Dr. Sylvia Earle addressed the United Nations Tuesday afternoon, urging the body to take action and implement an agreement that would bring law and order to the High Seas — an area half the size of our planet that is currently plundered and polluted with abandon.
Read Dr. Sylvie Earle’s bold remarks below. She’s right: the ten year olds are watching!
Thank you, Co-Chairs, for the privilege of speaking officially on behalf of Mission Blue, and unofficially, for those who cannot speak for themselves – the children of today and for all of those in the future – our descendants who will from their place in the future either applaud or condemn our actions – or lack of actions – concerning establishing governance – a strong and meaningful implementing agreement under UNCLOS for biodiversity of half the world, the high seas – the ocean beyond national jurisdiction. Of course existing agreements must be respected. But is clear that the present framework has not and cannot address circumstances that are now a new reality.
The United Nations came into existence in 1945. I personally came into existence ten years earlier, and as a child was barely aware of the historic actions then being addressed by my species. The ten year olds of today are more likely to be tuned in to the significance of the actions being deliberated here. They – and we – are armed with access to unprecedented knowledge, information that did not exist when I was a child.
In less than half a century, we have come to understand what our predecessors could not: the living ocean – the living ocean – drives climate and weather, generates most of the oxygen in the atmosphere, takes up much of the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere, holds 97% of Earth’s water and embraces 97% of the biosphere. Now we know. Humankind is altering the nature of the ocean and therefore, the nature of nature, through what we are putting in and through what we are taking out of the sea. The ocean is large and resilient, but it is not too big to fail. What we are taking out of the sea, what we are putting into the sea are actions that are undermining the most important thing the ocean delivers to humankind – our very existence.
The new reports this week in Science, NY Times, and the Economist are among many examples of the evidence concerning the drastic reduction in the quantity and diversity of marine systems in recent decades, and raise real concerns about the consequences to humankind of these impacts. There is a direct link between the state of life in the ocean and a planet that works in our favor. All of humankind relies on the ocean for everything we care about – prosperity, health, security – our very existence. No ocean, no life. No blue, no green. No ocean, no us. An ocean in trouble means civilization in trouble. The highest priority for humankind is to keep the world safe for our children. To do so means taking care of the natural ocean systems that make life possible.
The status quo is not adequate and is not acceptable. It is high time for the High Seas, the blue half of the world, to be recognized as the blue heart of the planet, the cornerstone of Earth’s life support system, the vast but vulnerable part of the planet that until recent decades has not only been beyond the limits of national jurisdiction, but also beyond the reach of the ability of humans to effectively exploit it for short term gain.
We have an opportunity – right now – to fill the gaps in governance of half of the world, the blue half that has a disproportionately significant role in maintaining Earth as a planet hospitable for life as we know it. Armed with new knowledge, we have a chance, right now, this week, to encourage governance to safeguard the high seas – as never before in history. And maybe, as never again.
(The ten year olds are watching.)