Our fragile ocean: why ESG is a necessity, not a fad
In Bermuda, the primeval influence of the sea is everywhere. For centuries, it was our only access, our perpetual conduit for commerce and discovery to the outside world.
It is our one constant – always so closely there, never separated from us – on our tiny island in the deep Atlantic Ocean. It is the salt in our blood; the spray on our faces; the essence of moisture in our lungs. It penetrates our being; it assaults our senses and shores with intimidating towering ferocious rollers in storm-driven surf.
It is euphoric on blissful sunny days, glittery, sparkling rainbow lights dancing on azure waves. In dawning, pink-blushed tranquility, it elevates our souls.
We Bermuda Islanders know the sea, our ocean – very well. The future of our ocean is ours to save. The present is not pretty.
Our oceans are ecologically challenged more than ever before: whales, turtles, and fish found with numerous plastic bags (indistinguishable from jelly fish), bottle rings, and plastic pellets in stomach contents due to economies using the sea as a dumping ground. The uniquely herbivorous manatees dying of starvation at an alarming rate – their sea grass food supply diminishing, eroded by pesticides, sewage, environmental damage, and warmer sea levels. Thousands of miles of sea coral dead, decimated from pollution, overfishing and climate change. Massive floating islands of trash obstructing sea lane traverses.
Regrettably, the list is almost endless.
The consumer effect is subtle; we don’t always see it, or feel it, perhaps somewhat in our pocketbooks when we peruse the rising costs of local fish market prices and products.
Or see label warnings about possible toxic metal content – mercury, for instance.
Or, knowing locally that it has been a long time since the yearly run-up of mackerel at Crow Lane: this was a real treat for many families when Bermuda life was a simpler time – a fishing village. Mackerel, so plentiful, in the hundreds of thousands, one would quickly haul in a supply at the end of a morning paper route, home soon, the young fish were dusted in flour, fried in bacon fat and inhaled for breakfast. Marvellous!
We were back then not so careful about pesticides and insect repellent, nor of the compound effect on the environment and us. A favourite game was spraying cockroaches with a pump action can of Flit. Cockroaches, the carrion cleaners of the insect world, have survived for 350 million years, repellent redundant. They’ll be here till long after we are gone.
As will our oceans.
But, will they be even more polluted, or rejuvenated to a natural, healthy state? Covering more than 70 per cent of the planet’s surface, oceans regulate our climate, supply the oxygen we breathe, provide homes to an extraordinary variety of life, and are an incredible source of healthy food for billions of people.
And, absolutely necessary for our survival.
Hope and optimism still prevail that we earthlings can clean up our act and our oceans – and if not reverse the damage, at least, contain it.
ESG, (Environmental, Social and Corporate governance) is far more than a mantra, a philanthropy, but a necessity. Environmental destruction is financially costly to all life forms: persons, places, plants, animals, industries, and our planet.
Research evidence of global trends in climate change, depletion of resources, and sustainability factors has led investors – pension funds, holders of insurance reserves, and many more diverse industries – to begin to screen investments in terms of their impact on the perceived factors of climate change.
In Bermuda, with the support of our international and domestic industries and our people’s innovation and futuristic thinking, we have again been way ahead of the curve. Our tiny island, so reliant on our ocean, we had to understand its many contributions while anticipating its many challenges.
The Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences (known as BIOS) now 118 years old, is an independent, non-profit marine science and education institute located in Ferry Reach, St George's. The Institute, founded in 1903 as the Bermuda Biological Station, hosts a full-time faculty of oceanographers, biologists, and environmental scientists, graduate and undergraduate students, K-12 groups, and Road Scholar (formerly Elderhostel) groups. BIOS's strategic mid-Atlantic Ocean location has at its doorstep a diverse marine environment, with proximity to deep ocean as well as coral reef and near shore habitats.
BIOS amazing research accomplishments, a few are listed:
1954: Hydrostation ”S” is established, marking the beginning of the longest-running continuous ocean study in the world.
1975: The Bermuda Government establishes an inshore-water monitoring programme that continues today.
1976: The Bermuda Programme is initiated, offering local Bermudian students the opportunity to work collaboratively with BIOS scientists through an intensive hands-on research internship.
1978: The Oceanic Flux Program begins, creating the longest record of deep-ocean sediment trap studies in the world.
Among accomplishments since then are the establishment of the Risk Prediction Initiative, a collaboration between climate scientists and re/insurers; the formation of Ocean Academy, offering experiential marine science education for Bermuda’s students and teachers; and the acquisition of BIOS’s first Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV), a Slocum glider using innovative technology to increase the frequency and spatial coverage of BIOS’s traditional oceanographic ship-based measurements.
Stephen Weinstein, a BIOS trustee, in the May 2021 BIOS Currents interview (see link below), stated that he is passionate about the island, committed to business development, and keen to promote initiatives and solutions related to the global risk of climate change, and he strives to combine these elements.
Bermuda, with its decades of strength in natural catastrophe risk management, has built a critical mass of highly-relevant human capital and talent as well as the ideal regulatory environment to oversee and support this sector.
BIOS, he said, is a key player. On June 23, 2021, the Bermuda Business Development Agency is to host a climate risk finance seminar in association with Rims, the risk management society, moderated by Stephen Weinstein, BDA chairman.
Bermuda BIOS (Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences celebrates its 110th anniversary, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eZ94V3Dq7mw
A Passion for Bermuda, http://www.bios.edu/currents/a-passion-for-bermuda
Bermuda BDA to host climate risk finance seminar
Ten Simple Ways to Help Our Ocean, https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/ocean/help-our-ocean.html
• Martha Harris Myron, CPA JSM, a native Bermudian, is the author of The Bermuda Islander Financial Planning Primers, International financial consultant to the Olderhood Group International, and financial columnist to The Royal Gazette. All proceeds from these articles are donated to the Salvation Army, Bermuda. Contact: email@example.com