Ocean Literacy needs you. A new opportunity for nations to support ocean sustainability

UNESCO Regional Bureau of Science and Culture in Europe hosted in Venice, Italy, from 12-13 December 2019 the Workshop on Ocean Literacy for the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030). The Decade should promote ocean literacy across the world to anchor mind-sets around the fundamental relationship humanity has with the ocean; it needs to be inclusive, participative, and interdisciplinary. During the workshop, representatives of the global community of Ocean Literacy were summoned  to discuss and support the development of an Ocean Literacy Strategy for the UN Decade.

Ocean Literacy is a fundamental tool to enhance ocean knowledge, but also to encourage citizens and stakeholders to have an active role in the implementation of sustainable actions of both individual and collective levels. The UN Decade will provide a once in a lifetime opportunity for nations to work together to generate the global ocean science needed to support the sustainable development of our shared ocean, and ocean literacy will be a fundamental instrument to reach the final goal.

The marine realm is the largest component of the Earth’s system that stabilizes climate and supports life on Earth and human well-being. However, World Ocean Assessment I released in 2016 found that much of the ocean is now seriously in great damage, with changes and losses in the structure, function and benefits from marine systems. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate highlights the urgency of prioritizing timely, ambitious and coordinated action to address unprecedented and enduring changes in the ocean and cryosphere. Human influence on the ocean has never been so intense and the ocean is shaped more and more by competing uses and activities.

To find solutions to the major societal challenges of today, urgent action is needed: the climate and biodiversity crisis, and pressing pollution problems. We need to join efforts towards the ocean we need for the future we want: clean, healthy and resilient, predicted, safe, sustainably harvested and productive, and transparent and accessible.

It is our responsibility to act with urgency  to provide solutions to society’s major current challenges, responding to the climate and biodiversity crisis and pollution. Young professionals as catalysts for change need to collaborate with scientists to work together in an interdisciplinary effort to promote an ambitious top-down and bottom-up movement to meet the SDGs.

The Decade will invite all stakeholders to become part of a "Generation Ocean". This brand will provide a clear call to action for everyone who wants to become part of the Decade's efforts to understand the ocean and to take the crucial actions that are needed to protect it for future generations.

Exploring how people interact with and relate to the ocean and its other non-human users can help to understand how environmental change is experienced. Hence, scientists and young professionals must collaborate and exchange knowledge and know-how to promote ambitious top-down and bottom-up movements to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The Decade must be inclusive, participative, and interdisciplinary and will require a powerful marketing and communication strategy, advancing stakeholder partnerships across different disciplines. Ocean Literacy is therefore a critical element in disseminating the inextricable and irreplaceable relationship humanity has with the ocean. It is imperative to understand that, Ocean Literacy is the educational backbone required to change the current ocean narrative towards a more engaging and sustainable future.

Ahead of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030), the workshop on Ocean Literacy in Venice, organized with the support of the Government of Sweden, was chief to enabling & scaling action at all levels, as well as connecting ocean science to the real needs of society.

Among the participants, were representatives of NGOs, governments, universities and philanthropies coming from 25 countries. Drawn through the vision of participants with passion and energy, the ocean literacy strategy identifies its objectives for the UN Decade of Ocean Science, including activities to be developed in the context of formal and informal education, public communication and corporate social responsibility. The draft ocean literacy strategy will be finalized in January and open for comments through a large public consultation.

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