Ocean Optimism!

By Becky

Bad news sells. So it’s rare to hear good news, especially when it comes to our planet and our oceans’ health. However, it’s not all doom and gloom! Read on to hear why it is important not to fixate on the negative!

If, like me, any of you are prone to worrying, you know that when we juggle too many things at once, there is an absolute limit to how much we can do. ‘Oh, there’s an article I need to write due in two days, and I need it to be edited and approved, before I can then spend 30 – 60 minutes uploading it to a website with appropriate and non-copyrighted pictures, BUT, I’m already juggling 10 other very important things. Okay. I’ll do it tomorrow… maybe…’ (example sent in by a reader… ahem..). Well, we are not alone! This is known as the ‘finite pool of worry’, and means that as humans, we have a limited amount of issues we can worry about, before becoming emotionally numb. Why is this important you ask, well, I’ll tell you!

Cue appropriate ‘worried’ photo. Credit @ Erika Wittlieb

Cue appropriate ‘worried’ photo. Credit @ Erika Wittlieb

This finite pool of worry is the reason why a relationship has been found between how strong the economy is, with environmental concern. When the economy is strong, people are more concerned about the environment. In fact, researchers have stated that the economy poses a greater challenge for climate change than science communication. When we are worried about something as important as the economy, we literally don’t have the capacity to worry about other major issues. It can just get too much.

You’re monologuing, you’re not a masked supervillain (not that I’m admitting anyway…) get to the point!

Okay. My point is that many of us hear and read in the news, and are told in education, that to get the point across about the dire state of our planet, we need to focus on the negative. We need to scare people into acting, and we’re worried that if we talk about the ocean in positive terms, people won’t change their actions because they’ll think the situation isn’t as bad as it is.

‘Nope, not listening!’ Trust me when I say free images are thin on the ground…. Credit @ Ulrike Mai

‘Nope, not listening!’ Trust me when I say free images are thin on the ground…. Credit @ Ulrike Mai

However, all this negativity is not good. Studies undertaken over the last decade in Australia, the UK and the USA, have found that a quarter to a half of all children surveyed, are so troubled about the state of the world, they believe the world will end before they get older. That’s a lot to put on the shoulders of a child. Additionally, due to the finite pool of worry, when people become overburdened with too much negativity, we start to believe that our actions are too small to make a difference. We stop caring. We stop trying.

However, like negativity, nits in primary school, and a cold in winter, positivity is also catching!

‘I know I’d rather be catching positivity than either nits or a cold!’ - I’m 99% sure that’s what she’s thinking. Credit @ Constantinos Panagopoulos

‘I know I’d rather be catching positivity than either nits or a cold!’ - I’m 99% sure that’s what she’s thinking. Credit @ Constantinos Panagopoulos

Social scientists at Cornell University; the University of California, San Francisco; and Facebook, conducted a study in 2014 involving nearly 700,000 participants, and found that emotions not only spread fast among social network users, but unlike in mainstream media, it was hope, not bad news that spread the fastest!

A wise friend once told me that individually we are a drop, but together we are an ocean. This mentality, and hope, led to the creation of the hashtag #OceanOptimism, and since 2014, it has been seen by over 24 million Twitter users. As many as 1 in 5 people have a Facebook account, this combined with users of other social networks, and the contagiousness of hope, means that the ability for marine solutions to spread between millions of people, and across the globe, is astronomical.

Therefore, if your research results are optimistic, if you read or hear something positive in the news, don’t be afraid to share it! Spread hope, and together we can initiate, encourage, and create a positive difference!

Together, we’ve got this! Credit @ Guy Kawasaki

Together, we’ve got this! Credit @ Guy Kawasaki

P.S. I also found out when uploading this article, that I was actually a week early… so there are positives everywhere you look!

Thumbnail image credit @ Luisella Planeta Leoni

Becky Griffiths