Hope Spots: A Global Network of Marine Sanctuaries
With every breath we take and every glass of water we drink, we are inextricably connected to the ocean. Yet, humans continue to perceive the ocean as this vast and mysterious entity far removed from the inner workings of our daily lives. Humans continue to dismiss the ocean’s cries for help as it’s beset by overfishing, pollution, and ocean acidification. Consequently, this detachment from our life support system will only lead to our own demise. Therefore, while what the oceans need is protection, what humans need is hope.
It was at the confluence of hope and protection where an idea was formed. While 12% of the land around the world had been reserved as protected parks, wilderness areas, and wildlife refuges, less than 1% of the world’s oceans had been awarded this same protection (“Imagines”, 2009). In order to address this discrepancy, the legendary marine biologist, oceanographer, and environmentalist Sylvia Earle proposed Hope Spots. These are coastal and marine areas that harbor a diversity of species, many of which are threatened or endemic. They also contain certain cultural, spiritual, or historical value as well as being economically vital to the local community (“Hope Spots”, n.d.). Sylvia shared this idea during her 2009 TEDtalk entitled, “How to Protect the Oceans”; she challenged the audience to, “ignite public support for a global network of marine protected areas, hope spots large enough to save and restore the ocean, the blue heart of the planet” (“Sylvia Earle”, 2009). As that year’s TED prize winner, she was awarded $100,000 to help to spread this idea globally.
In 2010, Sylvia launched Mission Blue-- an organization dedicated to exploring and protecting the oceans. Seven years after Sylvia’s impassioned TEDtalk, the number of marine protected areas have risen from 1% to 4%. While it’s an incredible feat, we are still far from Sylvia’s goal of 30% marine protection by 2030 (“Hope Spots”, n.d.). My interest in writing about this campaign was sparked by the documentary Mission Blue. After watching this film, the message was clear: now is the time for action. The work of the Mission Blue organization is novel in the sense that while it provides extensive resources for education, marketing, and collaboration, it is the community members who nominate and then manage their local Hope Spot. Therefore, each year, while the number of Hope Spots grows, the network of community protectors grows with it. Now that is what I call hope.
Hope Spots. (n.d.). Retrieved April 05, 2017, from https://www.mission-blue.org/hope-spots/
Nixon, R., & Stevens, F. (Directors). (2014, August 15). Mission Blue [Video file]. Retrieved April 3, 2017, from https://www.mission-blue.org/the-film/
Sylvia Earle: How to protect the oceans (TED Prize winner!). (2009, February 19). Retrieved April 04, 2017, from https://www.mission-blue.org/about/
Sylvia Earle imagines ocean "Hope Spots". (2009). Retrieved April 04, 2017, from https://www.ted.com/participate/ted-prize/prize-winning-wishes/mission-blue