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| 2 minutes read

Can the Blue Economy be Inclusive?

Since late last year, my team has been working in Rhode Island, commissioned by the University of Rhode Island Research Foundation to develop a Blue Economy Action Plan. The Blue Economy is made up of freshwater and ocean-based industries that rely on the water, including aquaculture and fisheries, marine trades, defense, renewable energy, ports and shipping, climate adaptation and risk mitigation, tourism and recreation, and more. 

In the title of this post, I am posing a question that will be difficult to answer with a quick overall response; it will require reflection and customization to the needs within the community answering it. 

The article "Black business owners test offshore wind for diversity" pushed me to reflect on how can we advise communities to make this a reality. We see the stated intentions of Blue Economy efforts around the country, but will they make a difference? On one side, the article tells us that if we keep doing things the same way, not everyone will benefit. 

"...renewable energy has a mixed track record when it comes to creating work for people of color. The percentage of Latino and Asian people who work in the wind industry eclipse their numbers in the national workforce, according to the Department of Energy. Black people, by contrast, accounted for 7 percent of the wind workforce in 2020, lagging their 12 percent average in the national workforce. (Onshore wind accounts for almost all wind industry employment in the United States. The Energy Department does not break out demographic data for the fledgling offshore sector.)"

This last statement is my first of three considerations to try and help communities make sure that the Blue Economy is one that embraces all:

1. Find or create the metrics. The fact that the Energy Department is not yet seeking to track demographic data is a concern but communities can step up and work to document their current and future workforce in the Blue Economy. 

2. Allow people to work. In addition to demographics such as race, ethnicity, and household income, it will be important to look at the location of jobs and disadvantaged communities and make sure there are mobility options in place.  

3. Honor the past. Blue Economy communities have had blue economy 'jobs' literally forever. The reliance on water for basic life, nourishment, and commerce allowed these places to thrive. What is needed is actions to respect the legacy of the indigenous people, the early pioneers, and the innovators that helped these places grow. Take time, engage, and understand the history of your Blue Economy to better inform its future. 

Please reach out to share your thoughts.

“I tell people all the time, ‘If you are involved in climate change and want to help the planet, you have to really understand that this is about humanity,’” Helberg said. “When you say ‘diversity and inclusion and justice,’ that includes everybody, all of us as human beings. And so it’s just opening up the door for careers, jobs training and a new industry that really is not new.”


climate change, economic development, energy, equity and inclusion, fourth economy, ports ferries & maritime