World Oceans Day
June 8, 2020
President and CEO, Ocean Wise
We used to think of the ocean as an expansive, unknowable, never-ending source of food and resources. Now we know better. The combined pressures of pollution, unsustainable resource extraction and climate change are pushing our ocean to the brink.
Humans need to understand that the world, as we know it, will not survive without a healthy and flourishing ocean. For starters, the ocean is our planet’s most effective line of defense against climate change. The ocean sequesters carbon more efficiently than forests and produces 70% of the oxygen we breathe. It is also the key source of protein for 3.1 billion people and provides livelihood to 10% of the earth’s population[. Furthermore, the ocean is home to hundreds of thousands of wonderous aquatic species, many not even discovered yet. These ocean species are not only innocent victims in humankind’s mistreatment of the ocean, but some of them may be the key to future scientific discoveries.
As we enter the relief phase of COVID-19, and governments around the world plan investments to restart their economies, we are at a very unique crossroads: do we simply build back the economy as it was? Or, we can build it back better, prioritizinglow carbon industries and environmental protection. Can we take advantage of this moment in history when governments are making massive investments in business and industry to ‘leapfrog’ to clean-energy technologies and new ways of doing things.
Is leapfrogging really possible? Of course it is. I am from Sweden and in the 1980s, I can recall how several of the former soviet bloc countries, including East Germany, Poland and Hungary, were in dire need of significant upgrades to telephone systems. But instead of investing in copper wiring and traditional technology, these countries constructed cutting-edge 3G cellular networks, putting them among the most advanced communication systems in Europe at the time. They leapfrogged outdated thinking and jumped straight to the most advanced technology available. We can do this too.
There has been a lot of talk about investing in the ‘green economy’ post COVID-19. Well, I am here to argue that we should also be investing in the ‘blue economy.’
“The Blue Economy is the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods and jobs, and ocean ecosystem health.” (World Bank)
Globally, the blue economy, including tourism, fisheries, marine renewable energy and biotechnology, is predicted to grow at double the rate of the rest of the economy by 2030.
Investing in the blue economy means managing the ocean in a way that it remains healthy, and can continue to benefit people as a source of food, carbon sink, recreation and employment.
Globally, investments need to be made in sustainable fisheries, sustainable aquaculture, sustainable energy production, sustainable shipping (including investments in low carbon fuel and green ports), ecosystem protection and carbon sequestration.
The innovation and ideas are there, our governments just need to be courageous enough to implement them.