US astronaut and oceanographer Dr Kathryn Sullivan has compared the current global situation to being in the midst of a severe storm on a sailing boat in mid-ocean.
In an interview with The Sunday Times, Dr Sullivan, who has Irish roots, said that although she was an optimist, it was “the most uncertain time I have witnessed in my lifetime”.
“You couldn’t even think of putting a sail back up, let alone trimming it, or trying to steer..only to ride it out as best one can...” she said.
“ It’s a bit like watching the circus performer twirling plates on the end of a stick, relying on gyroscopic forces – but if the twirling slows down any, the plates start to wobble like crazy,” she said
A global pandemic can focus attention on the potential of the ocean environment as a vital source of protein and new medical treatments, she notes.
However, she cautions that the oceans are under considerable pressure, thanks to “we two-footed critters” allowing rubbish to reach the very bottom of the remote Mariana Trench and microplastics to poison the deepest ocean creatures.
“So there is no part of this planet that is disconnected,” she says.
Dr Sullivan, who developed close links with the Marine Institute here during her term as US Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association Administrator (NOAA), has been invited by the institute to give a public “virtual” interview.
Read more of The Sunday Times interview here.