With the threat of climate change, the notion of a “Green Economy” has garnered a lot of press in recent years. Which is good – the world needs sustainable development to help reduce environmental risks. But the concept of a “Blue Economy” is often overlooked. That is astounding, as the Blue Economy is responsible for trillions of dollars of revenue each year. After all, oceans provide transportation for more than 90% of all traded goods. In addition, the Blue Economy supports millions in various related industries and sectors. But this represents a small fraction of the impact oceans and waterways have on the global economy.
Water scarcity, climate change, and marine food shortages demand new Blue Economy initiatives. These Blue Economy initiatives require a fresh, innovative take on opportunities for the future. It’s time for bold businesses to step up to the plate and consider radically new approaches to solve these dilemmas. Bold Business considers this of paramount importance to societies future. This is our first article introducing a series to discuss different components of the Blue Economy and how it is vital to the future prosperity of humanity.
“There is increasing interest globally in the Blue Economy and BlueTech as humans rediscover the importance of the ocean…Problems like ocean warming, plastic gyres and ocean rise have us looking at the ocean again since it is our past and our future as we address human needs for food, water, energy, medicine and coastal real estate.” – Michael B. Jones, founder of The Maritime Alliance
The Green Economy vs. Blue Economy
The term “Blue Economy” was first coined by Gunter Pauli in 1994 in his book, “The Blue Economy 3.0.” In the book, he calls for new economic initiatives to radically change how cities and societies resolve water issues. Examples include rice cultivated in saltwater and using bamboo for housing because it produces water. These novel perspectives for solutions are what businesses can provide to the world today.
According to the United Nations, sustainable development and care of coastal regions and marine life are naturally interrelated to the green economy. But in reality, the Blue Economy is even more expansive simply because of its magnitude and impact on human life.
The Blue Economy includes all economic sectors that utilize and affect water-related resources. That not only includes fisheries and maritime transport, but also tourism, energy production, agriculture, and many other industries. With every new Blue Economy initiative, a potential impact on water resources and their use exists. Thus, when considering what the Blue Economy represents, an extremely broad perspective of its vast scope must be taken.
“More than half of the world’s population lives near a coastline, primarily due to the proximity to maritime transportation. This puts pressure on coastal environments and makes communities exceptionally vulnerable to sea level rise and increasing frequency and severity of storms due to climate change. Mitigating and adapting to these realities is crucial to maintaining a healthy economy and presents multiple business opportunities.” – Mark E. Luther, Ph.D., Associate Professor, and Director, Center for Maritime and Port Studies, USF College of Marine Science
The Role of Academic Institutions in the Blue Economy
Collaboration between all stakeholders is required, but academic institutions play a crucial role in ironing out Blue Economy initiatives as well. For example, the University of South Florida Center for Maritime and Port Studies cites several mission objectives in this regard. These include advancing workforce development for the maritime and transportation industry as well as active security and sustainability research. It also involves working with private developers of new technologies to enhance maritime security and environmental monitoring.
Over 50% of the population lives near coastal regions. This makes active research and technology development important. Roughly 95% of all U.S. trade involves maritime activities. Therefore, academic institutions play a critical role in advancing maritime workforce while also securing maritime trade through various research and development projects.
“The global ocean economy is expanding as the world’s population grows (with associated needs for food and energy) and new technologies improve access to ocean resources such as offshore aquaculture and renewable energy.” – Sandra Whitehouse, Chief Scientific Officer at AltaSea
Blue Economy Initiatives for Global Change
The global population is expanding quickly, and water shortages already exist in many parts of the world. Approximately 1.1 billion people lack adequate water. Naturally, clean water is an essential resource that societies need to survive. Yet today, roughly 2.5 million children die each year of water-related diseases. And fresh water, which is only 0.1 percent of the earth’s water, is poorly accessible to millions. These current challenges demand change and new Blue Economy initiatives in order for us to thrive in the future.
But new initiatives must extend beyond these obvious social challenges. Oceans absorb about a third of all carbon dioxide emissions and buffer 90% of global warming temperatures. The seas also account for the oxygen in every other breath we take. Agriculture and energy require tremendous water resources. Current economic practices fail to adequately address these challenges as well.
Bold Opportunities in the Blue Economy
Numerous challenges exist when considering an innovative change in the Blue Economy of tomorrow. The biggest obstacle is overcoming existing trends that neglect the consideration of new, sustainable solutions. The second challenge involves a lack of human capital investments to foster creative solutions for the future. Finally, isolationism and a lack of collaboration among society, the public sector, and private industries reflect yet another. New initiatives must address these barriers in an effort to foster a thriving Blue Economy going forward.
Already, a few bold businesses have staked out their space within the Blue Economy. For example, Denmark-based security firm Risk Intelligence has taken steps to make the waterways more secure against modern pirates. In the Bahamas, PO8 is using blockchain technology to create a kind of cryptocurrency whose value is backed by the ownership of sunken artifacts.
“We are shifting The Bahamas from tourism to a new third pillar, which is tech, and now in tandem with our love for the ocean we aren’t just taking away, but giving back to the ocean, essentially feeding what feeds us.” -Matthew Arnett, PO8 founder and CEO
From aquaculture to the production of biofuel from algae, new economic initiatives can be devised to help a Blue Economy flourish. Steps to reduce water use, promote sustainability, and develop completely new solutions for water development are possible. But these solutions require change, commitment and a painful acceptance of today’s realities. However, these are the Blue Economy imperatives for bold businesses for tomorrow.
Hume, D. (2018). A Growing Blue Economy in North America. The Maritime Executive. Retrieved from https://www.maritime-executive.com/blog/a-growing-blue-economy-in-north-america
Cheam, J. (2013). Blue Cities: Powering the future economy. Eco-Business.com. Retrieved from https://www.eco-business.com/news/blue-cities-powering-future-economy/