The Blue Water Sailor

Op-Ed: To save the Earth, think like a ‘blue water’ sailor

On an island in the Pacific, I stood atop the highest point on the island, my eyes looking out over the Pacific Ocean, a clear sky in the background. My heart was pounding in the silence, as usual.

I was trying to come up with a solution to our planet’s climate crisis that would reduce CO2 emissions, while also increasing water storage, reducing salinity problems and reducing the potential for oil spills as well. My solution was that of a ‘blue water’ sailor, thinking, feeling and acting like a captain, able to navigate in a world of unpredictable water, without the luxury of using GPS devices in an otherwise uncharted space.

The concept itself was not new. In an interesting passage in his book Blue Water: The Last Great Maritime Race (2002), John F. Buell, Jr., of the Blue Water Navy, describes three great blue water naval races. The first was between the British and Spanish fleets when Britain was at the height of its naval supremacy. It was won by the British.

The second race was between the English and French fleets at the end of the 18th century. It was won by the French.

And the third race was between the British and French fleets in the first two centuries of the 20th century. The French were now stronger and faster than the British, whereas the English remained the world’s dominant naval power. The race was again won by the French.

It is instructive to think about the first two races. When Britain was at the height of its naval supremacy, it was capable of maintaining an effective fleet of 60 or 70 warships, but this meant that it needed a large navy for defensive and offensive operations against the rest of the world, and for operations in the North Sea.

This was a world-class navy at the peak of its power, but it was also a world-class navy in decline. By the late 1800s, British navy strength had been largely decimated as a result of the Napoleonic Wars, the defeat of their major rivals and the rise to prominence of new powers, in particular Germany, France, and the United States.

The British were still, however, one of the world’s great power navies,

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