July - August 2017 (10:9)

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By Sarah Carr, MEAM editor

So here are some examples of notices in my e-mail inbox[i] this morning: A study links orcas’ failed pregnancies to scarce food. Seafood is getting less nutritious. Ten percent of fish caught in oceans gets dumped. The plastic pollution crisis ‘rivals climate change’.

I imagine some of your e-mail inboxes, Twitter feeds, Facebook updates, newspaper headlines, etc. look similar. And none of this is to mention the current direction of domestic environmental policies in my home country of the US right now.

So what is a newsletter editor whose job it is to read all of this (or an ocean conservation and management practitioner whose job it is to deal with this) to do to stay mentally afloat?

To find out, MEAM interviewed an all-star roster of ocean optimists this month – two founders and the coordinator of the Ocean Optimism movement (more on this movement later in this article) as well as two psychologists/conservation behavior researchers who study conservation optimism. We learned a lot about what makes them tick as well as psychological research as to why ocean optimism can benefit ocean conservationists and managers – both in their day-to-day decision making as well as in how they communicate with the public. (Spoiler alert: Negative messaging does not seem to work nearly as well as positive messaging.)

We also get some other viewpoints on this topic. We hear from Rowan Jacobsen, an independent science writer and author of one of the most talked-about (and shared) popular articles about the environment last year – the obituary for the Great Barrier Reef that appeared in Outside magazine. We learn how the obituary came about, what impacts it seems to have had on public discussion about the health of the Great Barrier Reef, and whether he would write the same article again knowing what he knows now. Finally, we hear from our contributing editor Tundi Agardy about the benefits of worry – because there are definitely some benefits to that as well.

Are you an optimist?

Find out how optimistic you are AND contribute to research into the role of optimism in conservation by taking this this simple psychometric test, the revised life orientation test (LOT-R), for optimism. This test is being administered by Sarah Papworth, a senior lecturer in conservation biology at Royal Holloway University of London and one of our MEAM interviewees this month (see below).

Take the test and let us know how you think optimism (or pessimism) has influenced your conservation work in the Comment box below.

Interview with Elisabeth Whitebread: Provide people with ways they can help overcome obstacles

Editor’s note: Elisabeth Whitebread is a campaigner at Greenpeace and a co-founder of the Ocean Optimism movement. She can be contacted via e-mail at elisabeth.whitebread [at] greenpeace.org and on Twitter @ElisabethJane.

MEAM: How do you define optimism personally and for your work?

Whitebread: Optimism for me is about trying to see the positives in every situation. Although this can sometimes be a challenge given the scale of the problems that we face, I have found that taking an optimistic approach to my work not only increases my resilience in the face of bad news, it also helps me to see different sides of the story and understand differing opinions about the best way forward.

MEAM: Why should marine conservation and management professionals be optimistic about their work? What are the benefits? Alternatively, what are the downsides of being pessimistic?

Whitebread: There is abundant evidence to suggest that sharing good news and presenting a positive outlook not only makes us feel happier ourselves but is also a key component to inspiring others and motivating them to get involved. In my work as an environmental campaigner, when presenting people with a problem, it’s also really important to present them with a solution. Otherwise people feel helpless and will end up turning away from your message since it only brings them concern with no remedy. Experts (e.g., political ecologist Ingolfer Blühdorn, environmental educator and Ocean Optimism co-founder Elin Kelsey) have even suggested that increased feelings of despair about the environment can fuel hyper-consumerism, which is probably not what environmentalists want!

One of my fellow Ocean Optimism co-founders, Nancy Knowlton of the Smithsonian Institution, described how she watched as enthusiastic students gradually crumpled before her eyes over the course of a week’s introduction to marine science. In her words: “An entire generation of scientists has now been trained to describe, in ever greater and more dismal detail, the death of the ocean”.

Rather than constantly depressing the audiences who we are trying to reach, we should be providing them with positive solutions to the problems that we’re working on and ways in which they can help us to overcome the obstacles that exist. Indeed, research suggests that positive emotions can lead to increases in creativity, openness to new ideas, and cooperation – all aptitudes that we’ll need to solve the problems that our marine environment faces. The more people we can encourage to feel positively about the work that we’re doing, the higher the likelihood that we’ll succeed in motivating a movement of people to stand up for the marine environment.

MEAM: Are there any dangers in being optimistic about the current state and trajectory of ocean health? For example, is it possible that optimistic communications will not adequately convey the urgency of a conservation threat or problem?

Whitebread: Ocean Optimism is not about pretending that everything is going swimmingly for the marine environment. It is neither credible – nor an effective tool for mobilization – to simply ignore the problems that our oceans face. However, it is an error to think that the acquisition of knowledge, conveyed to policy makers or the general public, will necessarily lead to action. Repeatedly telling people, in increasingly desperate tones, how difficult things are and how urgent the situation is, could in fact have precisely the opposite effect to the one we intend as people switch off from our message.

We need both. We need to let people know about the specific problems that we are trying to address as well as the potential solutions and the ways they can help. In this way, we needn’t gloss over the state of ocean health, but should always be thinking about how we can highlight causes for hope.

MEAM: Can you provide some examples of how optimism has inspired change in the marine conservation and management field?

Whitebread: The idea that hope is a necessary ingredient for success in conservation science is beginning to catch on, and the success of the Ocean Optimism movement is good evidence of this (read more about the movement below). While the various strands of the Ocean Optimism movement are focused on how we communicate about our work, the point is that in adjusting our communications we will bring about a step-change in interest and engagement from decision makers and the general public that should allow us to succeed in our conservation efforts. As we all know, impact on the ground can take a little time in conservation, but the evidence suggests that if we communicate with hope, we should be more likely to reach the outcomes we seek.

The Ocean Optimism movement and optimism in the field

The Ocean Optimism movement launched in June 2014 as #OceanOptimism, a Twitter-based initiative to share inspiring stories about the marine environment and successful marine conservation initiatives. Since its inception, the #OceanOptimism hashtag has reached over 80 million Twitter accounts. An Ocean Optimism website and Instagram account have followed. And in April of this year, optimism events were held around the world – including the Conservation Optimism Summit in London, England and the Earth Optimism Summit in Washington, DC. The movement seeks to empower marine conservation and management by reframing conversations – moving them away from negative messaging that can lead to hopelessness and apathy and towards positive action that can result in progress.

Optimism in the field

When asked about specific outcomes that can be attributed to the Ocean Optimism movement, co-founder Nancy Knowlton, the Sant Chair for Marine Science at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History, said that attributing specific outcomes in marine conservation and management directly to the Ocean Optimism movement is difficult. According to Knowlton, the primary outcome of the movement is “inspiring people, especially young people, to get involved. People learn about successes when they are prominently featured and then reach out to leaders from these ventures to learn more. So in the end, you have more people contributing to ocean conservation with better information.”

Marianne Teoh, coordinator for the Ocean Optimism movement and a conservation project manager for Fauna & Flora International in Cambodia, shared this example of ocean optimism in action from Cambodia.

“Cambodia is a country with a fragile and threatened coastline facing ever increasing pressures. A coastal collective of community fishery groups, government teams, NGOs, and business owners has been formed to develop realistic conservation solutions to protect habitats, species, and livelihoods within the nation’s largest island archipelago. The conservation approach has not been through fear and law but rather through communicating what can be done, what can be saved, and how local leadership can drive this change. This hope and collaborative action has empowered local fishery teams and engaged all levels of government in Cambodia, leading to the development of the nation’s first large-scale marine protected area – the Koh Rong Archipelago Marine Fisheries Management Area.

“As a conservation manager, my optimism comes from the local team I have the pleasure of working with in Cambodia. The collaborative team from Fauna & Flora International and the government’s Fisheries Administration are determined in their efforts – in the face of significant challenges – to empower both local communities and local government in marine conservation. Their approach has been practical, without complaint and driven by hope. Their optimism and drive is inspiring and makes every challenge worth overcoming.”

Future of the movement

So what is next for the Ocean Optimism movement? Knowlton says there is a desire to do another large summit in 2020 around the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. In the meantime, they will support summits in other places around the world and continue telling success stories. According to Knowlton, “I have been collecting marine conservation success stories for years and, still, hardly a day goes by that I don't learn about a new one. So if I learn about new ones all the time, the number of untold successes still out there must be enormous.”

Nancy Knowlton can be contacted at knowlton [at] si.edu, and Marianne Teoh can be contacted at marianne.teoh [at] fauna-flora.org.

Interview with Sarah Papworth: Current research suggests that the benefits of optimism outweigh the downsides

Editor’s note: Sarah Papworth is a senior lecturer in conservation biology at Royal Holloway University of London. Her research laboratory Conservation and Behaviour conducts worldwide field-based research to understand human and primate behavior and apply this knowledge to conservation science. She is currently studying how optimism impacts decision making in conservation. She can be contacted at Sarah.Papworth [at] rhul.ac.uk.

MEAM: How do you define optimism personally and for your work?

Papworth: For me, being optimistic is about seeing the glass as half full – taking a positive attitude. In my work, I've been looking at two different types of optimism. The first is dispositional optimism, which is the type of optimism I just mentioned – a general tendency to expect positive outcomes. This is a personality trait that is relatively stable over time, indicating some people are just generally more optimistic than others. In my work, I've measured dispositional optimism using a standardized survey called the Revised Life Orientation Test. (Take the test here.)

The second type of optimism is situational optimism. This is how optimistic people are about a specific circumstance – for example, how optimistic somebody is about whether we can prevent the extinction of the polar bear.

MEAM: Why should marine conservation and management professionals be optimistic about their work? What are the benefits? Alternatively, what are the downsides of being pessimistic?

Papworth: In general, current research seems to suggest that the benefits of optimism outweigh the downsides. Although a lot of the research on dispositional optimism has looked at the effect of optimism on health, there are a lot of behaviors we know are associated with being optimistic. For example, when there is uncertainty about the future, optimists are better at making future plans and setting goals. They are also better at switching to a new strategy if things aren't working.

So for marine conservation and management professionals, this might mean that optimists can identify when the current management strategy isn't working and switch to a new, more appropriate strategy. There are some potential downsides to being optimistic, though. For example, since optimists tend to expect positive outcomes, they have higher expectations from risky ventures.

MEAM: Are there any dangers in being optimistic about the current state and trajectory of ocean health? For example, is it possible that optimistic communications will not adequately convey the urgency of a conservation threat or problem?

Papworth: I think there's a big difference between saying "everything is OK" and "we can make a difference", and the second one of these is definitely a better reflection of what optimism is. The difference between optimists and pessimists is in their expectations for the future. I think we can make a much bigger difference to the current state and trajectory of ocean health if we recognize that there is a problem but also believe that we can do something to change that trajectory. Even if we don't manage to achieve everything we hoped for, if we take a pessimistic outlook, we might not even get started trying to make those changes in the first place.

MEAM: Can you provide some examples of how optimism has inspired change in the marine conservation and management field?

Papworth: I really like the Twitter handle @OceanOptimism – they started off as the hashtag #OceanOptimism, which has now been seen by tens of millions of Twitter users. I think changing the conversation from problems to potential solutions is a really important step for a more positive outlook and more positive change to tackle the problems that the marine environment faces.

Successful ocean conservation and management is about changing human behavior: Lessons from marketing

So if messaging that focuses almost exclusively on ocean problems is not effective at getting people to change their behavior, what is? In February 2016, MEAM heard from three marketing experts about what conservation and management practitioners can do to get people to change their behavior – whether it is ending behavior with negative environmental impacts (such as poaching), encouraging positive behaviors (such as the purchase of sustainably sourced seafood), or convincing skeptical or disinterested stakeholders to participate in a collaborative ocean planning processes.

Here are just a few of the great take-home messages and tips from the article:

  1. Ensure target groups are at the center of all outreach messages, activities, and campaigns: “It is common for conservation and management actions to be framed around the values of those conducting or sponsoring them rather than around the values of the groups that are most affected or most central to success … To be able to get your message across, you need to really understand your target audience and be able to see the issue through their values and within their social and cultural context.”
  2. Connect with people around their relationship to the resource to be protected: “Is it a source of jobs for the community? Is local seafood important to the region? Are there beloved coastal areas that will be addressed in the plan? ... [Then] identify the problem(s) your work is designed to address in terms that will be familiar to your audience. What are the specific threats, and how will they impact people’s lives (especially their plates and pocketbooks)? Finally, explain how EBM will help solve that problem and invite people to get involved.”
  3. Start where your audience is, not where you want them to be: “Your objective should be to bring your stakeholder groups with you on the ‘project journey’ to the outcomes for which you have planned. Find out what they know and understand and listen carefully to what they have to say. Then design your project with them as active participants, not bystanders.”

Read the full article “’Start where your audience is, not where you want them to be’: What EBM and MSP practitioners can (and should) learn from marketing”.

View a webinar “’To Target Everyone Is to Target No One’: What Social Marketing Can Offer Conservation and Management” by Diogo Veríssimo of Rare and Georgia State University on this topic.

Interview with Niki Harré: Act as if people are on your side

Editor’s note: Niki Harré is an associate professor of psychology at the University of Auckland. Her research and teaching focus on social and community psychology and the psychology of sustainability, including sustainable communities and social and political activism. In 2007, she co-edited the book Carbon Neutral by 2020: How New Zealanders Can Tackle Climate Change, and in 2011, she published Psychology for a Better World: Strategies to Inspire Sustainability. She can be contacted at n.harre [at] auckland.ac.nz.

Editor's note: For more insight into the psychological and neurological basis of what Niki Harré discusses below, I highly recommend watching her YouTube video Psychology for a Better World (15 minutes, 21 seconds).

MEAM: How do you define optimism personally and for your work?

Harré: Optimism is the attitude that it is worth attempting to create a world better aligned with human and ecological flourishing. I have extraordinary faith in human nature. All around me I see people acting out of a desire to love and connect with others. I see them responding to the beauty of our planet. I also see people repelled and ashamed by acts of violence and destruction. Yes, people do terrible things to each other and the natural world, but I feel that there is a deeper part in all of us that yearns for life – and not just for ourselves. While I cannot “prove” this directly, there is a great deal of evidence that people flourish when they are connected to others and to nature. And like all living creatures we strive to flourish. I am simply not convinced that people are essentially self-interested – that is, that they attempt above all to acquire goods for themselves and their families. When we find people scrambling to succeed and brutalizing the natural world as they go, I think this is a signal that society has gone wrong. Under the right social conditions almost everyone responds well – that is, they become respectful of life. Unfortunately, our current society is distorted by the forces of power, competition and bureaucracy – what I call finite games – that have become disconnected from what matters most to us as human beings.

MEAM: Why should marine conservation and management professionals be optimistic about their work? What are the benefits? Alternatively, what are the downsides of being pessimistic?

Harré: As a psychologist, I suggest marine conservation and management professionals can be optimistic because their work promotes the flourishing of life forms and biodiverse ecosystems. All work that is focused on flourishing is good work and people everywhere recognize that. Of course, this does not mean that such work goes smoothly – you don’t need me to tell you that! But, if you are able to, I recommend you act “as if” people are on your side. It is not about telling people why they “should” care more about our oceans, it is about working from the assumption that we are in this together.

I also recommend that you act consistently with what you are attempting to promote in your organizational practice. People are strongly attracted to integrity in others, and they struggle to understand intellectual messages that are not aligned with people’s actions. I pay a lot of attention to the food at events I run – and attempt to avoid excessive packaging, offer vegan and vegetarian options when possible (sometimes this is almost impossible due to the limitations of caterers and cafes!), and favor local products. I certainly never provide imported fruit – why would I when we always have seasonal fruit in New Zealand and I advocate for more localized food networks? If you are seen to treasure the oceans, people will listen much more closely to your message.

It is also very risky to be constantly negative about the state of the world. Not only does this make people feel helpless and scared, but it also keeps alive the idea that people don’t care. And when you tell people that they are a useless lot, guess what? They become useless! Without being inauthentic, I think it is important to try and focus on what is possible – again, because people are essentially oriented toward “life”.

MEAM: You were a keynote speaker at the Conservation Optimism Summit held in London April 2017. Can you share some of the most interesting insights you gained into conservation optimism at the summit?

Harré: It was a fantastic event with a wonderful range of people working in conservation projects all over the world. I was very impressed with how many positive stories there are in the conservation world. Conservation is a very messy business and it is always complicated by the socio-political climate of the region concerned. But, by working alongside people and persisting, a lot can be done. I don’t think I heard one story that was framed as a “battle”. The breakthroughs came when local people and policy makers were able to figure out a way, together, to preserve the natural landscape concerned. In the end, I want to be in a world where people get up in the morning and attempt to preserve what they love – be it turtles or kauri [tree native to New Zealand] or human creativity. We may get through these difficult times as a species or we may not. But I am not sure what better way to live, here and now, than to keep doing what we do!

[i] These updates are coming from OpenChannels.org. If you wish to stay abreast of current news and be similarly depressed, you can sign up at https://www.openchannels.org/about/manage-your-notifications.

“The Great Barrier Reef of Australia passed away in 2016 after a long illness. It was 25 million years old.”

--- From Obituary: Great Barrier Reef (25 Million BC-2016) by Rowan Jacobsen

MEAM: Rowan, in October 2016, Outside magazine published a satirical obituary you wrote for the Great Barrier Reef. This "obituary" got quite a bit of attention in marine conservation circles as well as international media (examples here and here). Can you describe the reactions you got to the article from individuals, the conservation and scientific community, and the press (and any other entities such as government agencies, etc.)?

Jacobsen: Yes, it certainly got much more attention than anything I’ve ever written before. I’ve written things that received quite a bit of attention from reviewers, traditional media, etc., but this was a couple of orders of magnitude beyond that, and it was entirely due to social media. What I wrote was intended to be a quiet little think piece (see below), so yes, I was hugely surprised. There were millions of shares on Facebook — both support and a fair amount of condemnation from conservation groups and scientists, and some howls of protest from Australia.

MEAM: You published another article about the decline of the Great Barrier Reef in Outside magazine a few months later, so you were obviously doing a lot of research on the status of the Great Barrier Reef at the time. Can you tell us a little more about why you chose an obituary format for the October 2016 article? 

Jacobsen: I’d been thinking about how the usual strategies for getting people invested in conservation projects, or slow-moving tragedies like climate change, just don’t work. People aren’t wired to think in abstract terms. So I was thinking that a “Ghost of Christmas Future” approach might have more emotional impact: Drag people to the year 2050 (or thereabouts) and show them what the world will be like—and make it a matter-of-fact news story. Of course I don’t know when reefs will go extinct, but all the research and interviews I’d done made it pretty clear that by 2050, they’ll mostly be toast, so that was the rough date I had in my head for the obituary. But I left the date blank when I turned in the piece; I thought that might be more ominous. But the online editors saw “The Great Barrier Reef of Australia passed away in 20__ after a long illness” and thought it was a placeholder. They filled in the current date, supplied a headline, and published it. This is how things go in the online world. The rest is history.

MEAM: Without a doubt, your article brought a lot of international attention to the declining health of the Great Barrier Reef. Do you believe that attention can/will lead to positive action to improve reef health?

Jacobsen: The evolution of the reactions followed what I think turned out to be a pretty useful pattern. First, there were a lot of people on Facebook (who clearly had read nothing but the headline, probably aggregated by bots) lamenting the death of the Great Barrier Reef, but only for as long as it took them to compose the post. Frankly, anyone who knew so little about the Great Barrier Reef that the obituary could have convinced them that it had just died as a single unit probably hadn’t been doing a lot to preserve it anyway. But then came a whole wave of conservationists and scientists being given a lot of space in newspapers and the radio to condemn the tactic and explain that the Great Barrier Reef wasn’t dead at all, and if we all got our act together could still be saved. A lot of people who would never otherwise have given reefs two minutes got to learn about them in a relatively in-depth way. And all of this ended with new attention on what we need to do to actually still have reefs in 2050. I turned down a lot of media requests during this time and stayed silent because it seemed like things were moving forward in a pretty positive direction. So I think it worked out about as well as it could have.

But no, I’m afraid I’m very skeptical of the ability of writing or ideas to change societal behavior. If any of that could solve climate change, Bill McKibben would have a Nobel Prize by now. The only thing that works is technological changes that make doing the good thing easier than doing the hard thing. Barring that breakthrough, we’re going to fail.

MEAM: If you could go back in time knowing what you know now (e.g., reactions to the obituary, another bleaching episode for the reef), would you still write the obituary? Anything you would do differently?

Jacobsen: I would, but I’d go back to my 2050ish death date—which of course means that it would have been read by just a few hundred folks, so I tip my cap to the online editors for knowing how this works.

Rowan Jacobsen can be contacted on Twitter at @rowanjacobsen.

By Tundi Agardy, Contributing Editor, MEAM. Email: tundiagardy [at] earthlink.net

Unlike some other pessimists perhaps, I’d like to think I’m open to looking at the world in a new light, and I’ve been eagerly awaiting this issue of MEAM to find reasons to shed my pessimism and adopt a brighter attitude. But in advance of any eureka moment that transforms me from Chicken Little to Pollyanna, I’ll speculate on why pessimism may not only be good, but wholly necessary.

A recent article by Kate Sweeney and Michael Dooley entitled “The surprising upsides of worry” spurred a lot of debate on mass and social media, coming as it did after years of therapist advice that worrying compromises our immune systems and creates undue stress. These two psychologists found two benefits of having repetitive negative thoughts (i.e., worrying). First, worrying is motivational, highlighting in our minds that action must be taken to prevent the undesirable outcomes we worry about. Constructive worry focuses on obstacles that need to be overcome, thereby enhancing the effectiveness of our actions. Second, worrying can help us prepare emotionally for undesirable outcomes, and this emotional buffer helps us to move forward and take action. So it’s an even greater benefit than what Pulitzer Prize-winning political commentator George Will described: “The nice part about being a pessimist is that you are constantly being either proven right or pleasantly surprised.” Apparently there is something tangibly positive about being negative.

Since I am not a psychologist, I may be incorrectly conflating a tendency to worry with pessimism. Perhaps the difference between worrying as constructive repetitive thought that serves a purpose and all-out pessimism is that when excessive worrying leads us to a logical conclusion that all will be awful, it may compel us to believe that things are so bad that it is not worth worrying about it any longer. That is the opposite of being constructive, of identifying barriers and then overcoming them, of taking direct action to avoid unpleasant outcomes and imagined dark scenarios. But maybe before leading us to the point of giving up, pessimism can reach a threshold that incites dramatic collective action. Impending disaster or cataclysmic events may well wake up everyone enough to punctuate the stasis of business as usual, and foment revolutionary change.

Is disaster needed for positive change in ocean governance?

I would suggest that we actually do need to worry to the point of pessimism to achieve the political change and effective governance needed for true EBM. Not complacent pessimism, but the action-oriented variety. Why? It goes without saying that the political and economic conditions in much of the world, including but not only in the US, are cause for concern. The gap between rich and poor is growing, sowing the seeds for future conflict, and increased pressures on natural resources have caused ecological imbalances that threaten to undermine future planetary productivity. Environmental deregulation, abandonment of international treaties for cooperation, and the escalating climate change crisis require a revolution to prevent making this planet inhospitable to human life. And this may mean trying something radically new, as opposed to trying to get back on course – something that many optimists believe will undoubtedly happen eventually.

In a recent radio story I heard about floating cities of the future, the founder of the Seasteading Institute, Patri Friedman, is reported to have said that governance doesn't get better over time as quickly as other forms of technology because the normal dictates of evolution don’t hold. He claimed that governance neither varies by chance nor undergoes natural or social selection except through revolution and war. Thus we might think of the appearance of radically progressive and effective governance as coming from something less like slow and steady evolution and more like Stephen Jay Gould’s punctuated equilibrium, improving significantly mostly as a result of disaster (war, conflict, cataclysmic events). Apparently what doesn't kill us not only makes us physiologically stronger, but socially and politically stronger too.

History provides examples at national and international scales. In the US the collective pessimistic mood about pollution and illegal dumping (captured dramatically in the infamous American Indian-shedding-a-tear-on-the-side-of-the-trash-strewn-highway Public Service Announcement of 1971) resulted in some of the strongest ecosystem-based management (EBM) legislation we have today such as the Clean Water Act of 1972. The worldwide low morale and exhaustion that was caused by World War II resulted in some of history’s strongest multilateral institutions: the Marshall Plan for reconstruction of Europe, the Bretton Woods Agreement that led to the formation of the World Bank, etc. These pieces of legislation and international agreements were dramatic, disruptive forces for good that were born out of evil (and the recognition of that evil by wide swaths of society).

Therefore, while we may continue making progress on the EBM front with small scale models of good governance – community-managed MPAs and public-private partnerships for conservation and sustainable use for example – the really big changes that are needed may only be possible if precipitated by disaster (see this recent opinion piece by Michael Webster, executive director of the Coral Reef Alliance, on why the US’ exit from the Paris climate agreement gives him hope for coral reefs.) And pessimism may actually be more adaptive than merely making us take action when disaster strikes – it may increase our evolutionary fitness by catalyzing revolutionary disruption before the real disaster hits. So if today’s spreading collective pessimism leads to a global governance reset, we might all become optimistic about the future at last.

MEAM’s sister organization OpenChannels.org is currently creating “Top Lists”, concise selections of resources on specific topics in marine conservation and management. These top lists include journal articles, reports, webinar recordings, newsletter articles, and blogs. They provide an easy way for practitioners to access a variety of sources of information on a topic quickly. Current Top Lists include:

If you have ideas for new top lists, please contact us at meam [at] openchannels.org or write your ideas in the Comments section below. We look forward to hearing them.