Narratives help frame our thinking and action. This editorial of the journal Science stresses the need for a new narrative for the ocean, one that reflects current scientific knowledge and inspires new science and effective action.

For most of human history, people considered the ocean so immense, bountiful, and resilient that it was impossible to deplete or disrupt it. The overarching narrative was, “The ocean is so vast, it is simply too big to fail”. According to the authors, this mindset persists today, bringing even more intense, unsustainable uses of the ocean that reflect ignorance. However, the folly of this too-big-to-fail narrative has become glaringly obvious through overpowering scientific evidence of depletion, disruption, and pollution.

Yet the undeniable challenges, hints of a new ocean mindset are emerging, the authors state. Many powerful solutions already exist and could be scaled up. A new narrative does not automatically change the status quo but, if widely adopted, can reset expectations and liberate ingenuity.

It is underlined that it is time for a new ocean narrative that says “The ocean is so central to our future. It’s too important to neglect”. In creating a new solution space for the ocean, we can also address broader global problems. In healing the ocean, we can heal ourselves. The ocean sustains and feeds us. It connects us. It is our past and our future. The ocean is not too big to fail, nor is it too big to fix. It is too big to ignore.

Lubchenco & Gaines (2019) A new narrative for the ocean. Science 364: 911.