ArcGIS StoryMaps

Exploring our increasing impact on the world's oceans

Back in 2018, Esri’s StoryMaps team launched a collection of multimedia narratives we called Living in the Age of Humans. We billed it as “a series of stories examining the Earth-wide impacts of our human presence.”

We had several motivations for the series:

The "Living in the Age of Humans" collection page

The series has proven to be perennially popular. In fact, the collection page is the second most viewed of all the collections we’ve published. (If you’re curious, our most popular collection is Discover the possibilities with ArcGIS StoryMaps!) The series includes an introductory story, Living in the Age of Humans, plus installments on the global scale of human activities (The Human Reach), how humans use Earth’s limited land space (The Living Land), how human activities are affecting our planet’s trees (A World of Forests), and celebrating and conserving our planet’s abundant flora and fauna (The Diversity of Life).

"The Finite Ocean," latest installment in the series

After a pause that was longer than we expected — it was back in May 2021 that we published “Diversity of Life” — we’re unveiling the latest story in the series: The Finite Ocean. The ocean covers more than 70 percent of the Earth’s surface, so it’s a topic that can’t be ignored. Although it’s a somewhat distant and mysterious presence to most us land dwellers, we’re all dependent on the ocean as a supplier of oxygen, as a regulator of climate, as a medium for commerce, and as a source of nutrition.

And despite its staggering vastness, the ocean is far from immune from human impacts. Our actions are warming it, changing its chemistry, depleting its fisheries, and polluting its depths. We ignore it at our peril.

The atlas companion to the Finite Ocean story

Our new story echoes the rhythms and visual richness of the other installments in the series. And, like its sisters, it has a companion atlas. We’ve collected and showcased the maps featured within the narrative along with links to data sources. It’s our hope that the primary stories will appeal to broad audiences and inspire people to action, and that the accompanying maps will spur geospatial professionals to tell their own stories about how we might work toward being more effective stewards of our home planet.

Want to make a deeper dive — literally — into the ocean? Read Esri Chief Scientist Dawn Wright’s account of her journey to the bottom of the Mariana Trench.

About the author

Allen founded the story maps team at Esri. Prior to joining Esri in 2010, he worked at National Geographic for 27 years in a variety of positions, including art director of National Geographic Magazine and chief cartographer at National Geographic Maps.

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