WMU takes part in Ocean Literacy Conference
WMU President Doumbia-Henry was a keynote speaker at the Ocean Literacy Conference that took place in Malmö, Sweden from 6 to 7 December. WMU says the conference brought together nearly 100 participants to inspire and debate marine education and ocean literacy from a local perspective, focusing in particular on coastal cities. The event was held in support of achieving UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.
The conference addressed how to instill knowledge about the sea at an early age, motivating future generations to undertake preventative work and increase knowledge and understanding regarding the importance of our ocean. Main topics included capacity development and knowledge alliances for the sea, the role and responsibilities of coastal towns and cities, and ocean literacy in schools.
President Doumbia-Henry noted that a major challenge for achieving sustainable management of the ocean and to increase ocean literacy is to overcome what is sometimes referred to as “ocean blindness.” She stated, “Although we may live all our lives in a region close to the sea, we are essentially land-based creatures who spend most of our time on land. Hence, finding a connection to the sea, as well as recognising and appreciating all the services the sea provides us, may be difficult. It is imperative to understand how human activities affect the ocean and the marine ecosystem as well as how the ocean affects life on land.”
The President emphasized the important role the ocean plays as a climate regulator, provider of food, and driver for economic development with shipping facilitating over 80% of global trade. She noted the important role that education and training has in safeguarding this precious resource and ensuring safe, secure, and efficient shipping on clean and sustainably used oceans. In that regard, she highlighted the WMU-Sasakawa Global Oceans Institute that was inaugurated this past May. The Institute aims to act as an independent focal point for ocean-related dialogue and capacity-building, enhancing the University’s goal to continue building maritime and ocean-related capacity for sustainable development.
The conference focused on promoting marine education at an early age, and 14 year old Ms. Stella Bowles was a featured speaker. Ms. Bowles rose to prominence in Canada as a young environmentalist when she discovered that untreated wastewater was released through straight pipes directly into the LaHave river near her home. At 11 years old, as part of her school science project, she developed a water sampling toolkit and programme for young people in Canada. Her efforts resulted in the government providing 15.7 million CAD for a LaHave River clean-up plan. In commenting about the future, she stated, “I’m hopeful that more youth will take on causes that they believe in themselves and create more change.” In addition to Ms. Bowles, several local, school-age students were in attendance from Kryddgårdsskolan and Malmö Latin school and provided thoughtful input to the panel debate.
In 2017, Sweden and Fiji co-chaired a high-level Conference at the United Nations to support the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development. The City of Malmö, ICLEI and WMU together committed to use the Life Below Water 2017 conference in Malmö as a starting point for a mobilization of action at a local level led by local governments. The Ocean Literacy Conference was the next step and was organized by the City of Malmö and WMU in cooperation with the Marine Educational Center in Malmö and IOC-UNESCO.