An alliance to make peace between humankind and its life support system: the oceans
"We are at war with the oceans. We are destroying the magic blue universe beneath us with the exploitative way we are doing business, before we even really explored it.
It’s on us creators, thinkers, leaders to own this problem. And to solve it. Parley for the Oceans is designed as a collaboration space for exactly this process."
Cyrill Gutsch, Founder, Parley For The Oceans
Under the auspices of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, 2015 was a crucial year for climate change negotiations. It was therefore also a decisive year for our oceans. At COP21, world leaders reached an ambitious and universally binding agreement on commitments to combat global warming, the Paris Climate Deal. To keep climate issues high on the 2030 agenda, the President of the General Assembly convened a High-Level Event on Climate Change on June 29, 2015. On this occasion, an unprecedented Parley Talks session and UN x Parley launch event under the title “Oceans. Climate. Life.” was held at the United Nations in New York.
There are 7 billion people on this planet. By 2025, the global population is expected to increase to 10 billion. The Earth is habitable today because life evolved for hundreds of millions of years on land and in the oceans. We are intricately and indivisibly connected to the sea, and yet today we collectively pose its greatest threat. In the run-up to COP21, no agenda to protect “people, planet, and prosperity” in the face of climate change is complete without due focus on the ecosystem that connects and sustains us all.
“Oceans. Climate. Life.” brought together notable guests from the worlds of fashion, art, entertainment, science and environmentalism in one of the most important and iconic buildings in the world, the General Assembly Hall of the United Nations. The evening featured exclusive artwork by Julian Schnabel, a Blue Carpet reception and a compact series of talks where Parley speakers gave a briefing on the state of the oceans, climate change and the power and necessity of collaborating to build and enact solutions. In a major milestone for the movement, UN x Parley successfully raised public awareness of the threats to
our oceans, celebrated the formation of new alliances to protect them and most importantly, helped bring ocean conservation to the forefront of solutions surrounding a post-2015 development plan.
Three months after UN x Parley, world leaders convened at the September 25 UN Sustainable Development Summit to adopt a new agenda that will guide action for people and the planet through 2030. The ambitious agreement sets forth 17 new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), or Global Goals, to end extreme poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and avoid the worst impacts of climate change. Crucial to the successful realization of all three aims is the inclusion of the first ocean-specific development objective, Goal 14.
While Goal 14 is focused on the conservation and sustainable use of “Life Below Water,” each of the 17 goals and their interdependent targets are underlined by one vital truth: We are all connected to the oceans. The successful realization of any goal to protect the future of humanity is inevitably and inherently dependent on the great unifier — the sea.
The oceans are the planet’s largest climate regulator. They cover 71 percent of the Earth’s surface, contain 97 percent of the world’s water supply and comprise 99 percent of the Earth’s living space. Life in the sea provides more than half the oxygen we breathe, as well as food and livelihoods for billions. The oceans also sustain humanity in the intangible and invaluable sense; the sea is a universal source of inspiration, discovery and healing.
We all love the oceans. But more importantly, we all need the oceans. And we need them to be healthy. It is our obligation to learn to coexist with the fragile ecosystems that support life, in all its forms, above and below the surface. Our future, and every generation hereafter, depends on it. In order to catalyze long-term solutions, we need sustainability to fit realistically into our everyday lives upstream. We have to make it more lucrative for businesses to protect the oceans than it is to further destroy them, and it's up to the creative industries — artists, designers, scientists, musicians and activists — to help make this happen.
In forming an alliance with the United Nations, we’re moving the climate change conversation into a new realm, one where solutions are not only possible, but also acted upon. Through creativity and collaboration, we can negotiate peace between humankind and nature.
"Oceans. Climate. Life." is more than the title of a launch event held at the United Nations. It’s the beginning of an unprecedented collaboration, a celebration of new partnerships and the start of a unique approach to solutions. It is a rally cry and a call to action — one that challenges and widens the definition of environmentalism and marks a watershed moment in the way we act on and towards this blue speck of the universe we call home.
The ink on an agreement, be it between nations, corporations, or individual collaborators, is only the first step. Our work has only just begun. Let’s finish what we started for the benefit of the oceans, the climate, and all life on Earth.