At the Ocean Conservancy, we’re working to ensure a healthy ocean because we know that the ocean sustains us. The oxygen we breathe, the protein we eat, the moderate climates we enjoy, the joys of fishing, boating, diving and surfing, the easy global transfer of goods, and even the water we drink—all of this is thanks to the ocean. If the ocean is healthy, so are we.
Keeping it healthy is not easy, however. The only thing growing faster than our population—2 billion more people by 2040—is our consumption. The world’s population is becoming richer, and our demand for protein, energy, minerals and more, is exploding. The ocean holds the key to satisfying much of that demand, and it is thus at the very center of the most pressing challenge of our time: how do we create prosperity for all without destroying the natural world that sustains us?
We can do this, but we must first awaken to what is truly needed. In the old days, being an environmentalist meant that we sought to clean up very specific messes. As a child, I witnessed this when the first attempts were made to clean up the Rhine River, which was a cesspool at the time—and, against all odds, we succeeded to the point that salmon were re-introduced.
But now our job is much bigger, because the distinctions we once had in the environmental movement—among people working on the ocean, on air pollution, on biodiversity, on climate change, on land use, on natural resources—are increasingly meaningless. We know that the ocean sustains us at a very existential level and that all of these natural systems are interconnected.
The more we come to appreciate how beautifully these natural systems hang together, the more powerful we become. What it means to be an environmentalist is changing, and that makes this a very exciting time to set the vision for the Ocean Conservancy at the beginning of its fifth and most important decade yet.
In setting this vision, I want to draw not just on the talents of our team and partners, but also on the collective wisdom of the greater community. Which is why I’m asking you to share with us your vision for a healthy ocean and its role at the center of the most important resources issues of our time.
How should we think about the ocean’s role in producing protein for the world? Should climate change considerations guide our thinking on offshore oil drilling? What does the massive tide of plastic trash ending up in the ocean imply for our patterns of consumption? What does a healthy ocean mean to you, and how can we get there?
Share your thoughts in the comments, and I’ll incorporate some of the responses in a future post.