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Preserving the World's Oceans

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By: Min Xiong (MBA’15)*

The Sustainable Oceans Summit, held at the McDonough School of Business on April 25, began and concluded with a call to action and the start of a movement for millennials.

The summit, hosted by the student-led Georgetown University Sustainable Oceans Alliance (SOA), convened students from campuses across the country as well as leaders from government, nonprofits, the private sector, and academia to address marine health.

Daniela Fernandez, SOA founder and president and a student leader with the Global Social Enterprise Initiative, opened the summit. Nearly two dozen experts, including National Geographic CEO Gary Knell, Mission Blue Founder Sylvia Earle, and The White House National Ocean Council Director Beth Kerttula, discussed climate change and ocean pollution, issues of over-fishing, and the potential impact of technology and multimedia on addressing these threats.

“The ocean touches every one of us,” Earle said. “We are at a pivotal point in history. The next 10 years will determine the next 10,000. Will we have a sustainable future or will we miss the opportunity?”

The summit highlighted the extreme challenges to ocean sustainability. For example, the U.S. State Department estimates that if the status quo is maintained, there will be one ton of plastic waste for every three tons of fish in the ocean. Catherine Novelli, Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and Environment, called on students to make concrete changes in their lives to reduce plastic waste like practicing the “4R’s” when it came to single use plastics: refuse, reduce, reuse, and recycle. Millennials in particular, she stressed, need to mobilize to solve these problems.

Novelli received the SOA’s Changing the Tide Award for her commitment to the protection of the oceans.

“We have to create an ocean of people to spur a tidal wave of action,” she said.

At the conclusion of the event, many students pledged to launch an SOA chapter at their own schools. Palau’s Ambassador to the UN, Stuart Beck, said he would deliver more than 5,000 signatures to the UN Secretary General as part of SOA’s petition to make ocean preservation a sustainable development goal.

“If the oceans become one of the new sustainable development goals, there will be funding, resources, and scientific backing at the U.N.,” Fernandez said. “People will be forced to come to the table and bring their knowledge and expertise to talk about the [problem] at hand.”

You can access link to pictures from the day.


*Min Xiong is the communications assistant for GSEI and a student at Georgetown University McDonough School of Business.