The Blog

Ocean 3.0: Popping the Blue Bubble Wrap

I've heard for decades the same story of the ocean getting a fraction of the attention, funding and protection it deserves and needs. I know you have, too.
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When I was a kid, I loved to pop the little bubbles in my bubble wrap. I'd work the entire sheet until every bubble was popped. Sometimes they were tiny little bubbles. Sometimes they were big fat bubbles.

I felt great satisfaction with each "pop."

These days, when I get together with my fellow ocean scientists and advocates it's always great fun. But it sometimes feels like we are encased in bubble wrap disguised as a conference hall or meeting room.

The blue choir can sometimes feel stiflingly small, especially when compared to the vastness of the ocean. Add to that the drumbeat of bad news, and one can begin to feel suffocated -- like a deep, night dive on an empty SCUBA tank.

Sometimes our own lingo and jargon add yet another layer of bubble wrap. Inscrutable buzzwords like "ecosystem services" and "natural capital" commingling with summary statistics and a tidal wave of alarming findings about ocean acidification, fisheries collapse, the biodiversity crisis and climate change are all enfolding us, ensuring that our conversations are exclusive, depressing, scary, and full of the subtext of guilt.

There's no wonder why people don't want to join our club: we make them feel sad and mad and dumb.

Our abject discomfort discussing the profound emotions that connect us to and unite us in nature serve only to further insulate the conversation.

In some fields, such failures are embraced and studied, worn as badges of honor. Careful examination of such lows are venerated as the surest paths to success.

Yes, the world's best leaders know failure well. They have studied their own biggest, hairiest failures in the light of day and risen above.

In conservation science, however, we bury our failures deep, far down at the bottom of the ocean where they're most likely to go unnoticed.

Don't get me wrong, I love science, thrive on statistics, and adore my fellow science-geek colleagues. And it's certainly uncomfortable to talk about big, expensive projects that didn't achieve desired goals, but something has got to give.

I've heard for decades the same story of the ocean getting a fraction of the attention, funding and protection it deserves and needs. I know you have, too.

Recently a leading presidential candidate even made saving the ocean a laugh-line in a major speech. That cannot be good.

It's time to pop the bubble. And, it turns out, that as an adult, I really like popping bubbles -- blue bubbles, I call them.

I like to pop the bubbles that separate us, keeping people on the outside or on the inside.

I love big, bubble-bursting creative ideas that set information free to truly inform and connect people to each other and to nature.

There are lots of bubble-bursting ideas out there.

Like the one that unites the study of neuroscience, personal well-being, and water in one big idea.

Passing a blue marble through every single hand on the planet is another.

Dredging up our least proud moments -- our "failures" -- and turning them over again and again in our heads to learn about what exactly went wrong and why is another great, big idea.

When we bring artists, engineers, entrepreneurs, educators, futurists, and scientists together to talk about the ocean, new ideas explode around us and exciting things happen.

If the healthy ocean of our distant past was Ocean 1.0, and the broken one of the present is Ocean 2.0, let's call this bold new approach to our planet's greatest source of life Ocean 3.0.

Our relationship to the sea is changing, because it has to. But what form it takes is up to us to decide -- together, creatively.

We are inventing the responsible packaging of the future.

We are deciding how people will move without carbon.

We are teaming up with graphic artists and technologists to visualize alternative futures.

We are designating vast new bluescapes, where ocean wildlife rules and thrives.

We will learn and teach the principals of the new field of neuroconservation.

We have new ideas about clean, safe seafood.

We are making a film about one million blue marbles circling the planet, person to person.

This is going to be fun.

And it just could help to get us where we need to go.

So, start popping.