Seatizens – Behind this incredibly tacky name is a mind-set I want to share with you. Happy World Oceans Day !

Dirty Blue

72 % of our planet’s surface is covered in water – so much it seems we should have called it Ocean instead of Earth. You’ve all heard this, right?

Here’s how much water that actually amounts to:


(Photo credit: Jack Cook. Source: From Quarks to Qasars)

The oceans are big but they’re not endless. They’re teeming with life but we’ve plundered through it with industrial scale and efficiency. Oceans remain one of the most alien, fascinating and unknown ecosystems in our Universe yet we treat them as dumpster, destroying what still only barely understand.

Don’t believe me? Seems a bit alarmist? Here are the facts :

  • 70% of the world’s fish stocks are in critical state
  • There is less than 40% of live coral cover remaining around Mauritius
  • 6.4 million debris, mostly plastic, are dumped in the sea every year
  • Only 5% of the oceans have been fully mapped

Enric Sala, an oceanographer at National Geographic, coined an apt metaphor for this: “The Ocean is like a checking account where everybody withdraws but nobody makes a deposit.

So how do we strike the right balance ?

SWAC is the acronym of Sea-Water Air Conditioning. Basically, you run a pipeline from the sea to the shore and pump out really cold water and spread it throughout a set of buildings to cool them down as efficiently and for a similar cost than air conditioning. Mauritius happens to be prime ground for SWAC projects, some already being implemented. Building on this technology, we could set up green DataCenters and turn in a profit housing the world’s information. Incidentally, we’d need to build up our IT infrastructure and finally become that Cyber Island everyone talked about in 2000.

SWAC displays the mindset of Seatizens: using a natural resource to sustainably cater to human needs. I am no environmentalist: we need to exploit natural resources to sustain our growth. I am not stupid either: over-exploiting these resources will destroy the very way of life we are trying to fuel. SWAC is just an example to illustrate the larger point that we are capable of striking this balance if we just invest human and financial resources into finding it.

The money problem

This is the point where you remind me that you have bills to pay. I love that part. Sustainability and Overexploitation both cost: the only difference is you pay for the latter in 20 different ways.

The choice you have to make right now is not between buying your fish and protecting the ocean. The choice you have to make is deciding whether you want to eat fish for the rest of your life or go vegetarian in 10 years. You will pay the price for overfishing when there are so few fish left that only the wealthiest will be able to afford it. You will pay the price difference between renewable energy and fossil fuel in the form of increased medical bills and a shorter life span.

Now you’re thinking: “Ok but what could I do” right? Everything. As consumers, we often underestimate our tremendous power: where you put your money signals what you want. And companies will fight – with lower prices and better quality – to bring you what you want. Buy sustainable fish; invest in solar farms instead of coal plants… signal you want sustainable and the private sector will pour money and brains to bring you more solutions at lower costs.  Put your money in sustainability – you’ll pay less for more.

Stella Clavisque Maris Mundi

Without much land, SIDS like Mauritius need to figure out sustainable ways of using their marine resources and restoring the catastrophic damage already done to the oceans – fast.  To do this, we must be Seatizens, i.e. acknowledge the opportunities our ocean offers us and be extremely mindful of our impact when seizing them. SIDS, who have a vested interested in preserving the ocean, are uniquely well suited to be the breeding ground for a sustainable relationship with the sea.

Mauritius is poised to become a high-income country. How we get there is being decided right now. Let’s be pioneers of sustainable economic growth. Let’s be the star and key to our oceans’ future.

Full disclosure: the SEEING BLUE competition’s deadline has been extended to June 15th, exclusively for university and college students.Feel free to challenge my views by joining the competition or in the comments bellow!

[Read Part I of this blog here.]

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