Sylvia Earle’s ‘Mission Blue’ Arrives on Netflix Today

“60 years ago, when I began exploring the ocean, no one imagined that we could do anything to harm it,” says pioneering diver and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Sylvia Earle.

How wrong we were. In the time since her career began, the over harvesting of whales, sharks, and once reliable staples of the human diet has disrupted the food chain with impacts for species at all levels. Fertilizers from agricultural runoff have fed massive blooms of algae that choke off other forms of life. Pollution in the form of diluted chemicals as well as microscopic pieces of plastic and large items wreak havoc for fish, mammals, and birds alike. Even immaterial activities can have a negative impact: the deafening sounds of industry and sonar can cause injury and impede communication among whales and dolphins.

Sylvia Earle watchs a squid in a time before our full impact on the ocean was clear. (Photo courtesy of Sylvia Earle and Hope Spots Company Inc.)

The Origin of Mission Blue

The new documentary, “Mission Blue,” available starting today on Netflix, traces Sylvia’s life of wonder and exploration, and her dedication to awakening the world to the need to give the ocean time and space to recover. The film bears the same name as her ocean conservation alliance born out of the wish she made upon receiving the 2009 TED Prize:

“I wish that you would use all means at your disposal—films, expeditions, the web, new submarines—and campaign to ignite public support for a global network of marine protected areas—hope spots large enough to save and restore the ocean, the blue heart of the planet. How much? Some say 10 percent, some say 30 percent. You decide: how much of your heart do you want to protect?”

Co-directed by Fisher Stevens (“The Cove”) and Robert Nixon (“Gorillas in the Mist”), the film, like Sylvia herself, doesn’t pull punches. It is hard hitting, but also inspiring. This is in keeping with her experience of the ocean itself, a vast and awesome location and community, at once fragile and powerful enough that while its immediate future is in our hands, our long-term future depends utterly on its continued health and functioning.

“No ocean, no life,” she says. “No ocean, no us.”

Students and teachers can dive deeper into the science and issues in the film through lesson plans and research materials from National Geographic Education.

See what the National Geographic Society is doing to help restore and protect ocean health through the creation of large marine protected areas in the Pristine Seas project.

Join the conversation with Sylvia herself on Twitter:

Learn More About Sylvia Earle and Her Work

Sylvia Earle Bio

Mission Blue on National Geographic Education

“Mission Blue” on Netflix

Changing Planet

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Andrew Howley is a longtime contributor to the National Geographic blog, with a particular focus on archaeology and paleoanthropology generally, and ancient rock art in particular. In 2018 he became Communications Director at Adventure Scientists, founded by Nat Geo Explorer Gregg Treinish. Over 11 years at the National Geographic Society, Andrew worked in various ways to share the stories of NG explorers and grantees online. He also produced the Home Page of nationalgeographic.com for several years, and helped manage the Society's Facebook page during its breakout year of 2010. He studied Anthropology with a focus on Archaeology from the College of William & Mary in Virginia. He has covered expeditions with NG Explorers-in-Residence Mike Fay, Enric Sala, and Lee Berger. His personal interests include painting, running, and reading about history. You can follow him on Twitter @anderhowl and on Instagram @andrewjhowley.