.

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Well, yeah, especially if we're reducing

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and hopefully eliminating the destruction of any wild forests.

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Tell me a little bit more about other methods

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that we can move to restore our oceans,

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other things that we can be thoughtful about as as consumers.

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Clearly we want to.

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We want to choose those solutions where plastics are being replaced.

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Eliminating plastic from our our purchasing profile is very important,

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but other choices that we can be thoughtful about

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just every day we do.

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You know, there's there's a lot

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that's been said about reducing plastic in your life.

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And of course, that's really important.

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We are seeing the equivalent of two garbage trucks worth of plastic

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going into the ocean every minute of every day of every week

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of every month of every year, and that's just growing.

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So the plastic crisis in the ocean is very real, and

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it's not just

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impacting the ocean, it's also coming back and impacting us.

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We found nanoplastics that are being consumed by bacteria.

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We're finding microplastics that are raining down from the sky in places

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where there are no human settlements and there is no plastic on the ground.

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So plastic is literally becoming part

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of the water cycle and traveling around the world.

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We eat the equivalent of one credit cards worth of plastic every week

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in our food and our and our beverages,

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just microplastics that are that are present there.

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And that's having impact on our health.

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That's having an impact on

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every aspect of of our wellbeing.

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So we definitely want to reduce the amount of plastic in our lives.

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The amount of plastic we eat food out of.

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The amount of plastic that we drink, beverages out of the amount of plastic

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that we microwave and or, you know, just reduce it

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as as much as you can because that's going have a direct

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benefit to your health and the health of your family.

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And when it comes to the oceans, of course, a lot of all of the plastic

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that's in the ocean started out in our communities and our kitchens

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and our homes and our places of work. So.

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There's a false

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solution that's been promoted by industry, which is recycling, and that puts

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most of the burden on us as consumers to recycle the plastic that they make.

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And I think that that's actually a way for them to to dodge

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responsibility for the design flaw of using plastic.

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Which is a material that lasts for hundreds,

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if not thousands of years, in a product that's meant to be used for a few moments.

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So we shouldn't be using single use plastic at all.

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We should find alternative containers for single use plastics that are single

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use containers that degrade when they're no longer needed.

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And until we're able to do that, we should find plastic free alternatives,

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reusable bottles, whatever it is.

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But we need to

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to not just make those choices in our places of work

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and in our own lives, but I think support legislation

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wherever we can at the local, state or federal level

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that seeks to eliminate single use plastic from our lives.

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And I think also

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having alternatives of disposal for other items

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being able to have like in Europe, where you buy that bottle of Pellegrino,

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that bottle is going back and being reused...is

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being bought, washed and reused.

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It's not being recycled, it's being reused.

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And some of those alternatives are so important in our decision

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making process and making disposal so much easier.

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And we've talked about on our program before how here in Napa,

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we have a fantastic composting program with the city where we can

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basically, in our yard waste, eliminate 95% of our trash

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if we're making great decisions with our purchasing and what we're doing at home.

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Pretty much everything is is compostable that we're bringing into our house

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and or recyclable, you know, because those wine bottles, we still have those

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that we need to refill.

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But you, you know, that's not the only thing

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that we can make smart choices about.

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And I know at the at the winery, you guys are also looking at sustainable seafood.

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That's another really important choice that we make

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in our kitchens in addition to plastic.

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And I think that if anybody watched Seaspiracy,

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you've seen the really ugly side of industrial fishing and

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and the impact that it has on our oceans, but also on the people who are sometimes

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forced to work as slaves

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or as indentured servants, practically, on these boats.

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So there's there is

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a direct connection to

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the seafood that we find on our plates

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and many instances of illegal, unreported

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and unregulated fishing, which basically means pirated fish.

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And so the the opportunity

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that we have to eat fish,

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that is

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not going to to be harmful to our oceans

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and not be harmful to other people and be good for our health

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is really going to mainstream

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when we have traceable and transparent

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supply chains with

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apps where you can trace the fish that you're buying

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all the way back to where it was caught and find out where it was caught,

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who caught it. How it was caught.

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What kind of fishing gear was used to catch it.

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Whose hands it passed through on its way to your plate?

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And that's exciting because a lot of that technology is coming online.

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Oceana, in partnership with Google and Sky Truth, created the Global

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Fishing Watch, which tracks fishing boats around the world in real time.

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There's a lot of

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efforts now to

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to track fish and even industrial

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fishing companies that are fishing.

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Chilean sea bass in Antarctic waters,

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for example, are creating apps

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that that have transparency built into their fish

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and where people are even using

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satellite images of the crew to make sure that the crew

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is legally employed and

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that the working conditions are safe and they're being compensated.

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So there's a lot of work that's being done to shine a light on fisheries

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and make sure that that the fish that we eat

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is traceable.

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And I think that's something that we can ask for.

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Buy fish from a fishmonger that has traceable

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seafood and can tell you who caught it and where it came from.

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And there's a lot of work being done on that.

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And that's exciting to me as well because we'll never stop eating seafood.

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I mean, I know a lot of people are choosing not to.

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I don't eat seafood anymore because I know too much and I don't.

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I don't want to eat fish that's been pirated.

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And I know it's quite likely to happen.

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So I choose not to, but I know that a lot of people will continue to eat fish,

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and it's a healthy source of protein and a lot of parts of the world.

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It is the only source of protein for coastal communities

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that are addressing food scarcity and food security issues.

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So I think the more that we can do to express

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a desire for traceable seafood

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and really understand the story of the food that we're eating

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is going to help create momentum in that direction.

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Chefs need to demand it.

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Supermarkets need to demand it.

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And I really love what you guys have been doing on sustainable seafood as well.

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You know, we've been really fortunate to partner with the Ora King salmon folks

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out of New Zealand, and they do have a tag on every single fish.

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When we get it and we know exactly where that fish is

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coming from, that they're farming there, and

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we really demand that fish when we're having it.

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And it's delicious, which is kind of an added bonus and good for you.

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And we've also been working with Pacifico

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Aquaculture here on the West Coast, with the fish that they're farming.

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Which has been

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a nice success story and knowing that

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they're doing it in a in a really thoughtful manner.

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But let's jump over a little bit and talk about coral reefs.

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I grew up always enjoying

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seeing them being told not to touch and

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and seeing the beautiful fish and surrounding them,

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and they've really seen a lot of destruction

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over the last 30, 40 plus years.

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What can we do to help with that?

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You know, the the thing that's amazing to me is that the

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coral reefs are

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the most critical ecosystems in the ocean.

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They are

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possibly the most biodiverse and abundant ecosystem on Earth,

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and yet we have no real incentive

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to financial incentive to protect and rebuild them. Yet

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most of the work that's being done to protect corals

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is coming from philanthropy, and that's great.

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But I think that in order to really be able to,

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not just protect what we have left,

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which is about half of the coral reefs that we used to have,

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but rebuild what we've lost.

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It's going to

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take figuring out

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how we can create financial products

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around the restoration of coral reefs

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and how we

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develop the technology

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that that will allow us to restore them at scale.

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Because most of the work that we can do now with with restoring coral reefs

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is hanging fragments of corals online and letting them grow out

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and replanting them in the reef and hoping that they survive.

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And we just can't rebuild

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what we're losing fast enough with that method.

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So I know of technologies that are in development now that allow us

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to to rebuild corals at scale and to select naturally heat

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resistant corals and corals that are resistant to increasing acidity.

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So that's really exciting.

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And one of the things that we're working on at Ocean's 2050 is how

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we can take that technology to scale

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and make it something where all of us

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can be participants

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in the restoration of corals in a way that feels meaningful

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and in a way where we can actually see progress

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and we'll be ready to talk about that.

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Maybe by the time our luncheon at the winery rolls around in August.

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But we're tremendously excited

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about the possibilities that we're seeing

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in terms of funding coral reef restoration,

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deploying new technologies

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to to rebuild them and seeing that happen

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as at scale, like really being able to rebuild them

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in a timeframe that that is months rather than years.

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I think that's coming fairly soon,

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and that's exciting to me because it's it's the only way.

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And Carlos Duarte, who is our scientific director -

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he often tells me - he said, you know, I think marine biologists

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have taken coral reef restoration as far as we can.

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And now we need engineers, we need technologists,

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we need programmers, we need artists.

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We need, you know, all sorts of other talents and skills and

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ideas to figure out how to do this.

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And so we've been bringing those talents together

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to think about how, how we can.

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Rebuild them faster than they can die.

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And I think we're getting there.

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You know,

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I think you raised some additional really good points in the conversation.

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We need awareness of people realizing what's below the ocean

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and what we're losing because that's not being seen.

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I mean, I grew up with your, your grandfather and my Jacques

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Cousteau books and the films.

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And just and seeing that and being in the ocean myself as a diver

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from a young age and then to have it gone and to go back and dive.

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And there's nothing to see but sand in places

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where we used to go that we're we're full of life.

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And I think there is not an awareness because you don't see it every day

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vanishing light.

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You see the trees being cut down or additional concrete

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and you see your environment shrinking in the world.

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That's where you go hiking and so forth.

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And then there's the financial incentive to it.

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There's only so much that philanthropy can do, but philanthropy needs to partner

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with industry and with government to all take a stand.

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And so working to bring those things together is really remarkable

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and very exciting to have you doing that.

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And I know Google has some interesting projects with their

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X projects working

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on tracking of fish and so forth.

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But you know, how do we get that investment?

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Is it a financial incentive in carbon sequestration?

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Is it a carbon tax?

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Is it...how do we get that funding and that brainpower behind it?

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I think, is really a challenge.

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It is a challenge, and it's amazing to me

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that oceans is the least funded of the sustainable development goals.

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That's crazy.

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And yet it is, even though it touches on almost every other sustainable

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development goal.

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And when we look at how much we have to

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bridge -the gap we have to bridge -

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Philanthropy alone

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will take us part of the way.

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But to to really be able to invest in the kinds of changes that we need,

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we need

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the financial sector, we need investors and businesses,

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and we need to make restoration

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into a business.

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So there's, again, a lot of people that are thinking about that.

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And we've been thinking about that.

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And again,

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I'm really hopeful that we can

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rebuild our oceans.

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I think that we have everything that we need.

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We have extraordinary technologies that we can deploy.

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We have digital platforms that allow us to take action

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at the touch of a button globally.

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And we have, what Paul Hawkins calls,

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the largest movement in human history.

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Which is the environmental movement, where people aren't

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gathered under a single leader, but they are gathered

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by a feeling of loss and grief

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for the environment and a desire to see it come back.

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That unites

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them, and I think is a really strong driving force.

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We're seeing our youth rise up in Fridays for the Future and,

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you know, all sorts of other movements that are that are taking place.

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So I think that there's there's an interesting moment now.

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And my grandfather

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used to say, when asked how he was able to do everything that he did, that

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he lived in his lucky moment in time where all of the circumstances converged

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in a way that allowed him to do what he did.

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And it's true.

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If he'd been born 20 years earlier or 20 years later,

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you likely wouldn't have been able to do what he did.

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And I think that we are entering a moment in time that can be our lucky moment

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in time where the technologies and

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the awareness and

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the platforms and

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potential is all converging in a way that can allow us

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our own lucky moment in time if we choose to take it.

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And I think, and Carlos says this a lot,

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is that the worst thing that we can do for our ocean

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is to have the belief that it's too late

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to turn it around.

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If I think it's too late, it's game over.

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Yeah, I think that, one of our themes that we have

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is in these Tuesday chats that you're kind of touching on as we're

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speaking with philanthropic entrepreneurs And to me,

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that means that you care about a cause,

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but you're also approaching it in an entrepreneurial fashion.

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And to me, an entrepreneur is not just saying,

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well, this is what I'm going to do.

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You're creating your own reality.

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And I think often if we think of the magnitude of the problem, we'd never move.

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If we just think we can fix this and we can keep taking steps forward, we can.

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If you start thinking that it's too big, too much, too late, then you are.

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Because you've defeated yourself before you've started.

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If you just say I can make a difference and I'm going to start

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making a difference, it's remarkable how many other people will get on board

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and then you really can make that difference.

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If you wait to take action,

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or you feel like nothing can be done, then nothing will be done.

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You've just got to step forward and go.

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And I think that that is kind of one of the most important messages

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we can share with everyone.

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Because, you know, it's not too late for the planet, for the ocean,

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for our climate.

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And all of the decisions we make every day are so important.

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Whether it's enhancing biodiversity in the vineyard

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or enhancing biodiversity in the ocean.

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It's equally important.

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It's just I can walk out and see that biodiversity in the vineyard every day.

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I don't have the opportunity to see it in the ocean every day, but

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it's heartwarming to know that it's there, and can come back,

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and I can go see it when I put on my tank and my mask.

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Absolutely.

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And the thing that - the really great news is -

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that life comes back in the ocean so much faster than it does on land.

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The ocean is so productive.

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And if we give it a chance?

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It'll rebuild, it'll regenerate.

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There's a lot that we can do to help, so

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I feel like there

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is this moment starting.

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I can feel the momentum building and it's it's exciting.

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It's an exciting time to be doing this work.

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I think that's wonderful.

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I'm excited.

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Tell me some of the most meaningful successes or the things that are really

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kind of getting you pumped up right now and how we can help you with that.

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Well,

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you know, we're we're working on a whole suite

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of digital tools that will give people an opportunity

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to be directly involved in restoration in the ocean around the world.

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So that's something that we're working on and getting ready to

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to share in the months to come.

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We recently won the

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Keeling Curve prize for our seaweed work, which was really exciting

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and I think was a big boost to our team and

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to all of the seaweed farms that are part of our study.

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And there's a lot of interest around seaweed right now.

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And so one of the things that we hope to do

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is to help shepherd that in the right direction

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because I see, you know, the blue economy is accelerating

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and the blue economy is just a term that references how

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we make money from activities connected to the ocean.

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And so the blue economy can be about

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mining and overfishing and extracting or

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in which case, you know, it's really going to be game over for the oceans.

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Or the blue economy can be about rebuilding

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and regenerating and using seaweed farming as an example

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of the kinds of activities that can sustain people

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that can support entire communities that can advance this just transition.

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That's so important.

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All while rebuilding ocean abundance.

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And I think that that's really the kind of blue economy that we hope

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to help shape and advocate for.

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And that's what I mean by, you know, we have a path

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that we're on

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now where we talk a lot about conserving what we have and sustainability,

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even though sustainability is a word that's lost a lot of meaning.

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And so if we stay on this path thinking that we can change the outcome by doing

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more of the same, and I think we're going to end up in a worst case scenario.

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So getting on a different path

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means getting an abundance mindset.

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It means being hopeful that we can turn this around.

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It means thinking about what

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we do in terms of contributing to the restoration of our oceans and

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mitigating the

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impacts that we have, but also investing differently,

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for example, buying differently,

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looking at our supply chains if they're connected to the ocean.

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There's there's a lot that we can do personally

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in different aspects of our personal and professional lives to

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advocate for and to help advance

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this regeneration agenda.

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Well,

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we're so excited that you spent time with us today

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and we're really excited about your project, and I'm very excited

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that in 30 years I'm going to be diving in an ocean

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that's even better than the one I had when I was a child.

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Because

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I know it's possible and

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we're going to be out there and and enjoying it and seeing it

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with with new eyes.

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We're very excited to be hosting a luncheon on August 19th,

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2022 for Oceans 2050 at the winery in Napa Valley.

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If you're inspired today to give $500 or more, please just note St.

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Supéry on your donation and we'll get your information

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and send you that invitation to join us for lunch

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at the winery.

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In a beautiful setting with some wonderful seaweed

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that's been harvested and grown and lots of other delights.

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We've got some great sustainable seafood

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that is grown on land in California as well as other locations,

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and so we're excited to have you join us at the winery.

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And please be thoughtful about your choices.

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Alexandra, anything else that we can do, the last thing

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that you want to leave us with that I failed to ask you or

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little hope and inspiration?

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Well,

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I think that we've we've talked a lot about

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what's possible in the future,

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and I would just ask that people keep that in mind.

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You know, it's important to know all of the bad things

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that are happening with climate change and our weather and so many other things.

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But keep in mind that there are a lot of people

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that are looking at how we can change, how we do things

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and innovate new technologies and create new financial products and

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all sorts of things

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that I think can change change the outcome.

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And when it gets

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hard to read the news and see what's happening

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in the environment and in the ocean that we love.

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Remember that.

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And you can always come to Oceans2050.com

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and see what we're doing or follow us on Instagram or Twitter, and

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I will be announcing more of these projects that we're doing soon.

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And I think that it's going to be a fun ride.

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All right, well, I hope I see your next award

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being a Goldman award or one of the other wonderful things,

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because that would that would help us get us to that goal pretty quickly.

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But congratulations on all the work you've done and the recognition to date,

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and we're very excited to have had you join us

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and know that you're out there leading the charge to restore our oceans.

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It's really, really wonderful to have spent time chatting with you.

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So thank you. -- Thank you Emma.

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