Which country ‘owns’ the most ocean?

Managing our natural resources is especially difficult in the oceans where species not only move huge distances, but it’s also not entirely clear who is responsible for which piece of the ocean. Nonetheless, some countries have rights over huge areas of ocean and we should learn from their experiences.

If you think about who has responsibility for which parts of the Earth, you probably think of a world map with blocks of land parcelled up and run by various countries. However, in addition to that each country can claim up to 200 miles of ocean directly off of its coast – these are called Exclusive Economic Zones or EEZs. And then there is the open ocean, also known as the high seas, that no country has exclusive rights to. The high seas make up 60% of the earth’s surface: talk about a headache for management.

So what countries have big EEZs – in other words, which ones have the responsibility for the largest areas of our oceans? Before today I would have guessed that an island nation with a huge coastline, such as Indonesia, might have the largest EEZ. I found out that it’s in fact the US that has the largest EEZ! Larger than it’s land surface! Check out this map:

Image from National Geographic DailyNews article (link on this blog)

I recommend also reading the article where I found this: http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2011/03/30/overfishing-101-a-beginners-guide-to-understanding-u-s-fishery-management/

What’s interesting is that I’d recently heard that the US claims to manage almost all of its fisheries (quite a statement considering most fisheries worldwide are basically a free for all). This article, written by an American, actually makes it sound like they have a lot more work to do. The author, from Pew Environment Group, will continue to explain US fisheries issues in subsequent articles.

Let’s see what we can learn about managing marine resources from the country with the largest territorial ocean claim!

Note: there are many more nuances to high seas issues, EEZ claims and marine natural resource issues – but those will be for another day.

What does it mean to say “I am a conservationist”?

On whether we can we call ourselves conservationists and what discipline merits the title best.

Last night, at a dinner with a club of self-named ‘explorers’, I was talking with an elderly gentleman who said he’d been a field tropical ecologist for the past 60 years, so I asked if he considered himself a conservationist. To that he retorted that he hates the idea of saying “I am a conservationist” and continued to berate the idea saying it was a ridiculous thing to claim (because it was not specific enough I think – but he wasn’t entirely clear).

A little later he eventually asked about what I do, to which I answered: “I am a conservationist.” He scoffed and groaned and shook his head and asked what I had done to qualify for this role. He appeared disgusted when I told him my first degree was in environmental science and policy, “Did they teach you anything useful in that course? What did they teach you – did you learn anything about ecology?” I told him I had, but the emphasis had been on political science and public policy and as I was starting to explain that people working in conservation need not all be ecologists and conservation requires an understanding of people, politics, social issues and more he stopped listening!

So I doubt I made a good impression on him but I frankly don’t care too much because later as he was  introduced to give a small speech he was referred to as the rudest man in the whole club.

What is the point of conservation?

On how my class answered this question – some answers that reveal our values and motivations.

Yesterday in a lecture we were asked, “What is the point of conservation? In other words, why do you do it?” My first reaction to this was:

  • To keep the world a place worth living in.

Some other responses from my class:

  • For our grandchildren – so they will get to experience the same wonderful species, places, nature, etc that we have. This included a sense of responsibility to future generations.
  • Out of selfishness – call it responsibility to the future, but I know that I just want to be able to keep seeing these beautiful and inspiring things and I want my grandchildren to see them because I care.
  • An instinctual feeling that we depend on nature – to preserve this harmony
  • Religious reasons (Christian)
  • To keep the possibilities open for a sense of wonder
  • To protect our identity as humans – something that is inherently linked to our experiences in nature on both individual and cultural levels.

Our director pointed out that none of us talked about the usefulness of nature. I think that was mainly because the emphasis of the lecture on culture put us in that frame of mind, but it may equally have been because our particular motivations stem from the intrinsic value we give nature rather than rational utilitarian values. On the other hand, my answer implies the desire to save both the beauty and usefulness of nature to our lives.

The world shall not perish for lack of wonders, but for lack wonder.”

– JBS Haldane

The greatest leadership challenge of our time

The greatest leadership challenge of our time is to create a sustainable future.

“The future is not something to be discovered or predicted, the future is to be created.”

This is so inspiring to me. No more thinking of the impending doom of a future full of extinction. Instead, we need to train each other to imagine a future we want…and then work out how we will get there. The future can be more of what we want and less of what we fear.

And on leadership generally, this quote below really speaks to me because it shows how important self-awareness and reflection is. We need to understand ourselves, the way our society operates, or the underlying norms that come from ‘Mother Culture’ in order to see a new way forward:

“We really don’t see the world as the world is: we see the world as we are…. an extremely important point in leadership.”

These quotes were said by Göran Carstedt in a lecture he gave at my university last night. A very similar talk is available on YouTube.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7d_ew6yQgR8&w=480&h=390]

So now you can ask yourself what Göran Carstedt asked us: “What kind of future do I want to be part of co-creating?”