Oceans and people

Meeting and Event: World Oceans Day: Presentations on the theme “Oceans and people”

Date/Location: Monday, June 10, 2013; NLB Conference Room 6

Speakers: Ms. Patricia O’Brien (Under-Secretary-General, Legal Affairs, The Legal Counsel); Dr. Alex de Voogt (Curator of African Ethnology); Dr. Jennifer Newell (Curator of Pacific Ethnology)

Attended by: Marli Kasdan, Alyssa Strasser, Gregory Swistel, Nora Crossnohere, Sunny Hor, Iman Yashruti, Mary Lam, Janice H.W. Wong, Candace Tang

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WIT claims no attribution to the above photo -Source; http://www.virgin.com 

Today at the United Nations, a meeting for World Oceans Day was held in the North Lawn Building. The meeting began with opening remarks from Ms. Patricia O’Brien on the establishment of World Oceans Day in 2009 which was created as a day to celebrate and recognize the vital importance of our worlds’ oceans.

This years theme is “Oceans and People” which focuses on how oceans play a key role in in our lives in various aspects. They serve as a source of nutrition, recreation, energy resources, as well as transportation. However, increasing human activities and environmental degradation have negative impacts on our oceans and ecosystems. The impacts of climate change are leading to a depletion in the world’s fisheries, a loss of biodiversity, and the deterioration of marine environments across the planet.

However, Ms. O’Brien pointed out that much of this damage to our oceans can be reversed through the efforts of the international community in creating environmental policy to protect the oceans.

The first keynote speaker, Dr. Alex de Voogt presented on the history of the Indian Ocean in relation to the spread of games through trade and the diffusion of cultures. He studied the similarities and differences between card games and board games found on different islands and coastal continental areas in the Indian Ocean. His study found that many games in these areas, though separated by hundreds of miles of sea, are strikingly similar.

This shows how through trade and the transfer of ideas and the spread of culture, different communities and cultural groups shared their knowledge across the Indian Ocean. For example, today in Sri Lanka, a card game called 304 is played which originated in the Netherlands. 304 was brought by Dutch traders to Sri Lanka in the 17th and 18th centuries. Derivations of this game are also found in India and South Africa, further proving the spread of culture through trade. Throughout history, the Indian Ocean has served as a vast tool for cultural exchange and the spread of knowledge and ideas to different groups of people.

The second speaker, Dr. Jennifer Newell spoke about climate change and its effect on the people living in the Pacific islands. The Pacific Ocean covers 1/3 of the globe and is home to 25,000 islands, 10,000 of which are inhabited. Due to climate change and rising sea levels, by 2015, 75 million people will become displaced in the Pacific region.

Climate change and human activities are leading to global warming, acidification of the oceans, fewer food resources, and a loss of species. These negative impacts gravely effect Pacific Islanders, especially when global warming is leading to dangerous rising sea levels. Global warming is also having an effect on weather patterns, with cyclones and title waves becoming more frequent and more intense.

Severe weather and coastal flooding and erosion threaten the livelihoods of the Pacific Islanders and ancestral lands and homes are quickly disappearing. The people of the Pacific islands are contributing the least to this climate change, yet they are the ones suffering the most.

Their physical, spiritual, and economic well being are continually threatened, yet Dr. Newell points out that their traditional knowledge can be used to combat some of the impacts of climate change. For Pacific Islanders, their political life, self conception, and identity are closely linked with the ocean.

Edited By : Wayne Dean Doyle

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