Social-media watch

I ♥ the briny deep
July 1, 2013

Waterworld A view beneath the waves of Heron Island, in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, one of the virtual dives you can take at the TerraMar website.

According to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the vast swaths of the world’s oceans beyond the territorial jurisdiction of nations, known as the high seas, belong to everyone and are to be used for the common good. Ghislaine Maxwell, the daughter of the late press tycoon Robert Maxwell, decided the governments charged with collectively managing the high seas on our behalf aren’t doing a great job. There are problems with pollution, overfishing, seabed mining, and so on. So Maxwell, who has spent much of her life on or beneath the sea, conceived a Web-based “global community of ocean citizens” to raise awareness of and advocate for “the least explored, most ignored place on earth.” She partnered with National Geographic, got the artist Shepard Fairey’s shop to create a flag, and last September launched the nonprofit TerraMar Project. The goal is to have a million citizens by year’s end (there were 6,323 in mid-June). If that happens, Maxwell says, they could apply for official recognition by the UN. “Let’s build it, and then see what the citizens want to do with it,” she says.

For now, citizens of TerraMar can claim an ocean parcel, and become an ambassador by friending a marine species. Eventually, there will be a voting platform and citizens can vote on issues like whether to ban whaling or shark finning. The tallies will be sent to authorities that are making decisions about these issues. “The future of the Internet is curation,” Maxwell says, “and that is what this site will do for people interested in the ocean.”

The Editors are the staffers of the Columbia Journalism Review.