Ethics in Science and Environmental Politics

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ESEP Theme Section

Marine biology in a world of wounds

Marine biology in a world of wounds


Organizer: Giovanni Bearzi


Editors: Giovanni Bearzi, Kostas I. Stergiou, Darryl Macer


Human impacts on this planet have been recently re-labelled as "climate and ecological catastrophe", "biological annihilation, "sixth mass extinction" and "ecocide". Time to prevent irreversible damage is at best alarmingly short, leaving little room for irrelevant, untimely or self-serving science. As the awareness of threats facing our societies and life on Earth increases, scientists around the world are revising their priorities and time frames to account for a growing sense of urgency and non-reversibility. Marine biologists, too, must internalize these new challenges, face today's reality with a novel sense of resolve, and contribute to global solutions.


In this Theme Section, contributions by academics, intellectuals, lawyers and other experts re-define the ethical, legal and conceptual territory where contemporary marine biology and conservation should be grounded. Questions that will be answered (or discussed) include: How can we recognise the full extent of ecological damage having occurred since the 1970s, learn from past errors, and use this understanding to prioritise and strategize future work? How can we steer decision-making away from the "tragedy of the commons", and achieve a sustainable management of marine resources? How can we sharpen our tools to affect human behaviour, touch hearts, and better articulate our collective goal of preserving marine ecosystems and ultimately the living planet?


In 1949, one of the fathers of the environmental movement, Aldo Leopold, described a challenge faced by many in today's "world of wounds". In A Sand County Almanac he wrote:


One of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds. Much of the damage inflicted on land is quite invisible to laymen. An ecologist must either harden his shell and make believe that the consequences of science are none of his business, or he must be the doctor who sees the marks of death in a community that believes itself well and does not want to be told otherwise.


This Theme Section aims to re-define the role played by marine biologists as "ocean doctors" who, having seen the damage, identify and deploy the most effective strategies to help repair it.


Articles belonging to this Theme Section are published upon completion in the respective volume of ESEP. They will be listed below as well as on the contents page of the respective volume of publication.

Bearzi G
REVIEW: Marine biology on a violated planet: from science to conscience
ESEP 20:1-13 | Full text in pdf format


Notarbartolo di Sciara G, Hoyt E
REVIEW: Healing the wounds of marine mammals by protecting their habitat
ESEP 20:15-23 | Full text in pdf format


Würsig B
OPINION PIECE From science only to science for conservation: a personal journey
ESEP 20:25-32 | Full text in pdf format


Lotze HK
OPINION PIECE: Combining love and knowledge to heal the ocean
ESEP 20:33-39 | Full text in pdf format


Coll M
REVIEW: Environmental effects of the COVID-19 pandemic from a (marine) ecological perspective
ESEP 20:41-55 | Full text in pdf format


Worm B, Elliff C, Fonseca JG, Gell FR, Serra-Gonçalves C, Helder NK, Murray K, Peckham H, Prelovec L, Sink K
OPINION PIECE: Making ocean literacy inclusive and accessible
ESEP 21:1-9 | Full text in pdf format