The Oceans and the Anthropocene
The ocean is enormous, indeed so large that for centuries we assumed that there was nothing we could do to substantially harm it. Unfortunately, we now know that this is not true. Every year brings new scientific studies and media reports documenting the scale of the damages that the ocean has suffered and grim assessments as to what lies in the future. Less well known, however, are some of the successes we have had in ocean conservation. This is a problem, because bad news without solutions can lead to apathy rather than action. We are having success on some fronts, such as saving species from extinction, protecting ocean waters, fishing more sustainably, and restoring damaged ecosystem by replanting critical species and reducing pollution. Even actions on land, such as removing dams from rivers and rats from islands, can make an important difference to marine life. Of course, we still need to do much more, and do it faster. In future, we can turn to new tools drawn from the natural and social sciences. Big data and genetic interventions have a role to play, as do ocean-based renewable energy sources and new financing schemes. Perhaps most important is the growing recognition that success depends on empowering local communities in efforts to create a healthier ocean. Thus, it is highly fitting that putting people at the center of ocean conservation is the linchpin of the just launched United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development.