World Oceans Day at United Nations

By Lilly Tougas

WOD 01

World Oceans Day 2017 (June 8th) got an early start in NYC. Many events were planned for the week including the inaugural World Ocean Festival and the first ever United Nations Ocean Conference. Starting with a kickoff party at the Central Park Zoo, I joined in on the youth action for our oceans. Meeting up with like-minded citizens between the ages of 10 and 26, we mingled, learned about each other's work and discussed the plans for the Youth Rally for the Ocean happening the following day. We even made creative signs for the marchThat evening, Dr. Wallace J Nichols, author of Blue Mind, gave a truly moving speech. He also gave us blue marbles from his Blue Marbles Project for sharing random acts of blue gratitude around the world. Dr. Nichols said "do not ever make a video, give a talk, or write a report and leave out the vast emotional benefits of a healthy ocean." The audience was taken by his speech and couldn't wait to talk to him more about his blue mind studies!

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The next morning we boarded the ferry for a short ride over to Governor's Island, a 172-acre island in the heart of the New York Harbor, for the inaugural World Ocean Festival and Youth Rally which was put together by the Global Brain Organization in collaboration with many others to be a collective voice for the world's ocean. Starting with a march around the island along the New York Harbor, land marchers, boaters, and it seemed even Lady Liberty cheered us on from the water. The event even featured a full marching-band called The Boyz who came all the way from Fiji. Marching with us were30 life-size cut-outs of the Vaquita Dolphin, the most endangered marine mammal on the planet. The display highlighted the reality that there are only about thirty of these mammalsleft in existence as they have been driven to the brink of extinction due to human activity. Many tents were set up with organizations from all over the globe promoting their causes. The Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation's Jessica Harvey came from the Grand Cayman Islands. Also in attendance were Monterey Bay AquariumWild Over Wildlife members from Florida and Washington D.C., and Bye Bye Plastic Bags all the way from Indonesia, among many others. Some of the groups that partnered to make this event full of ambitious youth were Sea Youth Rise Up, Sean Russell from the Youth Ocean Conservation Summit and Danni Washington from The Big Blue. Young delegates gathered from around the world to represent. The day was full of speakers such as the 10 to 15-yeard old representatives from Heirs To Our Oceans who really motivated their listeners to take action by demanding the ocean is left in good condition for its inheritors. The day ended with the powerful closing remarks from "Her Deepness", Dr. Sylvia Earle who said, "No kid should be left dry." 

WOD 02

Monday morning I set off to join Wyland at the United Nations Headquarters to kick-off the first ever United Nations Ocean Conference where many powerful voices for the ocean gathered for five days. This event coincided with World Oceans Day, to support the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14 which aims to “conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development". Monday, June 4th, was also World Environment Day during which the United Nations held a Green Fair on the Visitors Plaza. Wyland created a painting to commemorate the signing of a new joint partnership between the Wyland Foundation and the United Nations Environment Program to protect the global marine environment through the Wyland World Water Pledge, a 10-year outreach program to inspire and engage every person on earth about the sustainable use of the planet’s ocean, lakes, rivers, streams, and wetlands. Adrian Grenier, actor, filmmaker, social advocate, and co-founder of the Lonely Whale Foundation joined us on the plaza and we congratulated him on being appointed the UN Environment Goodwill Ambassador. The Lonely Whale Foundation was also a big hit during all of the festivities with their "Stop Sucking" campaign and booth where participants were part of a social media commercial advocating for the elimination of plastic straws.

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I closed my time in the Big Apple at the world famous Explorers Club, which served as an amazing gathering place throughout the five days forspeakers, diplomats, celebrities, scientists, organizations and many other individuals from all over the world to network and take part in socializing and refreshments. The entire experience was informative and life-changing from start to finish. With such a wealth of information, I have found myself thinking about what I could leave you with as one final takeaway. I believe the Explorers Club stated it best with this quote from their campaign postcards displayed during World Ocean Week: Ask not what the ocean can do for you, but what you can do for the ocean.

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Ocean Geographic Explorer (OGX) is a diving adventure resource with a special focus on marine photography and ocean conservation. Our content is divided up into six primary categories: Travel, Sea Science,  Equipment, Photography &Video, Conservation, and Lifestyle. We endeavor be a portal for people with all levels of interest in the marine environment  to learn about and become part of a community of like-minded ocean lovers who enjoy sharing their knowledge of and experiences in our fascinating ocean world.

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