Going Ocean Neutral

As part of the Geoversiv Commitment to Ocean Stewardship, we are exploring the boundaries and targets that will allow us, as a global human society, to define Ocean Neutrality, and to work toward it. The concept is problematic for a few reasons, the most salient of which are:

  1. Everything flows to the ocean.
  2. Without climate neutrality, ocean neutrality is out of reach.
  3. Any one actor’s achievement of ocean neutrality requires the cooperation of all other human activities.

For the opening of the 72nd UN General Assembly and Climate Week NYC 2017, we put forward the following preliminary list of zero goals, all of which are integral to achieving operational ocean neutrality. We do so recognizing that this list alone demonstrates the daunting scale of the challenge.

Zero Goals for Achieving Ocean Neutrality

  • No plastic waste.
  • No ocean acidification.
  • No thermal expansion.
  • No sea level rise.
  • No disruption of ocean currents.
  • No chemical agricultural runoff.
  • No coral bleaching.
  • No sonic trauma.
  • No accelerated extinction.
  • No sea-floor methane disruption.

We know these are only some of the zero goals that will bring us to a working definition of Ocean Neutrality, and by extension to an understanding of how we can work to achieve it.

In addition, it is clear that any significant climate change above the waves will have an impact on the ocean as well. This is covered in part by ocean acidification, thermal expansion, sea level rise, and ocean currents, but may include other factors not explored in this list.

Beyond Zero: Building the Blue Economy

Solving these many complex challenges will be the driving force at the heart of the emerging Blue Economy. In June, at UN Headquarters, during the first UN Ocean Summit, many of the technologies required to build the ocean stewardship economy were fodder for discussion and negotiation.

We described the Blue Economy as “a vast operational landscape of new value based on addressing these challenges effectively,” adding that:

The zero footprint standard for industrial production and life-cycle management will be feasible when the zero footprint standard for technological intervention in the marine environment is integral to the design of our science, business, and stewardship practices.

So, in addition to examining the ten component challenges of ocean neutrality listed above, we are asking these questions:

  1. How can we define and measure an “ocean footprint”?
  2. How can we define and work toward “ocean neutrality”?
  3. What actions and technologies must be deployed first?
  4. How can whole economies transition to “blue” business models?
  5. How best can we connect business, science, finance and ecology?

Share your ideas, experiences, vision


The featured photograph at the top of the page was taken in Baffin Bay by David Thoreson.

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