Conservation International, working with fifteen Pacific Island States, is well on its way to establishing the world’s largest ocean preservation areas, four times the size of the United States, and I am lucky enough to be able to be in the Cook Islands to see the launch of the second piece of this pie-- and experience the incredible oceanscape and magnanimous island culture for myself. I guarantee this is definitely worth preserving--that is my canoe on the beach in the foto above!
At the opening of the 43rd Pacific Islands Forum, Cook Island Prime Minister Henry Puna, with great fanfare and extravaganza of local song and dance, officially dedicated The Cook Islands Marine Park--half of Cook Island’s total ocean territory--as this island’s gift to the Pacific Oceanscape and to the world.
Why is this a watershed event? Ask Kiribati President Anote Tong (L foto above). His island state faces unfathomable challenges, however he has gone further than almost anyone to protect some of the planet's most pristine waters for the global good and future generations.
Kiribati is the David up against the Goliath of climate change. As a tiny island nation roughly half the size of London, it is already experiencing first-hand the effects of climate change and rising oceans. As a result, President Anote Tong conceived the Pacific Oceanscape, which is an unprecedented effort among Pacific Island nations to collaboratively and sustainably manage nearly 40 million square kilometers of vital ocean. Designed with support from Conservation International (CI), the Pacific Oceanscape concept was introduced to the Pacific Islands Forum by Kiribati in 2009 and the Framework for the cooperative stewardship of their combined ocean territories was presented a year later, receiving unanimous endorsement by the heads of state and government of all fifteen participating nations.
Together, these fifteen nations of the Pacific Oceanscape control some 10 percent of the world's ocean surface. This is an area four times the size of the United States and economically important waters, hosting the world's largest remaining stocks of tuna and providing nearly half of the world's tuna catch. Ecologically sensitive waters as well, these islands are already seeing and feeling the effects of rising sea levels and are on the front lines of climate change.
In 2011, the Cook Islands followed Kiribati's lead with a commitment to create the Cook Islands Marine Park--this island state's enduring contribution to the grand Pacific Oceanscape plan. Presently being designed in consultation with CI, the 1 million square-kilometer marine park will be the new world's largest marine preserve and comprises half of the Cook Islands' total ocean territory.
"Dr. Greg Stone, CI biologist states, “The Pacific Oceanscape is a watershed moment. Because we've now taken a big chunk of our largest ocean on the Earth and we are going to manage this sustainably. We're going to manage this in a fashion that will increase humanity's well-being in this area."
To Pacific Oceanscape Commissioner Tuiloma Neroni Slade, the sweeping vision of the initiative is grounded in pragmatism. "It's a pledge to ourselves to safeguard our home," he said.
Now let’s see what WE can do in our neck of the woods! If these small island nations can become one large island nation to preserve Earth's largest body of water and set this large precedent, surely we all can find ways to follow suit.
Yes, I bought carbon offsets for my trip, but do I think that is enough? No, not likely. I have, however, been very inspired to try to do my part, hopefully making a little more of a dent in the direction of climate change. I have counted as many as 75 daily decisions -- transportation, food, clothing, habitation, and many more consumer decisions-- that over my lifetime can really make either a contribution to the growing climate change issues, or help reverse the current trend. By making good choices with complete information is one way to make a small dent. But just think of what would happen if everyone used their purchasing power to change the world. Just maybe we would be able to make a substantial contribution to future generations in the same way as the Pacific Islanders.