Speaker: Carl Safina

Conserving Life on Earth

Every one of those animals in every painting of Noahs ark, deemed worthy of salvation, is in mortal danger now and their flood is us.” - Carl Safina

Dr. Carl Safina is an ecologist, one of the world’s leading conservationists, and an accomplished author who has dedicated his lyrical, non-fiction writing to exploring how we are changing the natural world and what the changes mean for human and non-human beings. 

The first Endowed Professor for Nature and Humanity at Stony Brook University, Carl is the founder of Safina Center, a nonprofit nature conservation and environmental organization which advances the case for life on Earth by creating an original blend of science, art, and literature in the form of books and articles, scientific research, photography, films, sound-art, and spoken words. The work is designed to inspire and engage others to devote their time and energies to conservation of wild things and wild places.

Carl was born to parents whose Brooklyn apartment was filled with singing canaries—his father’s hobby. Trips to New York’s zoos, aquarium, American Museum of Natural History, and his uncles’ boat lit a city kid’s early fascination with animals. He began raising homing pigeons at age seven, and spent his teen years in closeness to non-human beings – training hawks and owls, and immersed in fishing, bird-banding, boating and camping along New York’s Long Island coast. “Watching the places I loved disappear turned me into a conservationist,” Carl writes. Soon these passions took him on adventures in Kenya, Nepal, Greenland, and Arctic Canada and beyond.

Dr. Safina has been named among the Audubon magazine’s “100 Notable Conservationists of the 20th Century.” In 2011, Utne Reader listed him among “25 Visionaries Changing the World.” His work has won the Lannan Literary Award, Orion Book Award, National Academies’ Science Communication Award; the John Burroughs, James Beard, and George Rabb medals; Pew and Guggenheim fellowships, and a MacArthur “genius” fellowship.

Carl sees that the durability of human dignity and survival of the natural world will depend on each other; we cannot preserve the wild unless we preserve human dignity, and we cannot conserve human dignity while continuing to degrade nature. His work fuses scientific understanding, emotional connection, and a moral call to action.

In the natural environment, Safina sees the spiritual.  Raised Catholic by non-devout parents, Safina became “spiritual” in his teens, then became secular (non-theist). “In how I see and feel it, spirituality is our emotional connection to what is larger than ourselves,” he writes.  “It’s invoked by our sense of connection to the vastness of space, the depth and breadth of past and future time, the things bigger than us. … Our sense of the beautiful time-tuned wisdom of nature, the sacred improbability of Life, the mysterious beauty of music and our love for people—all these sorts of things qualify, to me, as spiritual. And that is how they feel to me.”

Carl Safina’s seven books include the bestseller Song for the Blue Ocean, The View From Lazy Point; A Natural Year in an Unnatural World, and A Sea in Flames; The Deepwater Horizon Oil Blowout. He hosted the 10-part PBS television series “Saving the Ocean”. He is a frequent contributor to media outlets such as CNN.com, National Geographic, The New York Times, Audubon, The Huffington Post and others. His most recent TED Talk “What are animals thinking and feeling?” received a million views in its first month.

His latest bestselling book, Beyond Words; What Animals Think and Feel, affirms his role as one of today’s leading voices for nature. In The New York Review of Books, Tim Flannery wrote: “Beyond Words is gloriously written… Along with Darwin’s Origin and Richard Dawkins’s Selfish Gene, Beyond Words has the potential to change our relationship with the natural world.” And a review by Gregory Cowles of the New York Times concludes: “Dr. Safina is a terrific writer, majestic and puckish in equal measure, with a contagious enthusiasm for the complex social lives of the animals he’s observing.”
Safina has been profiled in the New York Times, Rolling Stone, and on Nightline, and has been featured on National Public Radio; Bill Moyers’ special Earth on Edge; on on TV shows ranging from The Martha Stewart Show to The Colbert Report.

Safina’s seabird studies earned him a Rutgers University PhD, then for a decade he worked on overhauling fishing policies, helping restore ocean wildlife. In the 1990s he helped lead campaigns to ban high-seas driftnets, overhaul U. S. fisheries law, improve international management of fisheries targeting tunas and sharks, achieve passage of a United Nations global fisheries treaty, and reduce albatross and sea turtle drownings on commercial fishing lines. Along the way, he became a leading voice for conservation, widening his interests from what is at stake in the natural world to who is at stake among the non-human beings who share this astonishing planet.

Carl continues to live on Long Island with his wife Patricia and their dogs and feathered friends.

Join us in conversation with this lyrical writer who speaks for the animals!

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