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September 29, 2017

The Ocean as our Lungs

Written by Kylie Barton

‘The Ocean as our lungs’ was the main theme of the Pacific Blue Economy Conference that was held at the end of August in Suva. The United Nations Resident Coordinator to the Pacific, Osnat Lubrani, said that the ocean is compromised, and as a result so is humanity. A sobering thought to say the least.

The conference was organised by the Pacific Islands Development Forum (PIDF), alongside the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), and of course the Fijian government. The events were chaired by the Government of the Solomon Islands in their capacity of PIDF chair. There were guest speakers from around the world speaking on examples of successful Blue Economy projects for delegates to learn from. Partner organisations also played a large part in proceedings with big names such as the WWF, the UNEP, the WCS, and the FFA.

The two-day conference was about the Blue Economy – that is, ensuring that the planet is also taken into account when driving for profit. The idea was to allow networking, and information and knowledge sharing on the topic. Over 200 delegates were present from all over the globe, and they learned how to innovate and break into emerging industries that are positive for the ocean as opposed to negative. This was all to build on the existing Pacific commitments, to slowly but surely make the Blue Economy the predominant economy in the region.

The conference was also a chance for officials from the various nations in attendance to meet, and to hold discussions about ways they can work together to move towards a Blue Economy. For example, Kazakhstan has a blooming relationship with the Pacific Island states, and has historically funded bio-gas projects in 12 nations in the region. Surprisingly, Kazakhstan is a leader in sustainable energy, which is one of the biggest sectors when talking about the Blue Economy.

It is the case that 40 per cent of the world’s oceans is considered heavily affected by human activity. This is due to ocean management plans and policy failures due to corruption. This means that earth’s oceans are being consistently overexploited and polluted, despite the knowledge held about what this abuse will mean for humanity. One fifth of coral reefs and mangroves, organisms that are vital to the ecosystems of the world, have already been lost. 75 per cent of those that remain are considered threatened. Those are big numbers, and the size of the concern simply does not match up.

There was a high level of awareness at the conference that sustainable development must be truly sustainable and not just a label. With the attendees living and working in some of the most vulnerable countries in the world when it comes to ocean sustainability and climate change, there was a very different aura to what may be found at conferences in the west. The fear was real, as was the wish to do something proactive about it.

The Ocean as our lungsThe public at large do not realise that the ocean is as important for generating oxygen as the trees, which are generally thought of as the lungs of the planet. This includes all of its composite parts; corals; mangroves; plankton; fish; mammals. When this delicate balance is disrupted, and the oceans polluted, it is like a slow growing cancer of the earths lungs, and the planet is now struggling to breath.

Find out here how you can do your part to look after our oceans and give back to the environment with Island Spirit. We have upcoming volunteering opportunities for 2018 including coral gardening trips in Fiji and Sri Lanka.

Come volunteer in paradise with like-minded responsible travelers!