Stephen Eades – The practical question – can we deliver the oceans first principle? – Jan 15

I had thought I had finished this series of blogs, and then an afterthought occurred to me. You’ll be asking yourself — is the “oceans first principle” really practical? Do not doubt it.

Of course, what is practical depends on people because it is people who decide whether something is practical or not. People may create the problem in the first place, but they also invent the solution. So the issue before us is simple — can we, and will we, invent the solution?

Let’s look at the principal players, their track records and degree of interest in change, their ability to act, and anything else which holds them back from being masters of the solution.

Treating these principal players in no specific order of priority, let’s start with “capitalism” and the people who control the organisations (fishing companies, oil wells, mining conglomerates, etc). It is often said that capitalism has no soul, only an unquenchable appetite for profit, and so is the evil force upon whom all the blame should be laid. There’s an argument of truth here, but remember that the spirit of capitalism is constant invention, the endless quest for the new and for profit that arises from doing things differently, and — if we accept that even “capitalism” has to recognise an imperative need to preserve the planet’s well-being in order to survive — then it has a vested interest in using its spirit to invent, and implementing the solution.

Then there are the scientists, the people who define and measure the problem and, if their spirit is in the right place, also propose the solution. They are, generally speaking, people who are good and true. They want to see a better world. So, why are they failing to deliver the solution? Their problem is money. In nearly every case, their money is sourced from the public purse and the governments who control it. Therefore if they advance change and solutions which appear political, run counter to the prevailing policies, scientists fear for their jobs and income. Hence scientists may say that something ought to be, but do nothing that means it will be.

Then there are the ngo and conservation organisations, the people whose declared mission is to save the planet. That’s a very good place to start from. Only, there’s a problem. They are not succeeding — why? Some of them have surrendered their radical mission for a seat of “influence” at the table of government (I’ll come to Governments in a moment), believing that being closer to the seats of power will mean greater success. It fact, it means they are open to being leant upon and easily persuaded from the radical course. Others have transmogrified themselves from campaigning organisations into charities because they can raise more money this way and because they have a self-interest — their bureaucracy — to sustain. And the price of this Faustian pact with charitable status is that they are essentially forbidden from undertaking political campaigns.

Then there are the journalists, the “third estate” upon whom the preservation of our democratic spirit depends. Yes, they do a reasonable job — or at least some of them do. Only, are they really reporting on the crisis in the marine world? A positive answer to that question is very debatable — why? The trouble is that “public interest journalism” is, whilst being widely applauded as an aspiration, not actually the model on which the profession works. Rather, its primary interest is in stories of sex, crime and scandal — with a liberal sprinkling of war reporting and mayhem caused by natural disasters. Not certain about that? Well, check out the TV news and your newspaper! The real stories about the ecology of this planet are not on their radar.

And so, we come to Governments. They come in many different forms. From the tyrannical and grossly corrupt, to those dependent upon elections and the “will of the people”.

Those in the tyrannical model are not necessarily bad from an ecological perspective. It may be cultural necessity that brings this model to the fore, and those who occupy the positions of power are able to understand the imperative needs principle of political ecology as well as you or I — they have to feed their people, after all.

Those in the democratic model are potentially more hopeful from our perspective. Ostensibly, they are open to persuasion by reason and evidence. Yet, the reality is that their failure is almost as great as the most corrupt members of their “species” — why? One reason is that they take the democratic principle to the extreme and, when meeting collectively to decide on the cause of a problem and its solution, they build their action on consensus. That proves to be fatal. Consensus means that nothing is agreed unless everyone agrees to it. The result is that the solution is based on the lowest common denominator — whatever it is that everyone can agree on, and nothing more. The consequence is that the solution is inevitable inadequate to the task.

Another reason is that politicians, although we see them as powerful, often behave like wimps, bending this way to that powerful lobby, and that way to another powerful lobby with the result that they end up in a state of paralysis and inaction. The perfect illustration of this from our perspective is the current catastrophic decline in the Sea Bass stock in the English Channel which UK Fisheries Ministers have, for one reason and another, conspicuously failed to do anything about. Certainly, they have spoken volumes about the serious nature of the situation and the imperative need for action, but delivery — zilch. Have a look at Parliament’s debate in December 2014, and their shameful list of these Ministers’ excuses and admissions of failure.

Where do we go from here? Are we “going to hell in a handcart”? Is life on this Ocean Planet caught up in its sixth mass extinction, triggered this time around by ourselves?

Certainly this is possible, but also possible is that mankind, as a species, can act intelligently and devise the solution to the problem we have created. We have seen that capitalism, the prevailing economic model of our age, does contain within it’s spirit a relentless interest in what is new and thus the spark of this possibility. We have seen that scientists, conservation ngo’s and journalists do understand the imperative needs principle of survival and political ecology, and we have seen that Government’s can, in moments of enlightenment, perceive the correct path.

Marinet is convinced that we can build a genuine, rock solid solution that addresses the ecological catastrophe that confronts us — collapse of life in the oceans and our extinction as a species. We achieve this by putting the interest of the natural world and the oceans first — see, Marinet and Deborah Wright’s publication Conserving the Great Blue — and we do this by harnessing the democratic spirit in the United Nations. The natural wealth of the seas which belongs to the small and less powerful coastal nations of the world — a numerous body in total — has been seriously damaged by the present exploitative economic system, and the UN Law of the Sea (UNCLOSUNCLOS The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, also called the Law of the Sea Convention or the Law of the Sea treaty.) has failed to protect these nations.

They have been dispossessed of their marine wealth, and of their nation’s birthright. Therefore in the context of Conserving the Great Blue, and given the reality that the UN Law of the Sea can be reformed to safeguard these nations’ marine birthright if they act together collectively to reform UNCLOS, Marinet is launching a campaign throughout the coming year to mobilise a global movement which will deliver a new UN Law of the Sea. These disposed coastal nations are the leaders in this movement, and everyone else — you, the scientists, the ngo’s, the journalists and all who believe in this mission and its true-hearted purpose — are the advocates of this moment of change.

As Margaret Mead (1901-1978), the American anthropologist and observer of mankind remarked: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Therefore, Marinet is asking you to join us in this venture. Can we deliver the oceans first principle? Yes, there is no doubt that we can — and if you join us and all the others on this journey, the actual achievement will also be yours.


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