“A Healthy and Resilient Ocean” – the fourth event in the UN Ocean Decade’s series of thematic “laboratory” events – took place on 9-11 March 2022. As part of the core event that sets the scene for the rest of the wider event programme (watch the video recording here), iAtlantic Fellows Kristin Burmeister (Scottish Association for Marine Science) and Alicia Mateos-Cárdenas (University College Cork) were invited participants in a panel discussion on “What is your idea of a healthy ocean?”.
Alongside fellow panellists Annelie Chankiewitz and Sophie Wolff (pupils at a Secondary School in Bremen), Britta Knefelkamp (Head of Marine Conservation at the German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation), and Anna Mandel (a visual and performing artist at DEEPWAVE), Kristin and Alicia outlined their perspectives on what a healthy ocean means for them, both personally and in the context of their research. In her response, Kristin spoke about the fluctuating physical state of the ocean and its impact on ecosystems, whilst Alicia highlighted the need to reduce plastic waste and pollution in the ocean – something to which everyone can contribute. Later on in the session, both Alicia and Kristin answered questions from the public about issues related to ocean health and the actions that people can take to contribute to improving, restoring and protecting it.
The UN Ocean Decade laboratory events provide a platform for a wide range of voices to raise awareness of and discuss marine issues. As Alicia noted, “It was very refreshing for me to listen to a variety of speakers from all sorts of backgrounds and continents. The younger generations are very determined to make a positive change and it is great to see platforms like this giving them opportunities to share their ideas, through short videos from some very young kids to teenagers being panellists! As scientists, we need to put more and better effort into communicating our findings in plain language. Environmental and marine problems affect us all and we all can play our role in the solution, but this will only be effective if everyone has access to information on solutions based on scientific evidence.”
Kristin agrees: “I think these panel discussions are a great place for knowledge exchange and explore different views on a topic” she explained. “There is so much information out there that it is hard to see it all. Within your own bubble, you cannot see the wood for the trees. In the panel discussion, people from different bubbles met: an artist, a school class, and experts on either marine plastic pollution, marine conservation or ocean and climate physics. And suddenly, you can see the wood again and you can gain new knowledge beyond that of your usual bubble. We need more of those discussions because I feel they are a step in the right direction to restore the health and resilience of our ocean.”
Indeed, there will be more panel discussions to come in the remaining three thematic Ocean Decade laboratory events coming up over the next few months, which focus on A Safe Ocean (5-7 April 2022), An Accessible Ocean (10-12 May 2022), and a Productive Ocean (31 May – 2 June 2022). These events are online and open to everyone – for more details see the UN Ocean Decade Laboratory website.