By Kirby Brooks
La Jolla High School alum Duffy Healy (Class of ’86) nurtured his love for the ocean growing up surfing local breaks and met his match in wife Elizabeth, a Laguna Beach native who shares his desire to protect the ocean. The couple, who now call San Clemente home, have come to realize that while they belong to a community of ocean conservationists, that simply isn’t good enough. The Healys are now raising awareness about the dire issues facing the world oceans in a new book, “Sea Voices, Working Toward a Sea Change.”
“We have been on the board of Oceana for years, but the idea for the book occurred to us while attending a fundraiser called “Sea Change in Laguna Beach,” Elizabeth said. “These fundraisers are very exclusive and cost a lot of money to attend. And while they do raise money for ocean awareness, it is almost as if the speakers are preaching to the choir because everyone shares that interest already. Duffy and I wanted to round up athletes, authors, musicians and celebrities to generate even more attention.”
The couple interviewed 138 people for “Sea Voices,” which is written in a question-and-answer format. The book boasts interviews with ocean experts like famous female oceanographer Dr. Sylvia Earle, Dr. Robert Ballard (noted for discovering the Titanic), Captain Paul Watson from Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (you may know him from the TV show “Whale Wars”) author and ecologist Carl Safina, British adventurer David de Rothschild, Jacques Cousteau’s grandchildren Alexandra and Fabien Cousteau, and many others.
The interviews in “Sea Voices” aren’t limited to ocean experts, though. The Healys also sat down with musicians like Jack Johnson, San Diego native Jason Mraz, Garret Dutton (aka G Love), Yoko Ono, Stefan Lessard (of the Dave Matthews Band) and Ziggy Marley.
Environmentally conscious actors like Daryl Hannah, Ted Danson, Q’orianka Kilcher, Isabel Lucas, Kate Walsh, Sam Waterson, Keely and Pierce Brosnan, and others were also eager to chat about why protecting the ocean is of such vital importance to all.
The couple spent two years traveling the globe conducting the interviews and also chatting with 10-Time World Champion Surfer Kelly Slater; surfers and Patagonia ambassadors Chris, Dan and Keith Malloy; San Diego-bred surfer Chris Del Moro; skateboarding star Tony Hawk; Robert Kennedy, Jr.; author Amy Tan; filmmaker Louie Psihoyos (of the Academy Award-winning documentary “The Cove”); royalty from Nigeria and Saudi Arabia, and still others.
Out of the group, which spans more than 25 countries and more than 25 different states, who did Duffy and Elizabeth enjoy interviewing most?
“There were so many, but I would say Daryl Hannah, because of the simplicity of what she said,” Elizabeth said before quoting the actress/activist: “ ‘We spend billions to explore space, yet we still don’t know what mysteries the ocean holds.’”
As for Duffy, he hit it off with actor and Oceana board member Ted Danson. “He speaks my language. His advice about overfishing was, ‘Become involved. Don’t be cynical. Be informed. No one has the luxury anymore to sit back and do nothing.’”
The message of “Sea Voices” is that while the ocean seems infinite and indestructible, it is facing numerous challenges. Those lucky enough to live near the ocean interact with it daily, and often take its presence for granted.
“Sea Voices” exposes threats like overfishing (which is causing major imbalances in ecosystems), coral reef destruction, sea levels rising, biodiversity loss, shark finning, and ocean acidification.
The book also delivers staggering statistics (according to Dr. Sylvia Earle, for example, 90 percent of the major species of the ocean have been removed in the last 50 years!), but isn’t all doom and gloom. Marine Protected Areas are being assigned around the world and are showing positive results.
“Our main message is that we can all do our part to protect the ocean,” said Duffy. “We’re big on activism through the Internet. It is so easy to join a few oceanic charities online. You can vote on measures with a simple click of your mouse.”