Notes from America
What Happens in New York – will not stay in New York
It was a strange week to be in America. Within a few days of arriving, Trump had announced the USA was pulling out of the Paris Accord. The news was devastating. I was in Washington at the time and the mood quickly became gloomy, despite the perfect spring weather. It felt like we were all destined for hell in a hand basket.
But then, a few days later I had the opportunity to attend the Ocean’s conference at the United Nations in New York. It was an historic event recognized as humanity’s first universal moment of accountability to remedy the woes we have put upon the Ocean. Rather than denying or backing away from the difficult environmental issues our planet is currently facing, 2000 delegates from 193 United Nations Member States had gathered to take action: head on.
The President of the General Assembly, Peter Thompson, initiated the Ocean’s conference as he saw it as “possibly the best and last real opportunity for the world to come together to take the comprehensive measures required to reverse the decline in the Ocean’s health”. The message is clear. Time is running out. We need to act now.
In many ways, BLUE is a distillation of everything the conference was about. Every one of the 2000 delegates was there because they are working to solve the issues highlighted in the film. And so it was a great honour to have our film presented at the UN by the President of the General Assembly, who introduced our film BLUE with great persuasion.
The importance of interconnecting the issues, of not seeing them as singular or isolated, allowed our film to have a compelling impact on the audience. Many delegates commented on the opportunities they drew from the film: to work in partnerships with others and to use the film as an instrument for change.
The conference not only served as a place to raise awareness of the state of the oceans but It became a powerful platform for a global call for action, providing a tangible opportunity for Governments, agencies and the private sector to make meaningful contributions to the cause.
Voluntary commitments were made by 193 United Nations Member States around issues that included:
- Preventing and cleaning up marine pollution
- Reducing land based pollution
- Reducing agricultural run-off
- Ending overfishing, illegal and unreported and unregulated fishing and destructive practices
- Sustainable management, protection and conservation of marine and coastal ecosystems
- Implementing the Paris Agreement on climate change. Reducing emissions that are causing changes in our oceans.
It was impressive to see the mobilizing high-level leadership and political will. And importantly, to see this political will translated into funding commitments and targets. What happened in New York will have far reaching consequence for marine conservation in every corner of the world – from the Arctic Circle to the Ross Sea in Antarctica.
We now recognize the Oceans are near or at the limit of their ability to provide for human needs and remain viable ecosystems. We need to reverse this trend and recognize that increasing human activity has placed the Ocean in jeopardy. Therefore, it is human activity that must produce the solutions.
Being presented as historic commitments and tangible actions are being decided in a place like the United Nations is exhilarating. But what I took out of the conference was also our capacity for personal power.
We are the individuals who make up the communities and businesses and constituencies. We are the individuals who vote – who consume – who invest – and who show leadership through our actions. It will take all of us to engage in behaviour change and add our voice to the issues. The challenge of reversing the Ocean’s decline has become one of humanity’s greatest imperatives that we all need to engage with.
And so I leave America with more hope. Firstly, because there is a rising solidarity for the Ocean. And secondly, you don’t have to be a President to show leadership.
To see more about the commitments made at the UN Conference, see here: