Last night, a well-known feeling crept back up on me and settled in. A feeling of black despair, grief, and hopelessness.
Have you ever heard of the term “Nodus Tollens”? It’s the realization that the plot of your life doesn’t make sense to you anymore. Or the German word “Weltschmerz”, literally translated as “world pain”, describing the sense that one is personally inadequate and that that inadequacy reflects the inadequacy of the world generally.
This is my best attempt at describing my current state of mind and cocktail of emotions.
Let me explain to you why:
@uwlunatic and I have been working our asses off non-stop (pardon my French). Working a 9–5 job to keep us going; building up a business from nothing; studying marine conservation; writing a book; learning new skills; building networks; pitching ideas; being let down; creating content; managing social media; etc.
We’re loving every moment of it and wouldn’t want it to be any different, but then, sometimes we find ourselves in these moments where we ask ourselves, “Is it even worth it?” What are we doing this for? The state of the ocean and this world have passed their “point of no return” by far.
There’s blood in the water!
⚰️ By the year 2048, the ocean will be dead, and with it, life on Earth as we know it. The world’s oceans will be completely empty of fish, and while this seems alarmist, the scariest thing about it is that it’s backed up with crazy good data. Overfishing, habitat loss, climate change, pollution, and others are the driving factors in the process.
According to the study’s researchers, the loss of species is not a slow-moving problem, but rather one that we are accelerating while discussing how to fix it. And it’s not only about food, so losing species does not just mean the end of tuna tartare. Instead, every species in the ocean is crucial and interdependent, much like a complex balancing act. All species, including humans, depend on each other to maintain this delicate balance, and human beings are the disruptive element in the system, much like a brick in the washing machine.
As creatures that walk on land, we need the ocean pretty damn badly. If biodiversity continues to decrease, the marine ecosystem will no longer be capable of supporting our way of life, and it may even become incapable of supporting life itself.
☠️ We’re turning the sea into an “Acid Bath”. Oyster hatcheries in the Pacific Northwest recently failed to produce oysters because the water had become too acidic for the larvae to form shells. Humans have caused the oceans to absorb over 150 billion tons of carbon dioxide over the past 200 years, with an average of 15 pounds per person per week. This has led to the highest carbon dioxide concentration in the ocean in the past 800.000 years. If carbon dioxide emissions continue at current levels, the surface waters of the ocean will become nearly 150% more acidic by the end of the century — a pH level that has not been in the oceans for over 20 million years.
🪴 We have lost half of the planet’s coral reefs since 1950. The catch of fish associated with coral reefs has decreased by 60% since 1950. More than 14% of this worldwide loss has happened just from 2009 until now.
The health of coral reefs depends on microscopic algae living in their tissues. When sea temperature increases, the algae leaves the coral which results in bleaching. Bleached coral is more susceptible to disease and will most likely die. Healthy corals can adapt to long-term temperature increases, but not at the current pace of increasing temperatures. Coral reefs are home to 25% of all marine life, providing benefits for over 1 billion people and more than $375 billion in services each year. If they go extinct, a humanitarian and economic crisis will follow.
🍼 There is an estimated 75 to 199 million tons of plastic waste currently in our oceans, with a further 33 billion pounds of plastic entering them every single year. It’s estimated that 1 million marine animals die each year as a direct result of plastic debris; many of these deaths go completely unrecorded. A blue whale ingests about 10 million pieces of plastic per day during one feeding season, which equates to between 230 kg and 4 tons of plastic. Most of the waste can be traced back to five industrialized fishing countries. When it comes to total plastic waste generated, China, the US, Germany, Brazil, and Japan rank highest (in that order).
🎣 Over 93 million tons of fish are caught each year. About 30% of the ocean’s current fishing stocks are overfished and cannot reproduce fast enough. 55% of the world’s oceans are industrially fished. Recreational fishing represents 12% of the global fishing harvest (excluding the ones that fish to survive). Over 97 million sharks are killed each year due to non-selective fishing. Over a third of the fish removed from the ocean aren’t actually eaten. The world’s fish populations will be gone within 25 years.
🐳 Norwegian whalers slaughtered 580 whales in 2022. Japanese fishermen get legal permits that allow them to kill whales.
🐬 Faroe Islands allows 500 dolphins to be killed in the annual whale hunt after slaughtering 1400 dolphins in a single day in 2022. Between 6.000 and 10.000 dolphins are dying each year due to non-selective fishing methods.
🦈 The UK sells 46 rare shark species over the counter under names such as Rock Salmon, Rock Eel, Dogfish, Flake, Huss, or Rigg. Shark finning kills an estimated 100 million sharks globally each year. European countries dominate half of the Asian shark fin trade, with Spain supplying 51.000 metric tons of shark fins from 2003–2020. The US is the fourth-largest exporter of shark meat, behind Spain, China, and Portugal.
🔊 Humans pollute oceans 24 hours a day with noise, causing distress, change of habitat, loss of hearing, behavioral shifts, starvation, and mass stranding of animals that are trying to escape the noise or have lost orientation.
So, here I am, knowing what I know, asking myself the same question again: Is it even worth it?
There are countless organizations, individuals, communities, NGOs, companies, artists, and professionals out there talking about “saving the ocean” while we already know that it can’t really be saved. Our impact can be diminished and the effects can be delayed, but there is no return, we know that. So why are we so ignorant? Of course, “saving the ocean” rolls off the tongue easily, while “delaying the death of the ocean” doesn’t sound so good, does it?
I know it’s hard to hear and read, especially when you’ve been dedicating yourself to ocean conservation, but it’s reality, and we can’t run away from that.
It keeps us from facing the facts. It halts us from fighting even harder. It stalls us from progressing as fast as we should. It makes us blind to reality and truth. We’re all slow-dancing in a burning room, ignoring the fact that it’s roasting us.
We have seen it with our own eyes. We’ve seen the rapid deterioration of reefs. Not over the course of decades or years, but months, even weeks sometimes. We’ve seen illegally fished sharks, dead sharks floating around with their fins cut off, swarms of millions of sardines disappearing in just a few hours, pollution everywhere, whole dead reefs that look like graveyards, dynamite fishing, fish markets full of endangered species,…
It’s something that we can’t ignore. Something that we won’t ignore. But we have to change our methods and how we go about it.
Let’s look at it from a business perspective. Every successful business has a vision and a mission. The vision is the rather utopian and hardly achievable high-level goal of a company. The mission, on the other hand, defines the business, its objectives, and how it will actually reach these objectives.
So for us ocean lovers, the vision could be “Save the ocean” whereas the mission should be more specific, for example, “Decrease our communities’ plastic pollution by 50% over the course of the next year by implementing regulations and drainage nets to stop waste from entering the ocean ecosystem.”
The goals that we are setting for ourselves and for our planet have to be SMART. Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. If we set SMART goals, we set ourselves up for success in actually achieving them. It helps us focus on the specifics, rather than something so big that it demotivates us and stops us from believing that we can’t actually make it come true. One step at a time and consistency are the ways forward. Businesses in all sectors and parts of the world have shown that sometimes even the most impossible visions have been turned into reality by focusing on a good set of missions. So let’s just do that. Let’s set honest and SMART goals and work our butts off to achieve them. One victory at a time, delaying the collapse, and who knows, maybe someday saving the ocean.
For us, this means continuing where we left off, but with new clarity and regained power. To continue capturing the wonders beneath for people who aren’t lucky enough to actually see them with their own eyes. To preserve the beauty of the depths for generations to come. To build a legacy for endangered species and ensure that they won’t be forgotten once they are gone. And most importantly, to tell the story of how humanity almost wiped itself out by killing the ocean that gave it life, but then cut the curve and barely made it through.