Today is the first day of the World Ocean Summit in Mexico, hosted by The Economist. Tomorrow is going to be a busy day, so I’m scheduling my blog post now to go live in the morning.
So far, as you might expect, there has been a noticeable financial slant to many of the presentations. If, when you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail, then I suppose that when you are an economist, everything looks like an economic problem – with an economic solution. At the risk of being controversial, I’d like to suggest that it’s hard to solve a problem from within the same system that caused it in the first place. Conventional capitalism has made a poor governing principle, in that it has created financial incentives that run counter to the long term common good. I hope that the discussion will turn to deeper principles, with those principles becoming the master, and economics the servant.
Tomorrow night I’m speaking on a panel with scientist Susan Shaw and filmmaker Alexandra Cousteau. We were asked to prepare some thoughts in advance, so here is a sneak preview of my insights from around 520 days spent alone at sea.
It’s a Small World After All
One of the many reasons I wanted to row across the oceans was to get a real sense of the size of the world, in a way that we don’t when we fly. And I’m surprised how small it feels. Rowing at less than walking speed, I was able to row across a large proportion of the world’s circumference in just over 500 days. It amazes me that this small planet is able to support 7.5 billion people – although, as we know, we are already in overshoot, so this situation is clearly not sustainable.
The Heart of the Monster
I sometimes think of our environmental challenges as being like a many-headed sea monster. We can keep cutting off the head of plastic pollution, climate change, deforestation, and so on, but the monster will just keep sprouting new heads until we get to the heart of the monster, which I believe is this story that we have that nature is ours to exploit and pollute as we see fit. We need to reawaken to the fact that we are part of nature, and when we damage that amazing and diverse web of life, we damage ourselves and our future prospects as a species. So we need to change that narrative, and heal our relationship with nature.
A New Definition of Success
Like many of us, I have days when it’s hard to be optimistic. But on the whole I am seeing real signs of a shift in consciousness. I am seeing more and more people choosing to live low impact lifestyles. I am seeing a cultural shift in how we define success, from a that old-school materialistic definition to a much more holistic kind of success. I am seeing new business models that are real game-changers, the emergence of a whole different kind of economics. And I’m seeing exciting new technologies that enable people around the world to connect and co-create a better future.
Humility instead of Hubris
There is nothing like being alone at sea in a 23-foot rowboat to remind you where human beings stand in the overall scheme of things. Nature is incredibly powerful, and as we are being reminded by wildfires and floods and mudslides and earthquakes, even on dry land humans can be very vulnerable. The oceans taught me a huge respect for Mother Nature, and I believe it would be a good idea for more of us to treat her with the respect she deserves.
The theme of the conference is around the implementation and accountability of the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement, so my spiritual/psychological approach may be the odd (wo)man out. But this is what I see, and I’m going to say it. Not much point rowing 15,000 miles if it hasn’t earned you the right to express an opinion on the future of the oceans!
Had a wonderful time at the launch of Not Doing (to which I contributed) last Thursday. Sadly Mac Macartney wasn’t able to make it due to the snow down in Devon, but overall there was a good turnout and a great conversation. Apparently Amazon has listed the title incorrectly – it should actually be Not Doing: The Art of Effortless Action. And I should have mentioned that Steven d’Souza co-authored it with Diana Renner. Apologies to Diana!
It’s great being back in Mexico. Last weekend I spent several days with the Together team that is developing the Noomap/Infinite World Game, who I first met last month. It looks likely that some of them will be in the UK very soon, so somehow the stars are aligning to enable us to spend a lot of time together and hatch plans to make the world a better place.
Thanks to the Together team, I’ve become fascinated by the Gene Keys. There’s an almost infinite amount of depth to it, and I’m just beginning, but it’s an intriguing system, and spookily accurate. If you’re interested, I suggest you get your free profile, and you’ll also definitely need a book or a course or an expert if you’re going to make any sense out of it, as it’s not self-explanatory.
Happy Mother’s Day to all the (non-US) mothers out there, including my own very special one!