Today is World Oceans Day. It is taking place in conjunction with a major international gathering at the UN headquarters in New York: The Ocean Conference. This timely conference is meant to highlight the critical importance of our oceans and the crises they are undergoing. Sustainable Development Goal 14 zeroes in on the marine environment: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.
It is entirely understandable, as I learned at an event this morning, that so many of us neither appreciate how critical the oceans are to our economies and, indeed, to our life on the planet, nor the havoc we have been wreaking on them. Although there are billions of people who live near the ocean, millions of whom are in small island states, most of the saltwater on earth is beyond us, and certainly beyond the reach of the coastal areas that confer national sovereignty over the in-shore areas. Out of sight, out of mind.
The event I attended this morning was the launch of the Ocean Atlas by the Heinrich Böll Foundation. A panel of experts talked about the issues and there was an excellent Q & A session as well. (The Ocean Atlas is the fourth in a series of atlases from the very good people at the Böll Foundation.) The hope is that this will help capture the attention of the general public, not only in the English-speaking world, but certainly in Germany, as well as in the places where translations are forthcoming: China, the Hispanic world, and the Francophone nations. The partner in the publication of the Ocean Atlas is The Future Ocean, a think tank of marine scientists.
Here’s an overview graphic to get you more interested:
I’m working on a book about meat, fish and feed: the environmental and health implications, how we can achieve much better food security and much more prosperous lives and livelihoods for farming and fishing communities, and how we need to deal with the aspects of industrial animal agriculture that so degrades our own humanity. In all of this, fishing and the marine environment are critical.
I sat in on an event the other day on small-scale fisheries. It was very informative. The panelists were fisheries experts from the FAO, GIZ (an international sustainability consultancy), Bread for the World, and Friends of Marine Life (a small NGO based in Kerala). The event was curated and moderated by the German NGO Forum on Environment & Development. Among other things, it was pointed out that small-scale fisheries are singled out in both SDG 14.B and in SDG 2.3. SDG 2 aims to “End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.”
It seems that I spend more time learning about the good work that people do to advance sustainability, than I do writing and teaching about it. It is always gratifying, indeed inspiriting, for me to connect with these heroic efforts. This work is, at the end of the day, just as much about finding a saner and more peaceful approach to how we live our lives as it is about “sustainability.”