Posted by: robbryan | November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012: taking the glass beyond half full

A holiday musing by our friend and associate Richard Theiss at RTSea Productions. See the link at the end for the path to his blog, RTSea Blog. Thanks Richard.

In the U.S. we are preparing to celebrate Thanksgiving this Thursday.  It commemorates a moment when early Pilgrim settlers chose to give thanks for what they had at that moment, even when they knew they still were facing formidable obstacles.  That is the power of optimism coupled with a strong sense of reality.  The glass is half-full but we won’t stop until it’s over the rim.

Conservation and environmental issues have taken a pretty good beating over the past few years.  Since the two depend so heavily on “the kindness of strangers” (as Blanche DuBois once said) or on a benevolent or generous government, funding and government allocations have diminished as nation after nation endures a prolonged depressed economic situation.

And that can lead to the biggest threat of all: apathy.  The oceans face many perils, the consequences of which may be many years away but, to gain the upper hand, they need to be dealt with sooner rather than later.  Climate change, acidification, overfishing, pollution – they all loom large but they become even more threatening if government officials, policy makers and the everyday individual choose to take their eye off the ball.  Distraction leads to disinterest which leads to apathy.  Only a crisis can snap us out of it but by then it may be too late.

So that is the biggest challenge we face in filling that glass to the rim.  But with that said, we still have a tremendous amount to be thankful for.  We continue to achieve significant victories that speak to our optimistic side and fuel our desire to achieve more.  Whether it be the growth of substantial marine protected areas, more and stronger legislation regarding shark conservation, forward strides in seafood sustainability through better managed ocean harvesting, or technological innovations in alternative energy – each step is bringing us just that must closer to the kind of stewardship of the planet that will help sustain it . . . and us.

Search through the blogosphere, through social media, or simply type in “ocean conservation victories” in Google.  The list is long, it is encouraging, and it reaffirms that what we have done, what we are doing, and what we hope to accomplish is feasible, reasonable, and righteous.

Give thanks today and always.

Richard Theiss

Thanksgiving 2012: taking the glass beyond half full.

Conservation and Environmentalism capacity has taken a bit of a beating over the last decade and at a time when we need to be cranking it up not down. Harbor Branch is gone. Sold off in a somewhat shady looking deal. Others are being absorbed.

It’s easy to point to Sandy as evidence of the need and I will whenever the conversation has to be reduced to that. Our oceans are in deep trouble and that means our societies and cultures are too. Progress is being made though, especially in the establishment of MPAs. I’m thankful for dedicated people like Greg Stone, Jean-Michel Cousteau, and Sylvia Earle. Thanks for your dedication.

It’s going to cost a lot to save the oceans. Mostly because controlling the externalizers, will take decades. Our part of the solution  is democratization of conservation. Burton Weisbrod (1964) argues that … people ―”will be willing to pay something for the option to consume the commodity in the future‖”. Intuitively we know that to be true.

Behavioral Economics has shown us that value propositions are are not as simple as the “rational consumer” concept that traditional economic theory operates on. We care about the planet and we’ll pay to save it. How much will we pay? That’s where the value proposition comes in. We’ll pay so much for “this”, and even more for “that”. “That” needs to offer more than just one’s name in a long list of donors on a website and a bimonthly email about all the good things accomplished with our money. I’m not criticizing this outreach model- it is a necessary and valuable part of conservation. I’m saying we can and should go beyond that model and give the donor more. Start with membership in a real community of like minded people that provides a real emotional connection to the mission. Then take them there, show them, and involve them in the activities in real, meaningful ways. Provide them with a well managed absolutely awesome experience that will change their lives. We know how to do this now. In the last decade we have a developed a deep understanding of what motivates people and how to structure value propositions based on real people not “rational consumers”. Make them citizen scientists and conservation outreach stewards. Democratize ocean conservation.



  1. Oh yeah. “World Bank “Raises Alarm” of a 4 Degree Hotter World”. That’s pretty serious. Deadly serious. Isn’t it time to move our efforts to carbon neutral. Of course it’s easy to buy offsets. They are cheap and easy. So cheap and easy that they have replaced efforts to actually reduce our footprints. I know how they are supposed to operate, but ask yourself this- how much of my offset dollar actually went to CO2 reduction?

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