It’s been a week since I’ve been in New York City. A week (or rather a few days) was all it took for me to realise many things.
These few days have made me realise how I have been taking the green environment of New Zealand for granted. The vast span of ocean that I could reach within 5 minutes walking distance from my house, the myriad of beautiful walking tracks, the fresh air I could breathe everyday. These things are not a given in this concrete jungle city.
I feel privileged to be at the Oceans Conference held at the United Nations Headquarters at such a dynamic time. With the President announcing his withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, the conference could not be a better platform to unite the voices of every nation, to withstand the blunt decision of a single man and bring about a much-needed change. At such extreme times, extreme decisions need to be made. If we preserve the wildlife, the resources, and the culture that the ocean provides for us, we need go to the extra mile.
It was relieving, however, to see how many States were independently in support of the Paris Agreement. As we talked with Daniel Francis, the Global Climate Program Coordinator at the Environmental Defense Fund, the grief that many citizens of the United States felt towards the decision of their nation’s representative was evident. If Plan A is blockaded, there’s always Plan B. Representatives of American States, cities and companies are preparing to submit a plan to the United Nations, expressing their independent avowals to meet the United States’ greenhouse gas emissions targets under the Paris climate accord.
I was also recharged with inspiration after hearing a talk from Sylvia Earle. There were many quotes that we could take from her presentation, “we should be scared of the teeth of the deep sea mining equipment, not the teeth of the so-called man eaters in the sea,” “We don’t think of them as wildlife, we think of them as products,” “If fish could speak, we’d probably have different laws.” To see someone in their 80s still diving, still learning and researching about the ocean, instilled both hope and challenge for the youth.
The few days before the conference were full of contradictions - the pollution behind the city’s vibrancy, the withdrawal of the leader, my lack of awareness in this time of turmoil. Nevertheless, being surrounded by passionate people that really care for the environment is a beacon of hope for myself and that is why I am here in New York today.
All posts by Institute delegates reflect their own thoughts, opinions and experiences, and do not reflect those of the Institute.