SXSW Moments: Saving the Ocean
Did you miss something at SXSW 2019? Want to relive the magic? Look to this space over the coming weeks for links to video and audio replays of some of the most incredible experiences from this year’s event.
As summer moves into high gear, more and more Americans head outside and to the beach. While the natural world continues to inspire wonder, soothe our spirits, and feed our bodies, it also serves as a harbinger of what’s to come without intervention.
From devastating fires, floods, and tornados to rising oceans and widespread climate upheaval, there’s a lot to worry about. Especially when the current administration seems hell-bent on rolling back every single environmental regulation, dismissing science and ignoring facts. That’s why it’s essential that we gain knowledge and explore realistic options about what can and must be done to better understand and protect the oceans, which cover three-fourths of our planet.
Blame Our Brains: Overcoming the Ignoring of the Warming Oceans
Sea level rise, melting Arctic ice, warming ocean temperatures, and coastal erosion are just a few of the critical impacts stemming from a rapidly warming planet. Yet despite the incredible research, documentation, and reporting actively underway, a large portion of the public continues to resist the realities and implications of the changing global climate.
In order for science and tech solutions to reach commercial viability, the public must accept the uncomfortable, evidence-based truths being presented and ultimately become proactive partners in adapting to a new normal. Understanding how the human brain processes unpalatable information is the first necessary step in ensuring broad support and adoption of innovations such as a genetically modified salmon, salt water resistant crops, and many other advances born from the necessity to adapt to a rapidly changing environment. This talk with Dr. Sweta Chakraborty and Ingmar Rentzhog explains how our cognitive shortcomings can and must be overcome to not only survive, but also to thrive.
Dr. Chakraborty is a risk and behavioral scientist whose work is motivated by the need for clear, credible, evidence-based communication to urgently and proactively manage the risks that threaten human security and well-being. She is the founder of Adapt to Thrive, a venture that seeks to better inform individuals, businesses, and government entities on the complex, interconnected challenges, such as food security and disease, already existing and emerging from a warming planet. She is also Policy and Communications Fellow at the Center for Climate and Security where she is the host of The Climate and Security Podcast.
A successful Swedish entrepreneur with a background in the financial industry, Rentzhog founded We Don’t Have Time, which aims to create a social media platform for the future, focused on what he sees as the biggest challenge of our times — the climate crisis.
Project Greenland: Visualizing Sea Level Rise
For both journalists and scientists, climate change is difficult to document. It most often happens imperceptibly — a 10th of a degree increase in temperature, a few less inches of rain, a slowly melting ice sheet. Over six months in 2018, Reuters embarked on a project to document the challenges and successes of a group of scientists studying Greenland and how the island contributes to rising seas.
Through a multi-part series incorporating video, drone and still photography, 3D graphics, data, satellite imagery and animation, Reuters visualized the scientific efforts to track global sea level rise and the inherent difficulties these scientists must overcome.
In this session, NASA scientist Josh Willis explains how he and his Oceans Melting Greenland (OMG) team chase the research needed to understand the extent of which warming oceans are melting coastal glaciers. The OMG research is part of a cutting-edge effort to narrow the wide gaps in sea level rise prediction models. Reuters photographer Lucas Jackson discusses his experience documenting the OMG mission and how he managed to capture on a separate expedition, a rare and mesmerizing sighting of sea level rise when a four-mile-wide chunk of ice broke away from the Helheim glacier in southeastern Greenland.
A Wave of Change: Solving Ocean Challenges through Entrepreneurship
Emerging technologies will play a key role in solving the most critical threats facing our ocean. This panel features ocean entrepreneurs from Loliware, BioCellection, ETAC, and ONET Global/Hydroswarm who are working to develop scalable businesses that leverage technologies such as edible bioplastics, chemical recycling, nanotechnology, IoT, Artificial Intelligence, and Machine Learning to protect our blue planet. Moderated by Craig Dudenhoeffer, Chief Innovation Officer at Sustainable Ocean Alliance and co-founder of the Ocean Solutions Accelerator, panelists explore how the next generation of entrepreneurs from around the world are tackling the greatest environmental challenges of our time by leveraging innovative technologies and creative business models.
Smart Oceans: Tech From Surf to Seafloor
The demand for oceanographic data has never been greater — we need to understand how our coasts, open oceans, and coral reefs are changing if we are to preserve and efficiently utilize the ocean’s vast resources. Marine technology development must confront challenges such as turbulent waves, intense pressure at depth, and remote and (big) data transfer issues, for example. Now, more than ever, scientists and engineers need to make their complex discoveries accessible to broad audiences via high-tech data visualization and storytelling. This panel explores innovative ways that technology development is advancing in the ocean — from the Internet-of-Things-enabled surfboard fin that aims to measure coastlines changing due to sea-level rise, ocean acidification, and more, to mapping technologies that `visualize and interpret the ocean from the sea surface to the seafloor.
Ocean Robots to the Rescue
Did you know a network of nearly 4,000 robots is bobbing up and down in the world’s oceans? Ocean robots are helping us understand the climate and national security impacts of a melting Arctic and Antarctic. Soft robots can now mimic eels, fish and plankton so scientists can better study the real thing in the wild. Instrument development in the ocean is advancing and allowing scientists to better understand and solve myriad problems facing our changing planet. This panel of ocean roboticists will discuss where we are now, and where the future will take us.
Navigating the New Arctic
The Arctic is changing before our eyes. In 2017, a ship traversed the Arctic Northern Sea Route without assistance from ice-breaking vessels for the first time ever, signaling a brand new scientific challenge. To understand how the wide-scale changes occurring in the Arctic will bring changes to natural, social, cultural and economic systems, a vast array of data and technology need to be generated to explore this unknown area. A vital piece to helping to navigate the new reality is working with the Arctic’s indigenous people who have detailed knowledge of the region and how it has changed. The wealth of data generated by this multi-pronged research endeavor can be mined by researchers around the world, creating a global think tank for possible world-changing solutions to a complicated issue.
France Córdova, the Director of the National Science Foundation, describes the next generation of research happening in the new Arctic, from learning more about shipping routes in iceless summers to autonomous robot sensors that will dive deep under the surface to provide constant environmental monitoring.
A New Age of Ocean Exploration
This session discusses our New Age of Ocean Exploration and the importance of exploring the deep ocean as we reach for other ocean worlds. It has been almost 150 years since the Challenger expedition when, over a span of four years, over 4,500 new species of marine life were discovered. Yet we have barely scratched the surface. Less than 8% of the sea floor has been mapped to a high resolution, an estimated 1.5 million marine species have not yet been discovered, and only 10% of underwater mountains have been explored. The processes that link deep ocean environments — perhaps with profound implications for the ocean ecosystem services on which we depend — are also mysteries. Meanwhile, we’ve discovered ocean worlds on the moons of Jupiter and Saturn. NASA is preparing missions to Europa and Enceladus focused in part on the search for life. New technologies — some of them inspired by approaches and instruments used in deep ocean exploration — soon will be launched toward to these other ocean worlds.
Through these exciting developments, it’s time to look at how we can use space exploration to advance our understanding of the most inaccessible parts of our own world — and vice versa. We now have the tools to inspire the public about the oceans as we are all inspired by space.
Speakers include David McKinnie, who leads the Office of Ocean Exploration and Research (OER) engagement team and is responsible for media, web and social media communications, and education, and Jyotika Virmani, senior director of Planet and Environment at XPRIZE and the executive director of the $7 million Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE. Virmani has more than 10 years of experience in the oceanic and atmospheric sciences, including both research and leadership positions.
Transforming Ocean Research Through Blockchain
Ocean acidification, temperature rise, deoxygenation, etc. damage fisher livelihoods and coastal economies, while data insufficiencies make identifying mitigation or adaption strategies tough. SmallScaleOA (SSOA) incentivizes data-sharing for coastal research and transparent, traceable seafood. Using phones, satellites, blockchain, and IoT, SSOA will exponentially decrease data collection costs, increase the inclusivity and community-relevance of scientific research, and fill knowledge gaps, while equitably compensating data producers and processors.
Hear from Katharine Leigh, the leader of SmallScaleOA, which aims to use public blockchain technology to incentivize traceable, transparent seafood as well as inclusive, low-cost coastal research on a hyper-localized scale. She has held positions in fisheries management, electronic health records project implementation, administrative marketing, and scientific visioning for both the private and public sector at such places as Cornell University, The Nature Conservancy, the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), and Epic Software Systems. She currently splits her time between The Nature Conservancy’s Palmyra Atoll, Global Science, and Indo Pacific Tuna Programs.
More Memories from SXSW 2019
Change is Coming
It’s Time for Sports!
Social Media Power
Telling New Media Stories
May the Fourth
Women in Tech
Thriving at Work
Making a Difference
Fighting Fake News
Do these audio recordings inspire you to get involved in a SXSW session next year? Enter your forward-thinking speaking proposal for March 2020 via the SXSW PanelPicker. Speaking proposals for next year’s event are accepted via this interface from July 1 through July 19.
Hugh Forrest serves as Chief Programming Officer at SXSW, the world’s most unique gathering of creative professionals. He also tries to write at least four paragraphs per day on Medium. These posts often cover tech-related trends; other times they focus on books, pop culture, sports and other current events.