14.05.2012 - ODG

The future of earth depends on the sea - 'Mainichi Newspaper' (Japan)

Published in Mainichi Newspaper on 14 May 2012.

Japan is a “maritime State” 海洋国家 (Kaiyō Kokka), and the Japanese people know that green growth and sustainable development are predicated on responsible management of ocean resources and costal zones.

This is not merely an environmental issue: it is an economic and social priority. Millions of jobs in industry, tourism, transport and energy depend on the sea. More than 40% of the world’s population live within 100 kilometres of the coast. Thirteen of the 20 largest cities in the world, such as Rio de Janeiro, Tokyo, Karachi and Manila, are on the coast. These zones are on the front line of global warming, rising sea levels and tsunamis. They are the first to suffer the consequences.

It is vital to train people to preserve oceans and coasts. That is the goal of UNESCO’s Sandwatch programme, launched 10 years ago in the Caribbean to train young people, which has since become a global initiative.

This issue far exceeds the scope of individuals. Ocean protection requires stronger legal, scientific and political cooperation among nations. Barely more than 1% of the world’s oceans are protected. Ocean absorption of surplus carbon dioxide released by global warming causes acidification that jeopardizes plankton and, consequently, the entire food chain, not to mention the  consequences of overfishing and pollution. Today, hundreds of floats deployed under the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS), coordinated by UNESCO and largely supported by the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) and Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC), are used to measure ocean temperature, salinity and tsunami risk. We must do more. UNESCO and its partners will make strong proposals in Rio to coordinate the action of ocean-protection bodies more effectively, support the green growth of small island developing States and strengthen the scientific monitoring of oceans and coastal zones.

I remember the words of a citizen of Sendai, who told me that we cannot negotiate with nature, but can act to live in harmony with it. When I arrive in Rio for the sustainable development summit, I know that when the buildings along the coast come into view, I shall think of those words, convinced that the sea will determine the future of Earth.

                                                                                          Irina Bokova

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