Photograph courtesy Kenny Broad
Name: Kenneth Broad
Place of birth: California
Current city: Miami
Occupation: Environmental Anthropologist, Cave Diver
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
I guess I am still growing up, but thinking back to kid days, I can’t remember if I wanted to be something specific, all I really remember is wanting to be in water – any water, but the ocean in particular. We lived pretty close to the beach and very near Biscayne Bay in Miami, and my parents had us in the water at an early age. I just remember being taken to another world when freediving – whether in the deep blue of the Gulf Stream or the shallow turtle grass of the bay. What I didn’t realize as a kid was the interdependence of the marine and freshwater environments. My love for sea water expanded to fresh water when I started cave diving, and thanks to mentors like Wes Skiles, I realized that what much of the fresh water that the world relies on is invisible to most as it is held in underground aquifers. Selfishly, I realized I could combine cave diving exploration with something that had major implications for human and ecosystem health.
How did you get started in your field of work?
Work, who works – you call this work? I guess that I just got very lucky and had some water skills that were useful for scientists and filmmakers, and eventually that got me invited on expeditions of all sorts, all around the globe. Basically, I never turned down a diving job – whether it was pulling golf carts out of skanky lakes or filming in deep caves. Traveling all over the world in different environments, I realized that I was as interested in the human stories as in the underwater and underground environments, and in particular, how the so-called natural and human systems interacted. That led me to a PhD in anthropology, a field that allows me to try and better understand how to approach the issue of sustainability from a more integrated perspective.
What inspires you to dedicate your life to freshwater?
I think that freshwater is a critical environmental issue – but it can’t be looked at isolated from ocean health, policies of land use, environmental justice, and climate change. I am drawn to the complexity of the interaction of all these issues. And again, selfishly, underwater caves are one of the last places on earth where one has to physically go there to explore. So freshwater is a topic that allows me to combine my physical and intellectual interests, hopefully helping in some small way to reduce the negative impacts on our natural resources.
What’s a normal day like for you?
I don’t even know where to start as every day is different. They usually start with my 2 yr old and 6 year old boys jumping all over me and my wife, and then our tossing them in the pool...a good use of freshwater in my opinion. After that, it can be a day of email drudgery, interactions with students at the university, writing papers and grants, or heading to some remote corner of the world with a ton of dive and surfing gear surrounded by good friends. It’s the diversity that keeps me on my toes. I don’t want to plan my future, I prefer to let it surprise me.
If you could have people do one thing to help save freshwater, what would it be?
What are your other passions?
Aside from anything water and cave related, I like art and architecture, and hanging out with people who I don’t know. I don’t like sleeping.
What do you do in your free time?
Free time. Ha ha ha.
More About Freshwater
This April, National Geographic Ocean Fellow Enric Sala (at right) and Emerging Explorer Kenny Broad(below, left) will set sail with Summit at Sea, a three-day immersion in big ideas and high-energy activities for business leaders, artists, non-profit founders, and others working to educate and inspire the world’s up-and-coming generation.
Kenny Broad Dives Deep Into Underwater Caves
Kenny Broad dives into one of Earth's most dangerous and beautiful underwater frontiers. Watch the show online.
Kenny Broad tackles challenging expeditions to unexplored caves and probes controversial problems ranging from climate change to inequity in natural resource management, focusing on the potential use and misuse of scientific information.
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