Featured Sustainability

Mission Blue: Why we must save our oceans

Mission Blue is the Netflix documentary that follows Dr Sylvia Earle as she campaigns to save the world’s oceans.

Sylvia Earle is an American marine biologist, oceanographer, campaigner, teacher and writer – she has dedicated her life to observing and protecting the oceans around the world. Earle has been exploring the ocean longer than most of us have been alive. And, since she started exploring our underwater playgrounds, the world has changed enormously.

She started her career as a marine biologist in the 1960s and was viewed by many as a radical in her approach to protecting the oceans. But, in retaliation to that accusation, Earle stated, “if I’m considered a radical, it’s because I see things that others do not.”

Sylvia Earle is one of the greatest explorers of our time, and yet, many haven’t heard of her.


Mission Blue takes us on a journey through Earle’s life, from when she first discovered her love of the sea as a child, right up to the present day and her fight to save the ocean. She has witnessed first-hand the diminishing life in the oceans and seen with her own eyes the impact humans can have on the natural world. She is yet to take a dive and not see tangible evidence of our presence; from litter in the deepest depths to overfishing, humans are having a devastating impact on our underwater worlds.

But, this documentary is not all doom and gloom. Earle is very clear that we have the skills, knowledge and opportunity to protect the oceans and save the planet. She says, “if I could be born again at any moment in time, it would be now. It would be now because now is the time that we know and understand what we didn’t know fifty years ago.”

Earle is the leader of the enterprise Mission Blue, a global coalition that inspires action to explore and protect the ocean. She kickstarted the process of Hope Spots – special places scientifically identified as critical to the health of the ocean. They are completely off-limits to fishing, dumping and drilling. The aim of these Hope Spots is to create protected areas of the ocean – just like we have protected areas of land – in order to preserve, protect and re-balance the ecosystem.

Dr Sylvia Earle’s driving force behind this documentary is that all of us can make a difference and protect the ocean, “this is the moment our decisions, our actions, will shape everything that follows.”


“Look in the mirror, consider your talents, and think about how you might use them to make a difference. Some have artistic skills, others are good with numbers or have a way with words. Everyone has the power to make a difference as an individual, or by joining the company of others who share a common goal. The key is in knowing that what you do matters, including doing nothing!” – Dr Sylvia Earle


Portable Desalination Units Developed by MIT Scientists to Generate Freshwater

Researchers from MIT have created portable desalination units that can effectively remove dust, particles and salts to purify water

The desalination units are roughly the size of a suitcase, require less energy to operate than a cellphone charger and can be powered by a portable solar panel. As per MIT’s educational report, it generates drinking water fresh enough to exceed WHO quality standards. 

This device uses electrical power to clear particles from drinking water. Senior author Jongyoon Han, professor of electrical engineering, member of the Research Laboratory of Electronics (RLE), and computer science and biological engineering, has explained how this was the culmination of a 10-year journey his organisation has undertaken. Years and years of hard work on the physics behind the individual desalination processes, but driving these advances into the box and experimenting with the unit was a gratifying experience for their team. Other team members include first author Jungyo Yoon, a research scientist in REL, SungKu Kang, Eric Brack and Hyukjin J. Kwon. 

Portable desalinisation units
Portable desalinisation unit © MIT

The machine was first field-tested at Boston’s Carson Beach, and to unanimous delight, it was successful in its first run. The device was placed near the shore, with its feed tube thrown into the water. After thirty minutes, the unit filled a plastic drinking cup with fresh water. Their research has been published online in Environmental Science and Technology.

In order to work effectively, the device uses ion concentration polarization, a technique developed by the research group ten years ago. This method applies an electrical field to membranes placed above and below a channel of water, which pushes away positively or negatively charged particles. Bacteria, viruses, dirt, and salt molecules are repelled as the water flows. These charged particles are led to a secondary water stream that’s flushed away. 

Using the ion concentration polarization, suspended solids are removed, and clean water is allowed to pass through the channel. This technique is unlike other portable desalination units, which tend to employ high-pressure pumps to purify water using filters. 

To ensure that all the salts float in the channel, the researchers also employ electrodialysis to remove possibly missing salt ions. The team developed the portable desalination unit to be both self-cleaning and require minimal energy usage. The team also created a smartphone app that can control the portable unit wirelessly and generate real-time data on water salinity to add a cherry on top.

This breakthrough is excellent news for the future of water conservation and efficiency, possibly providing communities with scarce freshwater with a way to generate drinkable water.