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← An ingenious proposal for scaling up marine protection

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Showing Revision 9 created 06/12/2019 by Brian Greene.

  1. Ah, earth's oceans.
  2. They are beautiful,
    inspiring, life-sustaining.
  3. They are also, as you're probably
    quite aware, more or less screwed.
  4. In the Seychelles, for example,

  5. human activities and climate change
    have left corals bleached.
  6. Overfishing has caused
    fish stocks to plummet.
  7. Biodiversity is in peril.
  8. So what can we do?
  9. Well, some form of protection, obviously.
  10. Nature is very resilient.

  11. When marine areas
    are strategically protected,
  12. entire ecosystems can bounce back.
  13. However, creating marine
    protected areas isn't easy.
  14. First, you have the issue
    of figuring out where to protect.
  15. This coral reef overlaps with that
    international fishing route,
  16. intersects with this fish hatchery.
  17. Everything is interconnected.
  18. And marine protection plans
    must take into account
  19. how one area affects another.
  20. Then, there's the issue
    of getting everyone on board.

  21. Coastal economies
    often rely on fishing and tourism.
  22. If people think they can't do their work,
  23. there's no chance of getting
    the local buy-in you need
  24. for the area to be successful.
  25. Marine protected areas
    must also be enforced.

  26. That means the government itself
    must be deeply invested in the plan.
  27. Token support will not cut it.
  28. And finally, conservation requires money.
  29. A lot of it.
  30. Governments in island and coastal nations
    may want to protect their waters,
  31. but often these nations
    have very high debt
  32. and can't afford
    to prioritize conservation.
  33. If we rely on philanthropic dollars alone
    to fund marine protection,
  34. we might get a small
    marine-protected area here,
  35. another little one there.
  36. But we need more
    marine protected areas faster,
  37. to have lasting impact.
  38. So what exactly does
    smart ocean conservation look like?

  39. How do we get the money,
    government support and careful planning
  40. that takes into account
    both local economies
  41. and complex ecosystems?
  42. We want to share with you
    an audacious idea

  43. from The Nature Conservancy.
  44. It seeks to address
    all of these things in one fell swoop.
  45. They've realized that debt held
    by island and coastal nations
  46. is the very thing that will enable them
    to achieve their conservation goals.
  47. TNC's idea is to restructure this debt,
  48. to generate the funds and political will
  49. to protect reefs, mangroves and fisheries.
  50. For example, if you refinance your house

  51. to take advantage
    of a better interest rate,
  52. maybe you use the savings
    to insulate your attic.
  53. That's what Blue Bonds for Conservation do
    for entire coastal countries.
  54. Refinance the debt,
  55. then use the savings
    to create marine protected areas.
  56. Of course, sovereign debt restructuring
    is more complicated than that,
  57. but you get the basic idea.
  58. If investors put in
    40 million dollars now,
  59. it can unlock as much as 1.6 billion
    for ocean conservation.
  60. And this is how the work gets done.

  61. Step one: negotiate the deal.

  62. A coastal nation commits to protect
    at least 30 percent of its ocean areas.
  63. In exchange, The Nature Conservancy
    bring investors, public funders
  64. and international
    development organizations
  65. to the table to restructure
    a portion of the nation's debt,
  66. leading to lower interest rates
    and longer repayment periods.
  67. Step two: create a marine plan.

  68. Simultaneously, The Nature Conservancy
    works with marine scientists,
  69. government leaders and local stakeholders
  70. to create a detailed conservation plan
  71. that integrates the needs of the ocean
    with the needs of the people.
  72. Step three: activate for longevity.

  73. TNC establishes an independently run
    conservation trust fund.
  74. The savings from the debt
    restructure goes into it
  75. to support new marine protected areas.
  76. The trust then holds the government
    accountable for its commitments,
  77. ensuring that the Blue Bonds
    finance real protection efforts.
  78. Could this plan work?

  79. It already has.
  80. In 2016, TNC helped create a national
    conservation plan in the Seychelles.
  81. TNC restructured 22 million dollars
    of the government's debt.
  82. And in exchange, the government agreed
    to protect 30 percent of its marine areas.
  83. Today, the Seychelles is on track
  84. to protect 400,000
    square kilometers of ocean.
  85. That's an area
    roughly the size of Germany.
  86. The Seychelles
    is protecting its coral reefs,
  87. it's replenishing its fisheries,
  88. it's improving its resilience
    to climate change.
  89. At the same time,
    it's strengthening its economy.
  90. This success is making
    other governments take note.

  91. Many want to be part of this.
  92. There's an opportunity
    to scale this up, dramatically.
  93. And fast.
  94. TNC has identified 20 more nations
    where such a plan should be possible.
  95. But to execute, they need seed capital.
  96. And to put in place local teams
    who can develop conservation plans,
  97. work with all the stakeholders
    and structure the deals.
  98. If they get the support they need
    over the next five years,
  99. they could protect four million
    square kilometers of ocean.
  100. That's 10 Germanies.
  101. This would increase
    the amount of protected areas

  102. in all of the world's oceans
  103. by an incredible 15 percent.
  104. It would allow vast tracks
    of the world's coral reefs to replenish
  105. and give safe harbor to countless species.
  106. This would be truly incredible.
  107. And it's really just the beginning.
  108. Because there aren't
    20 countries in the world
  109. where this kind of debt
    conversion would work.
  110. There are almost 100.
  111. With this approach, everyone wins.

  112. Governments, local citizens, funders,
  113. and most importantly, our oceans.
  114. So in fact, we all win.
  115. Ah, earth's oceans.
  116. [The Audacious Project]