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Oceano Azul Foundation: Protecting, promoting & valuing our Oceans


Our Global Alliance is a network of global organisations committed to environmental action who share the ambition of The Prize to repair the planet, as well as academic and non-profit institutions and private sector alliances from around the world. Our Global Alliance and nominators are a key part of Earthshot, and as such, their news is great news for the environment and something we look forward to sharing on a regular basis.

This week, our nominator, Oceano Azul Foundation, talks about the ways they are protecting, promoting & valuing our oceans.

As terrestrial animals, we humans can sometimes struggle to comprehend an ocean in crisis. We instinctively view a forest fire as destruction of habitable land, but a polluted ocean, a warmer ocean or a barren ocean does not set off the same alarm bells. It can be said, therefore, that the ocean suffers from what is essentially a marketing issue – it is out of sight, and therefore out of mind. But without a healthy ocean, we cannot have a healthy planet.

Covering 70% of the planet the ocean is the largest biome on Earth, supplying half of the oxygen we breathe and absorbing a quarter of all CO2 released from human activities. As the planet’s air conditioning system, the ocean regulates our climate and absorbs 90% of the excess heat produced by anthropogenic activities. Supplying food for billions and employment for millions, it enables transport and provides us with renewable energy. If this was not enough, the ocean’s living biomass and habitats constitute the largest carbon store on Earth.

However, our fossil-fuel dependence and extractive linear economies have led to an ocean in crisis. From overfishing, marine dead zones and declining biodiversity to acidification, deoxygenation and overheating to extreme weather events, rising sea levels and disappearing polar ecosystems. These impacts have been compounded by procrastination from decision-makers failing to factor the ocean, and its natural capital and wildlife, into the economic and policy making systems, and so without effective governance, there has been little accountability, and as such the ocean’s declining health has gone unchecked.

This paints a bleak picture for sure, but the ocean is not beyond hope. And it cannot be beyond hope, as the ocean presents the greatest ally in the fight against climate change. This incredible blue beating heart presents a myriad of natural solutions to decarbonise our planet while at the same time supplying a growing human population with sustainable food and renewable energy. The ocean is the unsung hero of our planet, having protected us from the worst of climate change so far – if “our house is on fire” then the ocean is our steadfast fire door. But even the ocean has its limits, and as we need the ocean, now the ocean needs us, to restore, regenerate and rejuvenate its waters. There is an amazing amount of work being done to revive our ocean, innovative solutions are being developed and where protection is successfully implemented, the ocean has shown great capacity to rebound. The issue now, is scale and timing. A scale to match the vastness of the ocean. And an urgency to implement the solutions now.

In 2021, scaling up ocean ambition must be the focus. We have the science, we have the solutions, we have the civil society will and both private and public funds can be mobilised. Now we need the political will and a plan. We need governments and decision-makers to recognise the global importance of the ocean and invest in transforming our societies beyond their terms or mandates. Positive indication have been emerging in light of the pandemic, in which we are seeing mainstream scienced-based governance and this must continue.

In the next 12 months, world leaders will gather at three key meetings to discuss three vital aspects of our environmental crisis – biodiversity at the Convention of Biological Diversity, in Kunming, China; climate at the UNFCCC COP26, in Glasgow, Scotland; and the ocean, at the UN Ocean Conference, in Lisbon, Portugal. Never before has it been more important for decision-makers to listen to science and be ambitious, but more than that, showcase their action plans. These three topics – ocean, climate and biodiversity – can no longer be discussed in isolation, but must act as pillars to an environmental revolution that puts nature at the heart of our future.

We stand at a tipping point in time upon which future generations will reflect on when collective, global action was taken to combat the environmental crisis or when, in spite of science, business-as-usual and the old economic vices of carbonising the planet and destroying nature prevailed.

At Oceano Azul Foundation, we work to ensure that the science-based transformative actions needed to support decision-makers  are developed to promote the solutions we need for the future we want. Our programs are founded on our motto “from the ocean’s point of view”, and built around three concepts: blue generation to promote ocean literacy where it is needed – be it in schools or governments; blue natural capital to raise the profile of ocean science at the policy-making level, incentivise new innovative blue biotech solutions and protect and restore marine ecosystems; and blue network to influence international ocean governance and build diverse partnerships for transformative solutions.

We support the ambition of The Earthshot Prize as it tackles the 5 most pressing issues facing our environment this decade, and reviving our ocean ties them all together. Without the ocean we will not fix our climate, the two are inextricably linked and the solutions that lie beneath the waves are many. Protecting and restoring nature is fundamental to a healthy ocean and climate, as increased biodiversity acts as a natural carbon store, stabilising our ecosystems, bringing balance. This balance in turn promotes the ocean’s natural capacity to provide many ecosystems services including absorbing carbon dioxide and cleaning our air. And lastly, the ocean has suffered much from our wasteful economies, bearing the brunt of our pollution, and yet it selflessly offers many solutions to catalyse a circular economy and build a waste-free world. The potential is there, we just have to realise it.

Both the COVID-19 pandemic and the ocean crisis highlight how interconnected our societies are, in that threats do not respect borders, and that global crises demand global solutions. Ultimately, we need to reimagine our relationship with nature and move away from outdated, destructive and carbonising economies towards a system that protects, promotes and values nature. In this decade we will witness the transition from the era of the Industrial Revolution to the era of the Environmental Revolution, in which we must recognise both our dependence on the natural world and the ocean as our life-support system.

As without the ocean, the Earth has no shot.

Find out more about Oceano Azul
The Earthshot Prize