Leaders and stakeholders from various domains will meet this week at the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organisation (ACTO) Summit to address the pressing and interconnected issues of climate change, biodiversity, and Indigenous rights.
“The ocean is the unsung hero of our planet, having protected us from the worst of climate change so far”
Sam Collins is the project manager of the Blue Network at the Oceano Azul Foundation, managing the Foundation’s international initiatives and partnerships. He works to raise the profile of the ocean at the political and decision-making level.
Here is his contribution to the Our World in Your Hands project.
Dear world leaders,
Climate change, global warming, existential crisis, species extinction, overfishing, acidification, deoxygenation, overheating, extreme weather events — these terms are now commonplace. It’s almost as if we’ve become acclimatised to our own impending doom.
We live in a time of great transition. Most of us, without vested interests, agree that there is a planetary emergency, and that action must urgently be taken in order to combat it. The days of debating the science are over. Today, it’s a matter of how fast we can transform.
The environment determines the health and wellbeing of every person on this planet — it always has, it always will. No single human is unaffected by nature — it provides the air we breathe, the food we eat, the raw materials with which we build our urban jungles, our medicine, spiritual guidance, clothes, and much more. As such, when nature fails, so do we and the systems that we rely upon. But when nature flourishes, we too thrive.
We must see this as time of great opportunity: the end of the Industrial Revolution and the beginning of the Environmental Revolution. In this new era, where we give back to nature as much as we have taken from it, we will see a fortune far exceeding that which we dug up from beneath the earth.
With the Industrial Revolution there was, and is, vast inequality, with some countries having grown wealthy at the expense of others. The Environmental Revolution must be one of lessons learnt. It must include equal opportunity to climate mitigation, ocean conservation and species preservation methods, fostering the explosion of innovation that will no doubt come.
The new systems that will emerge out of the next decades must be based on sustainable principles, globally agreed and globally upheld. Where countries fail, they must be held to account, assisted and capacitated. We must not view each country’s actions as the sum of their achievements, success must instead be viewed as a global total.
Above all else, we must remember: the ocean is the unsung hero of our planet, having protected us from the worst of climate change so far. But it is struggling to cope under mounting pressures. The ocean presents a myriad of natural solutions to decarbonise our planet while at the same time being a sustainable source of natural resources. And yet, it still fails to get the attention required to utilise this powerful engine of decarbonisation effectively.
And so, world leaders, we would ask that you take a moment and look out to the ocean. Admire its majesty, its power and its vastness and consider this:
The ocean is the single largest ecosystem on Earth, it stores more carbon than any other biome and has the potential to supply a sustainable source of food, energy, transportation and climate regulation, if cared for properly. But no one owns the ocean, and therefore no one speaks out for the ocean. Its condition is worsening, and the impacts so far have often been silent, invisible but no less catastrophic. We would ask, instead, that everyone speak out for the ocean. Consider the role of the ocean in every decision-making process, be it political, environmental, economic, social, recreational or even personal.
At COP26, we ask you to speak out for the ocean as it has no spokesperson, no government, no pavilion or voice. Without a healthy ocean, we cannot hope to combat climate change. The two are fundamentally interlinked, it would be as if to ride a bike without wheels, or sail a boat without canvas. It just will not work.
And so, again, world leaders, at COP26, speak out for the ocean and usher in the Environmental Revolution.
Our world is in your hands.
Sam Collins, Oceano Azul Foundation
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