Eight Members of the Ocean Community on How We Can Restore Our Planet

Scroll to hear from an intersectional climate activist, an environmental policymaker, world-renowned conservation photographers, and others ↓

Image © Photo: Paul Nicklen

Image © Photo: Paul Nicklen

If ever converted into a Hollywood screenplay, it’d be a doomsday blockbuster: sweeping extinctions, widespread crop failures, the collapse of the polar ice sheets, extreme wildfires and floods.

But it’s not a movie. It’s the grim reality laid out in the recent report from the United Nations-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Decades of human disinterest in preserving the planet have brought us to a tipping point with the climate crisis and to the brink of disaster.

However, there is still time to rethink our actions and prevent the grim predictions from coming to fruition. To help amplify the urgency of the crisis, members from the Only One and SeaLegacy communities shared their responses and expressed where hope still resoundingly remains.

Protecting the ocean remains a key factor, though an often overlooked one, in mitigating the climate crisis. Mangroves and seagrass, for example, can capture carbon from the atmosphere much faster than tropical rainforests · Photo: Cristina Mittermeier
As storms continue to increase in frequency and intensity due to climate change, the costs of damage and recovery have become unfathomable · Photo: Cristina Mittermeier
With the world's biodiversity already facing threats from habitat loss, pollution, and poaching, the climate crisis could push many species to extinction · Photo: Paul Nicklen

1. Tori Tsui

Intersectional Climate Activist

From Hong Kong to New Zealand, Tori advocates for (environ)mental health and climate justice · Photo: Tori Tsui
The IPCC report, much like a lot of climate communication, speaks of the urgency needed to take action against the climate crisis.

“This sense of urgency is understandable, but for me sustainability is much more than perpetuating doomsday narratives that lead to states of inaction. When the report first came out, I took some time to make sure I was in a headspace to take in the information. When I did so, I felt more compelled to take action within my capacity. I also want to reiterate that many climate activists take the weight of the world on their shoulders. It’s imperative that we’re in this for the long run.”

2. Cristina Mittermeier

Co-Founder, SeaLegacy & Only One

Cristina is the marine biologist who pioneered the concept and field of conservation photography · Photo: Anna Heupel
Because humans are terrestrial creatures, we fail to understand that the ecosystem that keeps this planet alive is not the land, but the ocean.

“A living ocean is what provides the living conditions necessary for life to exist. Despite this undeniable fact, we see ourselves as separate from the sea and we do not prioritize thinking about it as a solution to the climate crisis. The most important steps we can take to ensure that the ocean can continue providing the critical ecosystem services that allow life on Earth to exist must center around reducing carbon emissions at an accelerated pace. All governments should be creating departments, guided by scientists, that are dedicated exclusively to the proposal of rapid policy changes that address the multitude of issues contributing to climate change and preventing change from happening.”

3. Andy Mann

Senior Fellow, SeaLegacy & Only One

Andy’s imagery is helping tell the story of our rapidly changing planet · Photo: Andy Mann
I’m not in any way surprised by the report.

“I’m honestly surprised how resilient our planet actually is given the mass destruction happening from all sides 24/7. If anything, the grimness is understated, but my hope is that countries take action NOW and double down in doing their part to offset this road to disaster.”

4. Jordan Claire Robbins

Actor & Ocean Activist

Jordan has voiced her support for vital ocean campaigns like protecting Antarctica · Photo: Zack Melhus
Growing up in Bermuda, hurricanes were a part of life I was used to. In recent years, however, it has become clear these storms are growing in power, frequency, and destruction.

“Catastrophic climate events are becoming impossible to ignore, and have a deadly cost for disproportionately affected and vulnerable communities. Despite this heartbreaking reality, I continue to be inspired by the resiliency of human beings, and truly believe that together we can heal our planet.”

5. Shirley Binder

National Director of Protected Areas & Biodiversity at the Ministry of Environment in Panama

Shirley is a marine biologist with a master’s degree in environmental science and policy from Columbia University · Photo: Shirley Binder
It is incredible how the ocean only entered the panorama of climate change commitments at the 2019 United Nations Climate Change Convention (COP25), which finally addressed how the ocean is our key climate regulator and the largest carbon sink in the world.

“Collaboration between governments at a local, regional, and global scale is therefore needed to understand that the ocean has no borders. With this collaboration, I hope we can get 30% of the world’s ocean protected by 2030—reaching the global goal of 30×30—as Panama did this last World Ocean Day by protecting 30.5% of its marine waters. This implementation of nature-based solutions will protect and restore essential ecosystems and thus mitigate climate change.”

6. Melissa Cristina Márquez

Shark Scientist & Science Communicator

Melissa has a passion and drive for showcasing science in a way that makes it appealing to the general public · Photo: Melissa Cristina Márquez
Two of the biggest ways people can help our marine environment is 1) Vote responsibly, and 2) Eat sustainable seafood.

“It is critical that people exercise their right to vote and elect public officials and representatives who propose effective ocean policies! Do your research and make informed decisions—which also is the same advice I give for those who want to make sustainable seafood choices. Carry a sustainable seafood card (or download an app for your region) and keep an eye out for phrases such as ‘sustainably caught’ or ‘sustainably harvested’.”

7. Cassandra Brooks

Assistant Professor in Environmental Studies at the University of Colorado Boulder

Cassandra draws on a diversity of disciplines including marine science, environmental policy, and science communication to study and seek solutions to pressing environmental problems · Photo: Cassandra Brooks
There is a solution that can help solve both the climate crisis and the biodiversity crisis: marine protected areas.

“Protected areas, which prohibit destructive human activities, conserve biodiversity while enhancing resilience to environmental change. Thus, protection gives ecosystems and species the best chance of enduring and adapting to climate change. Further, intact protected systems are inherently better at sequestering and storing carbon both on land and at sea, thus providing an incredibly powerful tool toward ensuring a healthy and livable planet for all.”

8. Paul Nicklen

Co-Founder, SeaLegacy & Only One

Paul is one of the world’s most acclaimed nature photographers · Photo: Cristina Mittermeier
The latest IPCC report addresses climate systems across the globe, including my favorite place in the world: Antarctica.

“The sea ice in the Southern polar region has shown concerning trends over the last decade, so it is no surprise to hear a dangerous tipping point is close at hand. Global warming is not black and white, it is shades of grey, and by taking bold steps to address our carbon footprint now, we can still turn the tide on our changing climate.”

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