World Oceans Day 2022: Collaboration, Collections and Cleanups

Tomorrow (or perhaps today for you) – Wednesday, June 8 is World Oceans Day. But, don’t we have One Ocean, just as there is just One Planet?

There are two events I should tell you about. Firstly, the United Nations will have an online event starting at 10:00 am EDT (9:00 am Jamaican time), which will elaborate on the 2022 theme, “Revitalisation: Collective Action for the Ocean.” Topics addressed will include Nature-based Solutions; Local and Indigenous Knowledge; Community and Collaborative Efforts; Biodiversity and Resilience; and Blue Economy, Responsible Management, and Finance; among others. You can register here.

Register for tomorrow’s discussion.

I really want to catch Sylvia Earle’s remarks – she is such an inspiring champion of the seas for all these years. I like this profound quote from Dr. Earle – who is, unbelievably, 86 years old, a former student of and specialist in algae – and she still goes diving:

Take, take, take. We are, indeed, ultimately taking from ourselves, until we are nothing. The “extractive attitude” reminds me of the despicable plans of some members of the International Seabed Authority to start deep sea mining, about which I wrote recently.

The second event is a regional one, later this month: The United Nations Environment Programme’s Cartagena Secretariat and Caribbean Environment Programme (UNEP/CEP) will do a virtual launch of its video celebrating the 35th anniversary of the Cartagena Convention (its full name is The Convention for the Protection and Development of the Marine Environment in the Wider Caribbean Region) with the same “Collective Action” theme. It starts at 10:00 a.m. Jamaica time. You need to register for this.

So, what does “collective action” mean to you? How can we “revitalise” our precious oceans – specifically, the over-fished, plastic-riddled, over-exploited Caribbean Sea?

More frequent, intense beach clean-ups? These seem to have really caught on among youth groups and well-intentioned private sector organisations. There seems to be a beach clean-up somewhere on the island every weekend, and this is awesome. If you participate in one or two of them, however, you will quickly realise the enormity of the problem, and will start to feel that you are just scraping the surface. And we also need to recognise that whatever is happening on land eventually affects the sea – whether it’s trash dumped in gullies, chemicals sprayed on fields, or construction waste from the ongoing highway and hotel construction – which continues at a frenetic pace. Nowhere is further than twenty-five miles from our coastline. So, it will get there.

The Ocean Cleanup’s Interceptor Tender inspects the barrier at the mouth of the Barnes Gully in Kingston Harbour. The other two gullies where barriers are now installed are Kingston Pen Gully and Rae Town Gully. (Photo: GraceKennedy Foundation)

Capturing garbage from the gullies? Well, The Ocean Cleanup has started doing that – a pilot project spearheaded by the GraceKennedy Foundation in collaboration with a number of public and private sector entities, is now collecting the unbelievable amounts of trash from three of the sixteen gullies that drain into Kingston Harbour. Has it been fully tested yet? Time will tell. Oh yes, Recycling Partners of Jamaica is one of those supporting organisations – and is collecting the myriads of plastic PET bottles that are overwhelming our island.

Actions are being taken, worldwide; but will they be enough? We know our oceans are in trouble – and considering that they cover three quarters of the planet, that means we are in trouble, too. So, we have no choice but to continue. If you are not already involved, I urge you to do so. Locally!

I haven’t even mentioned climate change, which is changing everything, and at a pace that some scientists seem to find faster than they had expected. None of it is in the future. It’s in the present.

So, action now, please. And less talk.

Happy World Oceans Day.

The beach in Negril at evening time. (My photo)

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