By David Helvarg
Between the sobering reality of the COVID-19 pandemic that has killed over 100,000 Americans and put our economy in a tailspin, an expected above-average hurricane and wildfire seasons linked to the ongoing climate emergency and other societal fractures such as racism and other forms of exclusion two responses have become all too common: angry denial and fatigued despair.
While some think these two are opposites, actually they’re just different forms of self-indulgence. Frontline heroes in medicine, food, transport and emergency management don’t have time for either, and neither should we.
In the face of a global health catastrophe linked to the destruction of nature and consumption of wildlife we need to assess what parts of our system have responded well and which have failed and begin to build better options that create a healthy balance between the environment, economy and equity.
In the short term some of what we need to do will require adaptation. I just spoke with a number of emergency management folks getting ready for the 2020 hurricane season.
“If people have COVID we can still rescue them with some risk but still not endangering our crews,” Coast Guard Captain Mark Gordon, Chief of Operations for the USCG Atlantic Area told me. “With highly contagious COVID if you have flooding and helicopter rescues, the rescue swimmer may have a facemask to put on but for the pilot that’s more challenging (having to communicate through his or her helmet mike with both crew and ground base). Still, the value we bring is we’re flexible and right now fully mission capable.”
All of us need to become “fully mission capable,” if we’re to build a better future out of the present crisis. That’s what Blue Frontier has worked to do in partnership with solution-oriented groups and individuals for over 16 years.
One example I just wrote about for Our Daily Planet (along with Jason Scorse of the Center for the Blue Economy) examines the elements of the Ocean Climate Action Plan aka ‘Blue New Deal’ that with widespread engagement, can lead to new laws and policies as soon as 2021 that will help protect and restore the blue in our red, white and blue.
Plus here is a 3 minute inspirational video from several OCAP supporters including a U.S. Senator and Indigenous Youth Activist.
When it comes to indigenous knowledge of our Ocean world, few can compare with the Polynesian voyagers who settled the Pacific over 1,000 years ago and whose knowledge was rescued from near extinction by their descendents just within the last few decades.
Inspiration from the past and dedication in the present can drive transformation in our future. That’s why we chose Nainoa Thompson of the Polynesian Voyaging Society as our keynote interview for the 6th wave of our Rising Tide Ocean Podcast. Nainoa even provided a bit of hope after meeting local activists on the global journey taken by a flotilla of voyaging canoes. Time really matters now,” he says, “and you need to know we’re going to win this race between those who are hurting the earth and those who are restoring it.”
We can only hope he’s right and work our hardest to make sure he is.
Please hear what the “navigator” has to say or you can download Rising Tide from Apple, Google or Spotify.
And remember we will get through today’s crisis and come out the other side. The question is, will we have used the time afforded by this historic moment to create the healthy ocean world and living blue frontier we all deserve.