The global ocean makes up 99% of the biosphere, absorbs 90% of excess heat coming into the Earth system, anchors the stable climate system and food web, and shapes the land and ecosystems we inhabit. We are an ocean world, and though our civilization is land-based, human existence itself depends on a healthy ocean.
The Resilience Intel initiative emerged from the Acceleration Dialogues—in response to leaders in all sectors sharing a common need: for information related to decision-making to be informed by science, and for mainstream finance to “know how” to align with that information. We are focused on direct integration of Earth systems science data into financial data systems, to produce an overall translatable measure of “resilience value”.
In essence: The more your actions build resilience for other stakeholders, the more valuable your actions are; the more they degrade resilience, the more investors will want to avoid them. The underlying reality of the world works this way, but much of the data we use to drive investment decisions operate as if no such wider integrative foundation for value existed.
World Ocean Day is the perfect time to stop and recognize that we cannot sweep pollution under the rug. Pollution does not “go away”; there is no “away”. The effects of unsustainable practices end up eventually running down to the ocean, where they degrade the vibrancy of marine ecosystems and ocean biomass—degrading both the food web and ocean carbon sinking capacity.
In 2019, Acceleration Dialogues partners hosted a discussion at the Oceanographic Institute of Monaco. That dialogue focused on the ways in which upstream activities lead to downstream impacts. Participants came together around a core idea: “blue economy” investments must include investments that will impact the ocean downstream.
In June 2019, we published Invest at the Source, a brief pointing to 10 “zero goals” for ocean neutrality—because you cannot balance harm to the ocean against an offsetting benefit; the net outcome is still harm. We then outlined areas of action to focus in on strategies for working toward those zero goals:
- Waste management
- Infrastructure design and urbanization
- Agriculture and land use
- Ecosystem stewardship
- Chemical processing and refining
- Energy production
- Finance, investment, and trade
We need to see substantial, measurable, and foundational progress toward ocean neutrality on each of these. Today, we want to focus on this insight from the report:
The list is bookended by Waste Management and Finance — in part because reading the ocean signal reveals powerful connections between the two and points to business-model innovations we must learn to harness for transformational benefit. We treat the field of waste management as something very different from finance — physical labor vs. data management and bookkeeping, low-income vs. high-income — but the shift to circular economy standards and practices will connect them in important ways. Waste management and finance will be redefined as two modes of a shared project, a resource management industry industry that in different ways, at different scales, aims to leverage presently accessible foundations of value to achieve specific enhancements of future prosperity.
In 2021, we are seeing this play out more and more, as consumers, investors, and some regulators, call for greater accountability from commercial interests for their supply chains. You may not determine how a supplier treats the environment, but you can choose to go with one that meets higher standards and reduces your overall impact on natural systems.
In April, Geoversiv supported the Global Freshwaters Summit, which focused on the common and varied interests of stakeholders across the vast Missouri and Mississippi Watershed. The Summit took stock of the health of the great rivers, and of streams, tributaries, and ecosystems. And, participants spoke about their experience of pollution and clean-up, and the deep entanglement of upstream and downstream interests.
Resilience Intel views watershed resilience—not just management, but the wider question of the health and resilience of natural systems, climate stability, the sustainability of mountain glaciers above the headwaters—as crucial to understanding resilience value.
The future of food, agriculture, energy, and finance, must support ocean health and resilience, if we are to achieve sustainable development. Unsustainable development is not an option—as the risk of catastrophic system-level (or multi-system) resilience failure is rising.
- This means livelihoods must increasingly be supported by coordinated investment in natural system health and resilience, or Nature-based solutions.
- It means the “blue economy” must expand to include many apparently non-ocean actions that take place far upstream.
- And, it means we must think beyond even the Summit to Sea mindset, and remind ourselves that climate disruption generated by “downstream” actors can destabilize mountain glaciers and entire watersheds.
- The circular economy is not an artificial construct; it is a recognition of the actual, real-world interconnectedness of human and natural systems.
The 2020s must be the decade when we set the global economy on a clear course to operate in harmony with Nature. To achieve food and water security, safeguard human health, and achieve sustainable shared prosperity, we will need to invest in and routinely foster climate resilience, biodiversity, and the health and resilience of ecosystems on land and in the ocean.
The Principles for Reinventing Prosperity are designed to bring together the material interests of people, Nature, and whole societies, to inform sustainable development and investment, and secure a livable future. Ocean health and resilience is part of that.
Read the Invest at the Source report at OceanSmart.org