Why we’re optimistic we can save our oceans

For all the threats to the ocean—warming, overfishing, pollution—a veteran undersea photographer sees ways to help and reasons for hope.

The world’s oceans, more than 70 percent of the Earth’s surface, are rife with problems: Overfishing, warming and acidifying waters, plastic pollution, a loss of abundance and diversity.

Finding solutions, or even reasons for optimism, can seem a daunting task. But that’s what we seek in this special issue. It’s dedicated to our seas, the people who explore them, and the creatures that inhabit them—from enormous whales to the tiniest corals.

To care about the ocean in the 21st century is to feel conflicted: despairing what’s been lost, optimistic about what we can save. To discuss this tension, I called photographer David Doubilet, who went on his first National Geographic assignment 50 years ago. By Doubilet’s calculations, he has spent more than 27,000 hours underwater—or just over three of his 74 years.

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