Sustainable Oceans Summit Hopes to Make Oceans ‘Famous’

April 20, 2017 – The global Sustainable Oceans Alliance (SOA) created by Georgetown student Daniela Fernandez (C’17) is celebrating Earth Day by hosting its third annual Sustainable Oceans Summit.

The summit, held at Georgetown on April 22, will include top experts in the field and will examine the ways in which individuals can facilitate change through entrepreneurship, activism, lifestyle choices, media and art.

“Our goal is to educate people on the critical role that the ocean plays in each of their lives,” says Elena Itameri (C’18), president of SOA’s Georgetown chapter. “The ocean does not only impact people living in coastal regions—it has impacts on the climate, on food security, and on the wellbeing of every individual, regardless of where they are located.”

The 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. event will be livestreamed here.

This year's summit is co-hosted with McCourt E&E, a group of Georgetown McCourt School of Public Policy graduate students focused on energy, environmental and climate change policy solutions headed by founder Will Hackman (G’18).

Making Oceans Famous

Fernandez decided to become the CEO of SOA after graduation and scale its efforts globally. To kick off the expansion, SOA is launching a global campaign at this year’s summit - #MakeTheOceanFamous.

“Because the ocean gives us everything, it deserves better treatment than the wholesale destruction it’s currently undergoing,” says Fernandez, SOA founder and CEO. “With a continued focus on Millennial engagement, our summit's theme of making the ocean ‘famous,’ is designed to make marine environmental threats a mainstream concern.

Earlier this year, the Sustainable Oceans Alliance was named one of only 50 United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network Youth Solutions for its work on oceans, which has included garnering support for the passage of the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goal on the world’s seas

Sustainability: Within Reach

SOA also has supported the creation of two marine protected areas through its youth network, which went on to be designated in 2016 as National Monuments by then-President Barack Obama.

The group partnered with the State Department to bring 150 young leaders from 50+ countries to the Our Ocean Conference in 2016 at Georgetown featuring then-Secretary of State John Kerry.

With the goal of continuing to expose Millennials to high-level meetings, SOA has also partnered with the European Union to co-host the youth leadership aspect of the Our Ocean 2017, taking place in Malta in October.

This year’s summit will include keynote addresses from Enric Sala, founder and director of National Geographic’s Pristine Seas Initiative; Greg Stone, ocean conservation pioneer and executive vice president of Conservation International; and Dr. Paul Bunje, chief scientist of the X Prize foundation.

“Through showcasing leaders that have succeeded at driving progress through innovative thinking and encouraging technological innovation, the summit demonstrates to participants that a sustainable future is within reach,” Hackman says.

World of Difference

The summit will also include skills-based breakout sessions aimed at equipping participants with the intellectual and practical tools to design a future that restores the world’s oceans, and We Are The Oceans (WATO) will launch an interactive new game that connects millions to ocean conservation.

WATO trustee Jude Ower has pioneered the use of gaming to connect people to causes through gaming as founder and CEO of Playmob.

“It’s powerful that participants come here, meet driven peers and speakers who can serve as mentors, and are empowered to create a world of difference,” says Sebastian Nicholls (SFS’16), SOA’s program director. “We can restore the ocean, indeed we must, for all life on Earth depends on healthy seas.”

Oceans and Climate Change

Another key focus of this year's summit is the intersection between climate change and ocean sustainability.

“Rising ocean temperatures due to a warming climate shifts fish feeding and migration patterns and has a huge impact on fisheries all over the world," Hackman says. "Carbon pollution emitted from our industrial processes is being absorbed by the ocean. This shifts the pH balance, making the ocean more acidic, and ocean acidification threatens coral reefs, home to one-quarter of all marine life.

“The threat of climate change to our oceans is huge.”

The United Nations authority on climate change, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, is similarly bringing strong attention to the link between the oceans and climate change and will be releasing a comprehensive scientific report next year, "Special Report on Oceans and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate."

“It's imperative that the world takes action not only on finding ocean conservation solutions but also on rapidly reducing climate-changing greenhouse gasses like carbon dioxide,” Hackman adds.“A large-scale decline of marine life will have massive repercussions for food security and national security for every nation. We have the tools to understand this and make the necessary changes but we must act quickly before it's too late."