How Ocean Literacy Fosters a Sustainable Future
Published on: 13.09.2021
‘How inappropriate to call this planet Earth, when it is clearly Ocean.’ Arthur C. Clarke
Once upon a time, sea monsters like Ceto, the Leviathan, and the Kraken were one of the means how humans gave a creative form to their fears. Nowadays, real sea monsters such as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, Ghost Nets, and chemical pollution feed the imagination and creativity of innovators who are fighting to save and protect marine and coastal environments.
Ocean literacy, why it matters
Whether it be because of the fear of the unknown or the fear of the consequences of human impact on the environment, the sea never ceased to fuel the creative mind. Over the last century, ocean-related fears have shifted from folklore and popular culture to real-world issues concerning scientific research, coastal and marine conservation, and eventually future peace.
Still, the amount of attention and funding that this fundamental factor to life on earth gets is trivial compared to the amount of money that goes on space exploration. John Steinbeck made a plea in 1966 on giving deep-sea exploration the same attention as the space race.
Nowadays, except for increased ocean pollution, acidification, and overfishing not much has changed. Thus, there is the need to fill the knowledge gap by giving voice to ocean science, educators, and innovators.
This is what the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development has worded as the “Science we Need for the Ocean We Want”.
Why is the ocean salty? Ocean literacy gives simple answers to questions like this. It explains like if the person that’s reading is five, just like the explored percentage of the ocean.
Ocean literacy is defined as an understanding of the ocean’s influence on you and your influence on the ocean. In simpler words, it means understanding our relationship with the ocean. Like in any type of relationship, understanding the other side involved is essential. But the ocean is complex.
Yet, access to education on this big part of the planet is needed so society can make informed and responsible decisions regarding the ocean. Further on, it would foster progress towards achieving SDG 14 and all the SDGs with an ocean dimension.
Hence, different communities of scientists, organizations, educators, networks, and innovators have been working on developing frameworks and curricula for learners of all ages. Besides the educational material, they include training courses, resources, projects to get involved, a network of professionals engaged with ocean literacy, and the information on the seven ocean principles below:
The earth has one big ocean, but despite its huge size it has limited resources.
The ocean shapes the features of the coast.
The ocean influences the weather and climate. It absorbs and stores carbon, and moves heat and water.
It makes the Earth habitable.
The ocean supports a great diversity of life and ecosystems.
The ocean and humans are inextricably connected.
The ocean is largely unexplored.
The principles help to further simplify complex topics to worldwide learners. From women’s participation in ocean science to future food system designs, ocean literacy can help shape a better future. One way to get involved in improving the ocean’s health is through sustainable practices in business and sustainable entrepreneurship. If you’re looking for resources to become a sustainable entrepreneur, you can take the free online training offered by the Entrepreneurship Campus. Moreover, you can explore how people around the world are addressing SDG 14 with their innovative solutions. If you have an idea or project that contributes to SDG 14 or the other SDGs, join the Citizen Entrepreneurship Competition.
Blue economy and peace
Peacebuilding and economic development through environmental conservation and water management
Follow the river, and you will find the sea.
The economy can be at the same time shaped by, and shape the social/political condition in a given country. Thus when two, or more countries share important water resources such as rivers, lakes, and seas, environmental sustainability can help attain both conservation and peace.
According to the Global Subnational River Borders, a geospatial database, rivers make up 23 percent of international borders, 17 percent of the world’s state and provincial borders, and 12 percent of all county-level local borders. All these numbers give a hint on how difficult it can be to develop a holistic and unified approach to river management.
Important water resources like rivers, streams, lakes, and seas fuel the trade, economy, and innovation of the countries that fall along with their flows or coasts. However, water-related controversies become more complex when water is involved. Water pollution, dam construction, hydropower projects, irrigation, illegal fishing, excessive tourism, and many more activities in water bodies shared through several countries can be addressed in different ways, but the best would be those that facilitate cooperation and peaceful coexistence.
Such solutions are based on environmental science, research, and education that have stakeholders involved in managing and solving conflicts or disputes peacefully while making equitable progress that benefits all. In this case, this is what many call Hydro-diplomacy.
Besides conflict, the outcomes of poor water management include biodiversity loss, increased vulnerability of economically disadvantaged people, less resilient communities, and weak economic growth.
Communicating science through storytelling
Nobody knows the number of people who stopped eating octopus after watching ‘My octopus teacher’. Some others including billionaire space racers poured funding into ocean projects, while many became more aware of sustainable fishing. Animals, wildlife, and even plants communicate, but humans are the only storytellers so far.
When stories succeed to evoke empathy and drive concern, the chances are high that they would also drive action and changes in behavior. Storytelling also helps scientists communicate intricate concepts in simple and convincing ways. It’s up to narrators to find the best tools and tell the story in a way that resonates with the audience. Depending on the latter, creators can pick the narrative that can influence attitude changes.
Remember that 2021 is the International Year of Creative Economy for Sustainable Development. The human imagination has incredible potential for innovation and creativity. Imagination is the main tool to shape solutions and it stands at the root of innovation, but don’t forget another key trigger: fear.
Use fear to motivate change
The last fictional monster came out from the sea and to the movie screen in 1954. It was a radioactive beast used as a metaphor for fear, but not fear of the hidden depth of the ocean. Instead, it was an allegory of the fear of manmade threats to life on Earth or as A. Clarke would say: to life on Ocean.