The ocean has always held a special significance for me. As a child I spent most of my holidays with my family in Fiji, where I first learnt the importance that the seas had not only on local culture and history, but also their wellbeing. I grew up in various countries, but my respect and understanding for the oceans would continue to grow. I learnt to sail, got involved with snorkeling, took marine biology electives at school and eventually decided to pursue Environmental Management at James Cook University in Australia’s far north, where I had the Great Barrier Reef at my front door.
From there my interests grew past the oceans. Science, sustainability and conservation were all topics that I wanted to learn more about, to master. Being able to work and volunteer for the United Nations has always been a childhood dream of mine. The opportunity I was given to help the UNDP Ocean Action Hub with identifying and registering different entities’ Voluntary Commitments towards the UN’s Ocean Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 14) was one that I was excited to take part in.
Creating networks of like-minded NGOs, companies and other interested groups to enable them to work towards a common goal is one of the first steps towards not just raising awareness about environmental issues, but also solving them. Working with the Ocean Action Hub to help set up these networks was an eye-opening experience for me. The Hub’s extensive list of Commitments and National Consultations gave me hope that we can all work together to help protect the oceans, being able to add to them felt truly fulfilling.
Although some organizations never answered or weren’t necessarily interested, they are now aware that they weren’t alone in trying to promote sustainable development, that there was indeed a large network in place that they can join; for those who hadn’t started or thought about in participating, my hope is that raising awareness will not only inform them, but push them to do their part! My biggest highlight from working on this project was being able to help the Ocean Action Hub grow. To be a part in promoting SDG 14 was not just fulfilling as a scientist looking to advocate for sustainable resource management, but also as a global citizen with roots to a small island nation where the ocean represents so much more than just a holiday snap - it's #OurCulture, #OurHistory, #OurWayOfLife.
However, it isn’t just Small Island Developing States (SIDS) that are affected by unsustainable ocean use - it's everyone. Education is the key to promote conservation and sustainable development. Being able to advocate for environmental causes also means following through with them! Making smart choices as a consumer, let it be from choosing a plastic-free option or a brand you know sources its produce from sustainable methods are easy transitions to make. Being more aware of your waste, recycling it where applicable and opting for less polluting forms of transport are all steps in the right direction. However, I believe that enrolling in local programs that raise awareness of environmental issues and aim to tackle them head on is one of the best decisions one can make! The pen might be mightier than the sword, but actions speak louder than words. You can make impacts as an individual, but as part of a group, the #SkyIsTheLimit.