Five critical things for our oceans

and their “digital” implications.

Five critical things for our oceans /img/five-pillars-new-ocean-agenda.jpg


This year, besides looking at COVID-19, leaders from 14 countries have committed to “changes in 5 key areas, to support the sustainability of the ocean”. The commitment is for sustainable management of100% of ocean areas within their national waters by 2025.

An apparently arrogant beginning

As worded in that announcement, that commitment seems dumb and arrogant to me. The ocean IS sustainable, by definition; like any other environment unburdened by human pressure since at least the Big Bang. Hopefully, that attitude may be only in the title.

The body of that announcement, in fact, does say that it is a sustainable ocean economy, not the ocean itself, that can “create a triple win for people, nature and the economy." Let’s look at those areas, then in the order that makes it easier to point to their “digital” (in the larger sense of the world) implications.

Ocean Health

“We cannot have healthy people and planet without a healthy ocean."

Of course. While acting on this, please remember that the Internet of Things can be the new plastic, even for the oceans.

Ocean Wealth, and Ocean Knowledge

For Ocean Wealth, “Rapid action is needed to improve the sustainability, transparency and inclusiveness of ocean industries."

For Ocean Knowledge “Policies must accelerate the transparent and open sharing of ocean data and ensure that research and knowledge can inform better and more equitable decision-making."

No question on these fronts: go Open Data and Open Science all the way down here, till here at least:

Five critical things for our oceans /img/challenger-deep.jpg
<a href="" target="_blank">Challenger Deep, the deepest point of the Mariana Trench</a>


Ocean Equity

“Exploration and development of new economic opportunities from the ocean - particularly in areas beyond national waters - is concentrated in a handful of high-income countries. In 2018, 10 countries owned 98% of all marine biotechnology patents for the development of novel compounds and products."

The only solution that is really sustainable, fair and innovative here is less patents, not more.

“Access to information, promotion of environmental literacy, and engagement and collaboration across diverse actors with different visions for the sustainable ocean economy of the future will be key to redressing equity concerns."

Great, but please avoid the “Fancy Formulas, No Substance” approach.

Ocean Finance

Five critical things for our oceans /img/i-have-a-bad-feeling-about-this.jpg

OK, now I do have a bad feeling about this:

“Increased uptake of sustainable finance principles by a range of actors is a key opportunity for ensuring that mainstream finance is redirected towards sustainable ocean outcomes and that COVID-19 stimulus investments accelerate the great ocean reset."

Money is needed to rescue the oceans, of course. Lots and lots of it. That is not the point. It is the “mainstream” part that concerns me. Because, today, “mainstream finance” is what still does, thanks to digital technology, totally dumb stuff like high speed trading.

Be very, very, very careful whenever you need “mainstream finance” do something sensible.