On January 1, 2016, the Southern Fried Science central server began uploading blog posts apparently circa 2041. Due to a related corruption of the contemporary database, we are, at this time, unable to remove these Field Notes from the Future or prevent the uploading of additional posts. Please enjoy this glimpse into the ocean future while we attempt to rectify the situation.
Twenty-five years ago this month we tried a radical experiment. For 31 days, every single post we made came from the future. This future, to be exact. We explored the nature of change, the fate of our ocean, the cycles of environmentalism–from problem to proposal to success to complacency to new problem. We imagined solutions and their consequences. We envisioned struggles that would continue, and struggles that would fade, unremembered. We shifted the baseline and watched it crumble.
It seems weird, looking back now that the day has come, on those old posts. We got a few things right, and a lot of things wrong.
This was the future we wanted to build. It captured our optimism and our cynicism, and spoke to an imperfect world. The Greek roots of Utopia translate to “no place”. It is a world that cannot exist, but it is one to which we strive. The world is different from what is was 25 years ago, just as it was different from what it was 25 years before then. Some things are better, some things are worse.
Here is what is important, truly important in the ocean movement: we still have champions. Despite the onslaught of sea level rise, ocean acidification, habitat destruction, plastic inundation, resource exploitation, and crises we couldn’t even imagine in 2016, we still have champions. While the ice sheets collapse and the Northwest passage opens, and the Aral Sea vanishes, we still have champions.
But we don’t have enough.
Our duty, our first duty, the only duty that truly matters, is to reach out into the world and instill a love for the ocean into every new generation.
Twenty-five years ago, we were at a crisis point. Ocean activists were a dime a dozen. Good, dedicated, hard-working foot soldiers for the sea. But Ocean Champions, those who would inspire the next generation, those who would pass on their legacy, were in decline. They still are. We built a navy with no admirals. In our obsession to protect the ocean that was, we forgot to foster a love for the ocean that is. In our urgent need to safeguard the ocean future, we neglected the ocean present.
The ocean is changing. It has changed. It will always change.
That is one of the things I love about the ocean. It does not wait or pause or grow ancient and steadfast. The ocean is change, unrelenting.
We should remember that, and remind ourselves often. We cannot halt the ever-changing sea any more than we can drive back the surging tide.
If I had the chance, if our little trope of pretending posts came from the future were true, if I could actually blog from the future past, I would tell Team Ocean this:
You stand at the precipice of profound change. The world is changing. The ocean conservation community is changing. It is not enough to lead, you must also mentor. The next generation cannot love your ocean. They will never see your ocean. You must teach them to love their own. You must reach out your hands and say “here. This ocean is your ocean. I have cared for it as best I could, now it is yours to steward.”