It is the fourth day of The Ocean Conference today and it is also World Oceans Day and I am currently waiting for a side event on ‘Combatting Ocean Acidification’ to begin. I have experienced an incredible mix of emotions in the past four days of the conference, from elation to dejection, and I have witnessed some very frustrating events occurring at the United Nations.
One thing I must mention is that I think that the biggest realisation I have come to this week is about the value of NGOs and other organisations of civil society that really use their voices to make tangible and positive impacts. These organisations effectively put the pressure on governments and the private sector to act and implement the promises they make during these events and this is incredibly important to maintain the momentum spoken of here.
I have been exposed to some inspiring people in the past week who have founded projects that push the boundaries between science, education, art and culture. It is with these organisations and in talking and interacting with these people that I see hope. Hope for the future of the oceans and hope for producing tangible outcomes of this event.
On the first day of this conference I walked home feeling disenchanted, I had spent the day sitting in meetings that consisted of states and government representatives speaking of the great efforts their countries have done in combatting ocean issues without really saying anything at all.
I am still listening to various people constantly state and re-state that we have problems, there is climate change, there is ocean acidification occurring and that we need to stop using single use plastics while they sit at a table covered in single use plastic water bottles.
There are some other things I have realised this week:
- We need to collaborate with indigenous peoples more in order to effectively protect our oceans, as traditional knowledge and practices have so much value and indigenous groups have such important perspectives to share.
- We need to stop calling for just more research before action is taken. Yes, we always need more research but we are also running out of time to reverse some of the damage done to our oceans and biodiversity, and just continually researching these effects without mobilising to tackle the issues being researched will not help marine ecosystems become more resilient in the future.
- We need to stop ‘preaching to the converted’ when it comes to talking about science and new scientific knowledge as this isn’t going to change anything. If the public doesn’t know or doesn’t understand then we will never have success. The rest of the world needs to hear about science in a way that they can understand. As the great Dr Sylvia Earle says, “far and away, the greatest threat to the ocean, and thus to ourselves, is ignorance”.
On a personal level I have certainly been questioning where I am going with my career this week, where should I put my energy to be the most effective for implementing and initiating change? I have learnt so much about new concepts like ocean literacy, the value of art and culture to communicating science and world issues and the diversity of people to drive change. This is what motivates me the most and is probably the knowledge that is the greatest value to me to take away from this conference.
There have been times this week that I have wondered ‘how does anything ever get done in the world, if everything takes so long, if all that happens is the proposal of more summits and further platforms for discussion on the same issues how does the world progress forward each day?’
But then someone steps up and says, ‘this is what I am doing, this is what our project is, this is how it has worked’ and most importantly, ‘this is what we will be doing in the future, these are the successes and failures we have had, learn from us’. It is only when this happens that I feel inspired to think that just maybe there is hope.
All posts by Institute delegates reflect their own thoughts, opinions and experiences, and do not reflect those of the Institute.