This book’s title is taken from Mohandas Gandhi’s comparison of the social order to the ever-widening circles that result when a stone is dropped in the ocean. This human order encompasses the individual, the village, the nation, the region, and the global community. Just such an order is now emerging in the context of ocean governance, generated by the United Nations’ 1982 Convention on the Law of the Sea and the subsequent conventions, agreements and programmes following the 1992 Rio Earth Summit.
This emerging order has social, economic cultural, environmental and ethical aspects. It is non-hierarchical, participatory, multidisciplinary, and includes the private sector as well as governments. Such an order is needed to solve the most urgent problems of over-fishing and stock depletion; pollution from oceanic, atmospheric and land-based sources; climate and sea-level changes; and biodiversity conservation.
Oceanic governance will require profound changes in the ways we deal with each other and with nature. Like life itself, the new order started in the ocean, which has been declared the common heritage of humanity, and is expanding to embrace the whole biosphere in “the majesty of the oceanic circle,” leading to a more peaceful and equitable world order.
Elisabeth Mann Borgese is professor of law and political science at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada.