We stand at a crossroads.
Southern Fried Science has occupied a unique niche in the online ocean community. We have defended commercial and recreational fishers as often as we have opposed them. We have at times stood behind ocean conservation policy and at times pushed back against excessive legislation. We have criticised those within our community and those without. We have been radically libertarian and radically socialist and every label in between.
We are comfortable joining the long call, the great song that booms from the belly of a blue whale, and circles the world as it echoes through the community.
We are comfortable being the lone cry of dissent, pushing back against the onslaught of righteous exuberance.
We have never sought consensus, only common ground.
For almost a year now a phrase has been rattling around inside my head. At first it was just catchy cadence, something to use on the next article. But the more I thought about it, the more I came to understand what it really means; how deeply it permeates almost every aspect of life on this planet.
Diversity is resilience.
We know it, intuitively. A healthy reef, bursting with species, can better endure the assault of dynamite fishing, ocean acidification, and coral bleaching. A mangrove thrives when it nurtures the offspring of a thousand different fishes, their predators, and their prey. Even the dead and sunken carcass of a grey whale transforms into a temple to the greatest celebration of biodiversity on the seafloor.
This is why we care so much about saving single species. This is why ideas like the IUCN Red List and laws like the Endangered Species Act exist. It is not because any one species is fundamentally more important or more valuable than any other, it is because, with each one that vanishes from this earth, the next becomes that much easier to lose.
The ocean is the engine that drives this world. If it stalls, we die.
We have a duty. We have a duty to our planet to explore, engage, and understand, and to tread lightly as we do so. We have a duty to our ocean, to protect and maintain it as it has protected and maintained us. We have a duty to each other, to let let love and courage overcome hate and fear, to welcome new friends and new ideas with open arms, to build diversity within our communities so that they, to, are resilient. And we have a duty to ourselves to not be consumed by cynicism, to not let the hope that shimmers across a bioluminescent beach fade to darkness.
We choose love over hate.
We choose courage over fear.
We choose hope over despair.
We choose diversity.
We choose resilience.
In the coming years, we are going to see significant, even tectonic, changes in the way science is administered in the United States, changes that will reverberate out into the world. We do not yet know what form that will take or to what extent science will be enhanced or curtailed. No matter what, one thing is certain: We must be resilient.
The oceans need us today more than yesterday, and they will need us even more tomorrow. Should capital funding for ocean research decline, we will depend more and more on institutions like OpenROV and initiatives like Oceanography for Everyone to fulfill our needs, to develop and provide resources in a grant-limited world. We will lean more heavily on foundations, NGO’s, citizen science, crowdfunding, and rogue science to endure through federal funding gaps. We cannot afford to stop. The stakes are too high, the consequences of inaction too severe.
Open Science must become the standard, not the exception.
As an ocean science community, we must rise to meet this new challenge. We must be resilient.
In the eight years since I launched this blog, we have approached ocean outreach as an exercise in building bridges, in reaching out to new audiences and welcoming them in.
This tactic has failed.
Building bridges is not sufficient. We can no longer simply span a great divide and hope that everyone will wander across. We cannot rely upon the curiosity of the incurious. A bridge only enables connections, it does not create them.
Our country is dammed. There are vast bulkheads that stretch across communities, holding back the flood waters, creating enclaves of comfort amidst the roaring river. Behind these dams, prejudices flourish. When we talk about “flyover country” we are talking from behind a dam. When we talk about “illegals”, we are talking from behind a dam. When we talk about “uneducated white voters”, “New York values”, “urban crime”, or “real America”, we are talking from behind a dam.
One of the qualities that I love about this blog is that there is no editorial control over the writers. They are free to write from their heart and can count on me and the rest of the team to defend them, even when we disagree. Choosing smart, insightful, thoughtful authors is the greater bulk of my role as Editor-in-Chief. But today, for the first time in this blog’s history, I am issuing an editorial mandate, A Mandate for Ocean Outreach:
Moving forward we will look at every article, every report, every post, no matter how small, published here on Southern Fried Science and ask “does this buttress the dam or breach it?”
As we breach those dams and let the flood waters wash over us, we will find that, rather than drown, we are buoyed. Buoyed by new ideas, new people, new experiences. Buoyed by the wild and rich and wonderful. And we are, in turn, enlivened, enriched, and filled with wonder.
It’s terrifying, I know, to stand at the foot of a dam and watch the water roar through a breach. To feel as though a changing world is bearing down upon you, ready to sweep away everything you are. But we do not drift away. Through compassion and empathy, we become stronger. We endure.
We are resilient.