Part eleven of the multi-part BLUEprint Series: How the Ocean Will Save Civilization
It is easy to call for transformative change — certainly in the abstract, with more difficulty personally within, and even more challenging to find and persuade others to join in what is by definition a fundamental risk with no assurance ahead. Many of us fixate on a single point of action, in my case it’s the ocean — a place of exchange of goods, people, and ideas, and a system for decisions and actions based on values of sustainability and equal benefit for all.
That personal realization has involved the examination of every aspect of my identity — my spiritual beliefs, my work, my sense of family, community, and service. And that is difficult enough. And when you add external matters of race, gender, class, sexuality, education, and other differentials of privilege, the challenge explodes exponentially into a full-scale self-examination of my place in the world, my responsibility and accountability beyond myself to family, friends, neighbors, and strangers. And that seems almost insurmountable. But to succeed as an agent of change it is absolutely necessary.
There is the famous Albert Camus quote:
“Great ideas, it has been said, come into the world as gently as doves. Perhaps then, if we listen attentively, we shall hear amid the uproar of empires and nations, a faint flutter of wings, the gentle stirring of life and hope. Some will say that this hope lies in a nation; others in a man. I believe rather that it is awakened, revived, nourished, by millions of solitary individuals whose work every day negate frontiers and the crudest implications of history.”
I read this quotation too many years ago, but it shaped me forever. As individuals we are alone, but not alone; as social entities, we are alone, but not alone; as nation states, we are alone, but not alone either. There is no one immune to the uproar and crude implications, and yet we all share the opportunity for isolation and despair or for an alternative, harmony and peace. It is through our unity with humankind and our fundamental urge for survival that we can know the power and gentle stirring of life and hope.
We realize equity by knowing that what we wish for ourselves we must wish for others, and those others, whoever they may be, or from whence they have come, or whatever their beliefs and behaviors, are no more absolute or valuable than ours, and must be welcomed, respected, and secured. In that intersection of communal equality, that flutter of wings, lies the flight into our future.
I have come to believe that the ocean is now the only focus forward, as it pertains directly to every essential aspect of human life: climate, water, food, health, energy, exchange, community, governance, and invention. No one can endure without these in adequate and equitable supply. Security and peace cannot be guaranteed without recognition of this basic demand. When there is break-down in these conditions on land, by accident or intervention, there follows immediately disruption and dislocation, conflict and chaos that leaves some devastated and others fearful that there is no longer the possibility amidst the noise to hear that faint flutter of wings. We are in just such a moment just now.
To emerge, we must have a plan, and with audacity I have begun here to lay out a BLUEprint for the future, with the intent to realize equity through a vision for solutions, for how we can move forward to transform this world we live in today, for how the ocean will save civilization.
PETER NEILL is founder and director of the World Ocean Observatory, a web-based place of exchange for information and educational services about the health of the world ocean.