How a Blue New Deal charts a course for a sustainable sea change

How a Blue New Deal charts a course for a sustainable sea change
Joel Makower
Mon, 07/20/2020 - 02:11

Last week, a group of activists, scientists, academics and others issued a report calling for policies and other initiatives to generate prosperity while addressing inequity and the climate crisis.

They called it the Blue New Deal. Its focus: an ocean-based blue economy .

The problem, these experts said, is that the much-ballyhooed Green New Deal doesn’t adequately address the many environmental and social challenges that lie along the world’s shorelines and into the deep blue: industrial overfishing; coastal flooding; declining biodiversity; plastic waste; irresponsible tourism; unsustainable aquaculture; oil and chemical pollution; invasive species; and a range of other issues, many affecting the lives and livelihoods of coastal communities.

Yes, provisions in the Green New Deal address fisheries and fishing communities, but that’s only a drop in the ocean, say blue-economy experts.

The Ocean Climate Action Plan (OCAP), produced by the Center for the Blue Economy at the Middlebury Institute and the nonprofit Blue Frontier, aims to fill the shortcomings of the Green New Deal, offering a four-part set of policy recommendations that, it says, "contains both conservative and liberal economic philosophies that are mutually reinforcing."

There's a pool of insights for companies, too.

"There's been a lot of stovepiping between the marine conservation community and the climate community," David Helvarg, executive director of Blue Frontier, explained to me last week. "There's kind of this feeling that the environment ends with the shoreline."

Suffice to say, it doesn’t. Indeed, says Helvarg, 14 of the 20 biggest U.S. cities are coastal, which he and others regard as those adjacent to the Atlantic Ocean, Pacific Ocean, Gulf of Mexico and the Great Lakes. That’s also true for eight of the world’s 10 largest cities, according to the U.N. Atlas of the Oceans . These communities face a wide range of environmental, social and economic challenges that extend well beyond their terrestrial-based boundaries.

There's kind of this feeling like the environment ends with the shoreline.

The OCAP report is the result of "dozens of conversations" with leaders and experts, culminating in October in a meeting in Monterey, California, attended by 60 leading ocean and coastal experts across disciplines. It was followed by a virtual meet-up in April, attended by more than 750 people.

The group is quick to distinguish the " blue economy " from the " ocean economy ." The latter includes all ocean-based economic activity, including fishing, shipping, mining, port operations, oil and gas exploration and energy generation.

"When we talk about the blue economy, we're talking about sectors that are sustainable and that maintain...