Last weekend, HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco convened a summit on sea level rise and ocean acidification – two of the most pressing environmental issues caused by our carbon dioxide emissions – alongside partners from The Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego. The three-day retreat had a special focus on catalyzing leadership strategies to adapt to these ecological changes, with a special focus on the Pacific.
“The focus [of the retreat] is on solutions,” said Margaret Leinen, director of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego. “We already see acidification taking place. We already see sea level rising. So how are we going to adapt to that? I think it’s really a question of putting good science together with good strategies.”
The summit and awards ceremony took place at Sunnylands – a famed high-level retreat center and estate in Rancho Mirage, CA that is often called a West Coast “Camp David.” The select group of retreat participants included policymakers, scientists, engineers and other public figures. President Anote Tong of Kiribati attended to highlight the plight of his low-lying Pacific island nation, which will face displacement as sea levels rise forcing refugees to move to other countries in the coming decades.
“For thousands of years, humanity has considered the sea as an infinite source of wealth, which was easy to exploit with no concern about its renewal. We now know that these vast expanses are not infinite. And above all, we know that our activities will have repercussions on them. Preservation of the environment cannot be accomplished against humans, on the contrary: it can only work by establishing a sustainable model, capable of reconciling the legitimate goals of population development and the impassable requirements of nature,” said HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco. “By preserving the environment, and in particular the oceans which cover more than 70% of the world’s surface, it is simply a question of making sure that future generations live on a planet which is not hostile towards them.”
The weekend concluded with the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation Awards Ceremony to recognize exceptional work to address the Foundation’s three priority fields of activity: “to limit the effects of climate change, to preserve biodiversity, to manage water resources and to combat desertification.” Mission Blue founder Dr. Sylvia Earle received a special Lifetime Achievement Award. “It’s a tremendous honor to be awarded recognition by his Serene Highness Prince Albert,” Earle said. “You can’t just address climate issues by looking up, you also have to look down and out into the ocean. It governs climate and weather.”
The Climate Change Award went to Professor Ove Hoegh Guldberg – founder and director of The University of Queensland’s Global Change Institute and Coordinating Lead Author for the ‘Oceans’ chapter for the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – for his outstanding research and advocacy surrounding the impacts of climate change and ocean acidification on coral reef ecosystems. The Biodiversity Award honored the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species for the organization’s leadership in researching and seeking solutions for environmental impacts that threaten species. The IUCN Red List is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. The Water Award was given to Mr. Ma Jun of the People’s Republic of China for his exceptional work as a journalist and environmentalist recognized for having investigated water and river pollution in China. In 2009 Ma Jun received the Ramon Magsaysay Award – one of the most prestigious awards in Asia – for raising awareness about sustainable water resources management. Previous recipients of the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation Awards, which began in 2008, include Dr. Jane Goodall, Dr. E.O. Wilson and Dr. Jane Lubchenco. This is the first time the awards have been presented in the United States.
Featured image (top): Sylvia Earle celebrating at the Prince Albert II of Monaco Awards Ceremony with Mission Blue Board Members Shari Sant Plummer, Jenifer Austin and Patty Elkus along with Phillipe and Ashlan Cousteau. Image © Patty Elkus