SOLVE magazine Issue 01 2020 - Page 8

SUSTAINABILITY AND THE ENVIRONMENT: BLUE ECONOMY CHANCE FOR A DEEP BLUE STEP CHANGE Through human history, the natural resources that feed and energise the world have primarily been terrestrial. Now, more is being asked of our ocean. P rofessor Steve Fletcher likens communicating science to taking people on a voyage, from the warm shallows to the dark, cold deep. Fittingly, he is talking about the ocean and his passion for safeguarding marine life. Professor Fletcher is Director of the University of Portsmouth’s Sustainability and the Environment research theme and Ocean Lead of the UN’s International Resource Panel. His key field of research is ocean policy and economy, specifically issues affecting the sustainability of the blue economy – the world’s ocean and coastlines. This is becoming an increasingly important field of science as humanity turns to the ocean as the new frontier for economic security, particularly new renewable energy platforms and deep-sea mineral mining. Professor Fletcher says, even now, everything from the food we eat and the clothes we wear, to the way we travel around the world, is reliant on ocean resources. It’s his way of fitting marine conservation into an economic frame. However, general awareness of this context remains obscured by conventional conservation still being perceived as a cost to society or a restriction on economic activity. “Often, in conservation areas there are restrictions on fishing or the removal of non-living resources, such as oil and gas, so conservation is generally seen as a cost.” Professor Fletcher asserts that, unless you protect the ocean’s natural capital, you can’t credibly expect it to remain strong economically and play the elevated role that humanity will require – keeping in mind the oceans cover 71 per cent of the Earth’s surface, hold 97 per cent of the Earth’s water and comprise 99 per cent of the planet’s living space. To lay the groundwork for a new approach to marine management, Professor Fletcher is working with the United Nations and national governments to test new approaches to policymaking for a sustainable blue economy. He hopes this will support new policies that both protect the environment and stimulate economic activity. One of the first management traits that he says needs to change is the current sector-by-sector governance: “It’s incoherent and non-coordinated. All activities are managed independently from each other, so it’s quite easy for, let’s say, energy generation to impinge on a protected area or to ruin the view of a lovely coastal tourism site. “A more integrated approach, in which different sectors are managed together, would reduce these conflicts,” Professor Fletcher says. 6% (20% by 2050) of global oil production is dedicated to plastics, with packaging accounting for approximately a quarter of that. SOURCE: ELLEN MACARTHUR FOUNDATION 9% of all plastic ever produced has been recycled. 12% has been incinerated, while 79% ends up in the natural environment. SOURCE: UN ENVIRONMENT PHOTO: STEPHEN CROWLEY / UNSPLASH 8 ISSUE 1 / 2020