Ocean Health Index: The Audacity of Necessity - Miller-McCune
“It’s an act of real audacity when a ranking system tries to be comprehensive and heterogeneous.”
Noted journalist Malcolm Gladwell made this observation recently about the U.S. News and World Report college rating system. But the same could be said of the Ocean Health Index, which will debut early next year. It represents an enormously ambitious effort to quantify ocean health for every coastal country on the planet — reporting on everything from biodiversity to artisanal fishing to cultural uses to carbon storage and sequestration.
We assert that when it comes to the ocean such audacity is necessary. Our planet now houses more than 7 billion people. In the face of unrelenting population growth, the oceans face unprecedented challenges — declining biodiversity, disastrous oil spills, changing coastal demographics, and more. Turning the tide will require connecting human development with the ocean’s capacity to sustain that progress in a comprehensive and transparent manner. This means thinking big.
The Ocean Health Index is designed to take the pulse of the ocean using a framework that captures the costs and benefits to people and to the marine environment of which they are a part. As we’ve discussed in previous columns, the Ocean Health Index presents the full portfolio of benefits derived from the ocean in a single measure. Just as you make investment decisions based on the collective performance of a portfolio of stocks, bonds, and mutual funds, this index will allow policymakers and managers to make choices about how to manage stressors such as marine pollution and coastal development in the context of how those choices affect fisheries and biodiversity. It represents a unique and transparent attempt to piece together a full impression of the ocean’s status. And no one else has been able to do it before.