World Ocean Forum
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World Ocean Forum

Ocean Services: A Summary

Ten declarations that the ocean is the essential place for us to imagine, implement and design a sustainable future for humankind.

Throughout this BLUEprint series we have been discussing the ocean’s value, specifically through the prism of ecosystem service analysis, an approach that assesses process and projects though an inclusive accounting of profit and lost beyond operative GDP-limited calculations of value.

What is the natural capital value of our human connection to the Ocean?

Here are ten declarations to review:

1) The Ocean is a conveyor and determinate of climate worldwide through currents and winds that circulate its benefits to every place on Earth with measurable consequence. Nutrients and toxins, spilled oil and micro-plastics, deposited from the land inevitably travels in circles and up and down the water column to affect every living thing therein for better or for worse.

2) The Ocean is a global source of heat and energy through its volume and distribution. The Ocean is a physical engine that through dynamic force creates opportunities for conditioning our settlements and driving our industries.

3) The Ocean is a primary source of protein for millions coastwise and on land. The Ocean feeds us now, more and more as dietary tastes change, other foods become inefficient and unhealthy, and ocean biology, simulated through aquaculture, provides supply adequate to the demand of an ever-expanding global population.

4) The Ocean connects the world economy through trade, transportation, and communications. The Ocean is a skein of invisible lines that evince routes of connection, the financial exchange of goods, the distribution of services, and the transfer of information and wealth to the ends of the Earth and back again at the speed of light.

5) The Ocean is the ultimate instrument of the water cycle that irrigates our crops, sanitizes our communities, and provides, ultimately, our future source of fresh water without which we cannot endure — salt to fresh, evaporated and deposited, filtered and extended through watersheds and aquifers, for use and re-use en route, to return to the source again and begin the cycle all over.

6) The Ocean sustains human health through provision of nurturing resources that are essential to our bodies and souls. We cannot survive without water for our manufacturing, cleansing, nurturing, and viability; thus, the Ocean is the font for the future of ourselves, our families, our communities, and our so-called “nation states.” Cities and empires fall without the water the ocean ultimately provides.

7) The Ocean employs people worldwide through meaningful work that contributes to our personal and communal development. We build our cities at the confluence of rivers and at natural places alongshore, and, as the land is exhausted, more and more we congregate to the edges where land meets sea.

8) The Ocean extends from the mountaintops, along watersheds, rivers to the coastal zone, an inter-locking network from source to return, transcending the claims and conflicts along the way that so upset equity, peace and justice the length of its flowing.

9) The Ocean is the source of our cultures and spiritual beliefs, our recreation and renewal. The Ocean offers solace and freedom, it invades our religious codes and rituals, it informs our art and literature, and it bathes our psyches in natural and redeeming grace.

10) The Ocean is a global source of capital from our past to our present, and through to the future of human survival. The Ocean is the penultimate reservoir of value, the vault containing essential deposits of natural capital, without which we are bankrupt, dislocated, and lost.

Add them up. Do the math. Arrange them from any perspective, structure, or behavior, and the conclusion will always remain the same: that the Ocean is both the essential place and liberating spirit by which to imagine and implement our future, an indisputable, unavoidable design to follow as the only effective means by which to 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.

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