Ocean: real lungs of world

Scientists, athletes, journalists, digital influencers and artists gathered in Rio de Janeiro for the Conexão Oceano (Ocean Connection) event to discuss the importance of marine ecosystems for survival and wellbeing on Earth, in the context of the upcoming United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, proclaimed by the United Nations for the period 2021-2030.

According to data from the Brazilian Institute of Forests, seaweed accounts for 54% of the world’s oxygen production and the ocean acts as the planet’s chief climate regulator. Without the services provided by the ocean, global temperature could exceed 100oC and make life on Earth impossible. In addition, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) also indicates that fish and seafood are the main source of protein for one in four people in the world.

Recognizing the importance of a healthy ocean for both human and planetary wellbeing, over 350 people gathered last Tuesday (3/9) at Rio de Janeiro’s Museu do Amanhã (Museum of Tomorrow) to launch a public movement, dubbed Ocean Connection, to promote a healthier relationship with the ocean, and call for science-based solutions to its many problems from warming to plastic pollution.

Key personalities from Brazilian media, sports, and academia led the debate, includind actor Mateus Solano, journalists Sônia Bridi and Paula Saldanha, actress Maria Paula Fidalgo, Olympic sailor Isabel Swan, businessman Vilfredo Schurmann, surfer Rico de Souza, researchers Frederico Brandini, Alexander Turra and Ronaldo Christofoletti, among others.

Mainly made up of communicators and representatives of business, research and academia (including many students), the Ocean Connection participants discussed the rapidly declining health of the ocean, and shared best ways to engage society around the issue, which is extremely relevant to Brazil’s survival and economic and social development.

Professor at the Oceanographic Institute of the University of São Paulo (USP), Frederico Brandini highlighted the important role of the oceans, remembering that they are the true lungs of the world. “It’s where seaweed is responsible for producing most of the oxygen consumed on the planet. If we want to continue to enjoy the ocean’s bounty, we need to improve its presence in the elementary school curriculum. In addition to education, another way to preserve the seas is by communicating more, and better,” he emphasized.

Brazilian TV star Mateus Solano reminded participants that humans do not own the planet. “We are its children. We need to take a few steps back and understand which wrong paths we have taken throughout history. One of them has been to use so much plastic. If we don’t rethink all this, nature will continue to suffer. And it’s important to remember that the Planet doesn’t need us. We need it.”

According to the executive director of the Boticário Group Foundation for Nature Protection, Malu Nunes, the main objective of the event – co-organized jointly with UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC), UNESCO’s Office in Brazil and the Museum of Tomorrow – was to bring people closer to the oceans. “We are committed to protecting the seas, engaging society and helping to build a stronger economy, broader welfare and conserved marine life. The idea is to detect the main challenges and collect inputs to achieve this goal,” she said.

Communication for Ocean Action

The event was the first held in Brazil aimed specifically at communicators, influencers and researchers, with the aim of structuring guidelines to engage society to act toward understanding and protecting the ocean. “Communication is a very important factor for the safeguarding and restoration of the ocean’s health. That is why the media play a major role in raising public awareness. Ocean degradation affects not only those who live on the coast, but also those inland,” said Frederico Saraiva Nogueira, Vice-Chair for Latin America and the Caribbean at UNESCO’s IOC.

The event also highlighted the link between ocean degradation and its negative impacts on our food security. “We need to reverse this situation urgently, as tragedy is imminent. The Paris Agreement and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) must be met worldwide and Brazil has a key role to play in these goals, through its fantastic marine diversity. This initiative to host the event plays a major role in helping to spread good information and arouse in people the commitment to defend the ocean, which is so important for our future, “said the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Ocean, Peter Thomson.

For Alexander Turra, UNESCO Chair for Ocean Sustainability at the University of São Paulo, we need to relate ocean life to society’s everyday life. “Scientists need to be increasingly protagonists of information. It is useless to stay inside the labs and avoid interaction with society. We need to communicate simply and objectively about what we stand for.”

Vilfredo Schurmann, well-known Brazilian ocean explorer, pointed out that “the sea is losing its breath due to excessive pollution. And I could see it around the world. ” Specializing in environmental journalism, Sônia Bridi stated that “civilization depends heavily on the preservation of the environment and our awareness that something needs to be done”. The ideas that emerged during Ocean Connection will be part of communication strategies for the conservation and sustainability of the oceans and marine life, in the framework of the Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development.

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