In honor of UN World Oceans Day (8 June), and in collaboration with Oceanic Global, we are excited to launch our new SDG 14 hub, dedicated to life below water. This day is about celebrating the ocean and its importance to the planet and our lives, while raising awareness about the many threats it faces.
Sergio Rossi is the author of Oceans in Decline and a huge proponent of science education and science journalism. In this interview, he shares the means by which he believes researchers will be able to make the most impactful change against SDG14.
The Universitá del Salento and the Universidade Federal do Cearà, academic institutions where I work, are deeply committed to the search for nature-based solutions. We indeed think that we are part of nature and we have to understand this point. Once you realize it, you can start looking for solutions that are within the Earth's materials and energy limits. The Blue Growth has to be truly understood as another form of view life, in which we try to apply the know-how that we have to live in harmony with the ecological cycles: not economically sustainable, but sustainable for our own survivorship, based on the new perspectives of the oceans not on its exploitation but out of respect for the limits of its growth.
Results in food sovereign and ocean restoration. If we are able to protect and restore marine habitats and create ocean management to ensure food for locals, this would be a real success for everybody. The problem is the synergistic impacts that are making deep and, in some way, irreversible (from the human time scale point of view) perturbations that we are witnessing.
Making programs in which there is a serious citizen science approach. Policy makers are sensible to what people are thinking about a determinate theme or a problem (it translates to votes and power). If you reach the people with a bottom-up approach, with awareness and education, it is possible that you can really address the problem and push political actors to move. I think that the top-down approach has not been successful, and our pressure has been rather weak. The solutions have to come from local parties rather than general problems. The other way round is almost impossible because each area, each country, region or city will have their own peculiarities. However, communication is essential to exchange experiences, and this has to be favoured in the political arena. This is why I always work towards scientific outreach in many forms.
Everything must be based on engagement with the public. It is time we, scientists, take the “torch of responsibility” to amplify our message that another world is possible but with new roles that have to be carefully explained. I’m working on a marine restoration plan in which the center is the person, the person that is enrolled to make active transplanting of the biota in the benthos through a specific program, driven by marine biologists. If these programs become a reality in many places around the world, showing the possibility that the oceans can be recovered, we will win an essential ally to make another way of life possible.
Short-term is to pursue specific projects to understand the role of marine animal forests (my specialty) as carbon immobilizers and how these three-dimensional, live structures based on benthic suspension feeders (sponges, corals, gorgonians, bryozoans, etc.) will survive the climate change challenges that are already present in our oceans. In the long-term, my dream is to coordinate a very ambitious plan of restoration of these marine animal forests (and other coastal habitats) in different parts of the world, making a huge effort to educate and engage the people. When I was 11 years old (1980) the Oceans were the promise of a fantastic future. We are still waiting. But in this decade, the decade of the oceans, this might come true and this vast extension of water will help us survive in front of the bleak future we face.
All our interviews reflect the views and opinions of the interviewees.
About Sergio Rossi