Upstream decisions in finance, farming, industry, and personal consumption determine whether not only the ocean but also our food supply is eroded or sustained.
We need to stop putting plastic into the ocean. We need to stop acidifying the ocean. We need to understand that ocean ecosystems are as important to sustaining life on Earth as our great forests. Earth is a lucky place for humanity: so far, we know of no other place where life as we know it is possible, certainly nowhere within reach.
The resilience of human civilization — or rather, organized intelligent life as we know it — depends on our maintaining health relationships to natural systems. All of the intersecting data that demonstrates the state of these relationships to natural systems amounts to operational resilience intelligence. Good performance means we increase overall value and opportunity; bad performance means we reduce overall value and opportunity.
- We are putting more than 8 million metric tons of plastic garbage into the ocean each year.
- The result of this endless influx of toxic waste is an ever-increasing circulation of enduring pollution. There are now trillions of tiny particles of plastic not only in the ocean’s water, but penetrating the diets of marine animals.
- Some Pacific Ocean sea turtles have been found to have diets consisting of 74% plastic, while 83% of tap water tested in 7 countries was found to be contaminated by plastic microfibers.
- Ongoing acidification and warming of the ocean (both driven by the infusion of heat-trapping carbon dioxide at unnatural levels) is putting marine life at risk.
The resilience intelligence on human-ocean sustainability is: we are not doing well; we are undermining, through many aspects of our everyday activity, our relationship to the foundational Earth system sustaining life. We don’t yet have an exact numerical value for how much future wealth and opportunity is being drained by our unsustainable treatment of the ocean, but we can say that since we now have nano-scale plastic invading our food system, we cannot afford to delay comprehensive action any further.
Discussions about the “cost of ocean clean-up” distort the nature of the challenge. Investing in a healthy ocean future — building the Blue Economy — is not only an immense new economic opportunity; it is vital to our future wellbeing, in more ways than we are accustomed to thinking.
The Blue Economy is more than just investment in ocean clean-up or stewardship of natural systems. It includes manufacturing in fields completely unrelated to the ocean, but using practices and materials that prevent harm to the ocean. Upstream actions across the full spectrum of human activity impact conditions in the ocean. SDG14 — United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 14, the protection of life underwater — connects back to all of the other SDGs and their 169 concrete targets.
The SDGs are a global agreement among the 193 Member States of the UN General Assembly, which all Member States are committed to support both at home and around the world. Given that ocean-smart manufacturing, waste-management, energy production, infrastructure and finance, are all part of the emerging blue economy opportunity, any nation that lags in aggressive blue economy development will lose advantage in critical ways.
In light of this moment of emerging innovation for planetary resilience, and in support of our Ocean Neutrality Initiative, we are recommending support for, engagement in, and research to further:
- Plant-based, biodegradable (and non-petroleum) plastic materials.
- Public policies that remove incentives for single-use plastics and incentivize reusable and fully biodegradable materials.
- Aggressive investment in low-carbon infrastructure.
- Aggressive transition away from processes that pollute air and water.
- Climate-smart farming techniques that reduce chemical runoff and build resilient soil carbon ecology.
- Incentives for products made with ocean-sourced plastic.
- Financial instruments and tax incentives for finance that aligns with climate-smart agriculture, waste-management, and energy production.
- Data-sharing initiatives that put actionable ocean and climate intelligence directly in front of local decision-makers.
Throughout 2018 and 2019, the Geoversiv Foundation will be developing concrete guidance on each of these points, to support leadership in the transition toward ocean neutrality standards and operational resilience intelligence. We welcome your input, source material, and reports from the field, especially regarding work in these areas.