Sustainable Oceans Alliance To Host Inaugural Summit

The Georgetown University Sustainable Oceans Alliance will host its first summit, entitled “#ChangingTheTide,” this Saturday in Lohrfink Auditorium with the aim of educating students about the dire state of global ocean health.

The event, which is co-sponsored by the Global Social Enterprise Initiative and the Lecture Fund, will feature a series of guest speakers from the fields of science, policy and business, including National Geographic CEO Gary Knell, Undersecretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment Catherine Novelli and Mission Blue Founder Sylvia Earle.

The summit, which will run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., will center its major themes around the fate of global fisheries and considerations of the world’s ocean economy. In addition to keynote speeches, the summit will also feature panel discussions and networking opportunities.

An estimated 200 students from over 30 universities will attend the summit, in addition to approximately 1,000 students worldwide who will view the summit via live broadcast.

GUSOA was founded in August 2014 as an advocacy group in response to alarming factors regarding the state of the global ocean. For instance, United Nations experts predict that all of the ocean’s fish could disappear by 2050 if current commercial fishing practices continue, leading to the loss of the main protein source for approximately one billion people worldwide.

GUSOA President and Founder Daniela Fernandez (COL ’16) said that such predictions have dangerous implications for the future.
“When you put that [prediction] into context, that means that when our kids are our age, we won’t have [the ocean as we know it] anymore,” Fernandez said.

In addition, Fernandez said that many students are unaware of the fact that air quality is tied to ocean health, as phytoplankton produce half of the world’s oxygen via photosynthesis.

“Most people don’t know that,” Fernandez said. “They think [that air quality is only tied to] trees.”

In light of these issues, GUSOA plans to unveil a letter it wrote to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the UN General Assembly, “Make Ocean Sustainability a Sustainable Development Goal,” at the event.

The online petition encourages the UN to adopt ocean sustainability as a goal for its development agenda at its upcoming conference in September 2015.

According to Fernandez, one of the goals of the summit is to give students at other universities the opportunity to support ocean sustainability by creating their own SOA chapters.

GUSOA, which currently has 37 active student members, has helped to establish five chapters at other universities around the country, including Columbia University and Wesleyan University. Other universities such as American University and George Washington University have expressed interest in starting their own chapter.

Executive Director of Global Social Enterprise Initiative Ladan Manteghi, who serves on the advisory board for GUSOA, said that she believes the summit will serve to encourage the millennial generation to take action in protecting the world’s oceans.

“The summit is not the culmination of anything,” Manteghi said. “The summit is the start of something.”

GUSOA Communications Director Mary Troxel (COL ’17) said that she aligns herself with the goal of the summit to inspire the millennial generation to take action regarding ocean sustainability out of necessity for its future survival.

“The oceans are one of the most important resources for us in the world, if not the most important [resource],” Troxel said. “I think that students should care about this because someone has to take action to preserve the ocean, and someone has to be us.”

Sebastian Velastegui (MSB ’18), who plans to attend the summit, said that millennials have a responsibility to support ocean sustainability.

“Our oceans are one of the biggest components of our natural environment, and if we don’t find some cause to protect them, then we are going to suffer, if not in this generation, then definitely in the next,” Velastegui said.

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