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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Statement made at Rio+20 United Nations Sustainable Development Dialogues - Asha de Vos

Photo credit IISD Reporting Services

Photo credit IISD Reporting Services

Me taking a picture of you on live TV. Photo credit Yasha Hetzel.

Sylvia Earle, Ocean Hero, My Hero.
Photo credit IISD Reporting Services.

I would like to begin by applauding and thanking the Brazilian government for their efforts to engage and involve civil society in this otherwise high level and exclusive meeting. I feel honoured to have been invited to sit on this panel amongst some great ocean heroes and represent the youth of our planet ocean.

I believe the biggest achievement we have had since the first Rio summit is getting the oceans on the agenda. We have a number of people to thank for that, some who are present and others who aren't. It is an incredible achievement and we must not fail to recognize that. Now I believe we must honor their efforts a use this opportunity wisely bearing in mind that the unfortunate truth is that the future we want is not in 20 years time. It is more immediate. It is tomorrow.

We have already left it too late because we have been complacent and left it in the hands of governments for the last 2 decades. But we are all part of the problem and so instead of depending so heavily on this top down approach that we now know does not work effectively on its own, we need to evolve a different way of thinking. We need to empower people with knowledge so they can make informed decisions. We live in this incredible age of digital technology and social media. We need to embrace the tools that lie at our finger tips to get the word out about oceans and get people excited enough so that we can begin to see the positive change that we so desperately need. We need to involve the local communities in the protection of their own back yard. Mobilize the masses. A bottom up approach might be our only hope.

If governments choose to make pledges then we need to be able to hold them accountable. We need clear and concrete measurable outcomes that are achievable within reasonable timelines. We also need to consider developed and developing countries separately as each have different priorities and face different challenges.


Right now we need more than recommendations. We need actions.Setting targets that look good on paper does not achieve anything. Creating X number of protected areas by a certain date is less important than Measuring the success of the protected areas we already have. I know that in my part of the world these are all paper parks and are possibly more damaged than other areas because all people were ever told about them is that's where theres lots of fish.

The ocean makes up 70 % of Our planet and I believe we need more than a single dialogue to really get any depth of discussion. The current recommendations are all so closely interlinked that it is almost too difficult to vote for them in isolation. This is a true reflection of the complexity of the ocean which we are only just beginning to understand.


That said, I strongly support recommendation number 4 because this is our time to really do something for a part of the ocean that is currently under no governance and i extend my support to recommendations 1 which has already been selected and 10 because they both reflect the important role of education, community engagement and making people part of the solution to save planet ocean.

(To watch my statement at the Rio+20 Oceans themed Dialogue click on the link. I start at 1:03:25)








  1. Hello! I am teacher in Lima, Peru and i found the interview made by a british channel (i think) about the blue whale community in Sri Lanka while i was looking for some whale videos to show my students in class.

    I have searched for your blog just to tell you how amazed i am but what you do, i wish i could do just a little bit of what you are doing and also congratulate you and your team on your job to save the whales. I have seen humpback whales close enough to just imagine how amazingly big blue whales can be!!

    You look soooo happy in this interview and i bet your days are full of adventure. Please carry one with everything you are doing and count on a follower and fan here in Peru.

    (sorry for the long comment)

    Marixu Chocano

  2. Thank you so much for your note Marixu! Its great to know that I have friends around the globe who are doing their part for the world. Your role as a teacher is a very important one. You have the power to guide the next generation of kids down a more sustainable path. I admire you!
    I am not sure what you teach or if you would be up for it but if someday you would like to do a skype chat (in English though!) with your class and myself I would be open to that. To talk about some of the incredible things in the ocean! Let me know and stay in touch! Asha