06/07/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Could We Live In A World Without Predators?

I'm in the Galapagos Islands with TED to celebrate Sylvia Earle's TED
focused on saving the oceans .
This morning, I took a walk to the ocean's edge in the pouring rain,
stopping frequently to marvel at the beauty of this most exquisitely
beautiful place. The bright green cacti stood against the heavy
violet sky holding their prickly limbs like outstretched paddles.
The marine iguana lie lazily on the paths, not seeming to notice our
presence, just enjoying the quiet of the day. Bright red, yellow
spotted Sally Light-foot crabs scurried across black volcanic rocks on
the edge of the ocean. A marine iguana jumped into the sea to look for
its lunch of algae, swimming along the current with its head held
high. As we walked round a fragile peninsula, we stood in awe as an
enormous pelican jumped from a rock to soar across the sky.
Everywhere I felt the magic of our interconnected, fragile world.
Everywhere I felt a sense of awe at how small we are as humans, what
havoc we have wreaked upon the natural world, and how precious this
protected place is to all of us.

What stunned me most this morning, though, was chancing upon a
singular blue-footed booby, the first I've ever encountered. He was
gorgeous, truly gorgeous, a little over two feet tall with a long neck
and pale yellow eyes on either side of a long beak so that his face
seemed to reflect a sweet, beautiful innocence. His feathers were
colored soft grays and browns, and he stood on the most spectacular
feet I've ever seen. His webbed feet were colored Brahmin blue,
beautiful blue, and I could imagine him dancing around with those
glorious feet trying to impress his female counterparts.

As we stood quietly, just a few feet from this lovely bird so unafraid
of our presence, I thought about the power of living in a place
without predators. The animals here all trust one another, and trust
us in ways that felt unfamiliar. Indeed, it made sense for them to be
so welcoming: they'd not had the experience of violence or real danger
from humans. I work in so many places, especially in urban slums,
where people live surrounded by predators, always at risk of being
attacked or swindled, rarely able to lie in the sun and relax. And the
response of people in these environments is fear and mistrust.

I dream a world in no one feels the need for or fear of predatory
behavior, in which each of us walks with the knowledge of how
beautiful -- and valuable -- is each human life. The change must
start within each of us, though we need better policies to provide the
promise of opportunity and the hope of living with a sense of
security. Our world is a fragile eco-system, and we should think of
Galapagos and places like it as metaphor for the care we need to take
to nourish it -- as well as the endless possibility and promise of
beauty that awaits if we take it seriously. For in the end, all of our
lives depend on it.