On 5 November 2020, together with my colleague Jose Escano (Pin), who is leading our new regenerative project MedGardens, we stepped onto a flight headed for Ibiza. It made me think back to 8 months prior, when I was boarding the same flight, and how different the world looked to me then. It was with growing concern that I remember looking around the half-empty flight, at a small minority of fellow passengers who were wearing face masks – I wondered with skepticism if their precaution was really necessary.
Little did I know that just 2 days later, full lockdown was proclaimed across Spain. I was happy to get on a return flight back to Mallorca and wondered where all the plans and new collaborations for the upcoming summer would go to. Little did we know…
However, now stepping back onto that flight to Ibiza, with our portable new contactless Cleanwave fountain in tow, we were heading to a 2-day conference: Foro Marino. An ambitious gathering of environmental activists, non-profit organisations, Foundations, politicians and corporates – all with one thing in common: a passion to preserve and restore our oceans.
The gathering was void of a public audience (COVID precautions), and essentially stripped down to a handful of approx. 25 speakers and organisers, who relied on technology to broadcast their message to the outside world. In a year, where COVID-19 has hijacked the attention of the world (except perhaps with some interruption of the US elections) – the message that came out of the 2020 Foro Marino was loud and clear: we must act to save our oceans.
But most importantly, in response to the call to action - real solutions were proposed.
Images by Jon Izeta
It is encouraging to see that the environmental agenda across the Balearic Islands is being driven forward by ‘ocean-warriors’ – including a movement of scientists, solution driven entrepreneurs, businesses, and passionate activists who mobilise civil society.
In the words of Marine Biologist and Filmmaker Manu San Felix: “There is life because there is water. We do not have much time – we cannot wait ten years. The decisions need to be made now!” This message was reemphasized by Carlos Duarte, world renowned marine ecologist conducting research on marine ecosystems globally, “The window to recuperate our natural window is closing – the next 10 years are crucial.”
Images by Jon Izeta
The challenges are numerous, and overwhelming. From eradication of species, including fish and plant life, to plastic contamination and effects of climate change – as Antonio Figueras, Investigator at CSIC said, “If you think people who work to eliminate plastics are exaggerating – they are not. We are poisoning the planet and ourselves.”
High targets were set, and the importance of creating marine protected areas is regarded as a crucial step in protecting our oceans. This message could not have been made clearer than by Enric Salas, National Geographic Explorer in Residence: “30% of the planet’s land and sea must be protected by 2030.”
Despite the urgent calls for action, speakers also challenged the audience to view the ocean as an investment opportunity. Again, Enric Sala predicted that for every 1 Euro that you invest in the recuperation of the natural world, you get Euro 5 back in return. Manu San Felix was another who stated that “protecting nature is good business!”
Perhaps if we see conservation as a business investment and not as a cost – more companies would shift their approach.
Gloria Fluxa, Vice President of Iberostar, was bold in setting out the goals for Iberostar properties and hotels across the globe:
- No single use plastics
- No waste by 2025 – create circular economy
- Carbon neutral by 2030
She raises the bar for many hotel-chains and the tourism sector across the world, to invest in the natural world around them, which is the foundation on which their industry depends. Her closing words were clear: “The oceans can live without tourism, but tourism cannot live without the ocean.”
When it came to the panel of marine biologists and scientists – there was no room left to doubt the urgency for action needed to restore our oceans.
Salud Deudero, profesor of investigation at the Center of Oceanography of the Balearic Islands and Spain, gave a clear example. In 2016, she observed that Nacra (giant mussels) were dying and disappearing along the coastlines of Mallorca. With urgency, she reported her sightings to the Government Administration, seeking urgent funds to research and help protect this unique species. However, due to slow processing of the Administration, help came too little, too late, and in the meantime, numbers have dwindled, and we risk the Nacra becoming extinct.
Enrique Ballesteros, another scientist at CEAB- CSIC, who has worked tirelessly in researching and protecting the marine world, challenged us to view our coastlines, not merely as a linear 2 dimensional landscape – but rather as a multi-dimensional ecosystem, rich in life and complexity. He said to never just look at a stretch of beach as if it were a desert of sand on which you stroll along - but rather as a thriving habitat for living creatures beneath your feet.
If there was one word to take us forward into the next decade it is: REGENERATION.
Bold activists and organisations shared how they are mobilizing their creativity and empathy for the world around them, giving examples of regeneration in action. From education programs, to growing the frontiers of marine protected areas, to providing real alternatives to single-use plastics, and connecting people to the sea. It confirmed that our own new initiative MedGardens, which focuses on regeneration of the Mediterranean underwater forests through community-driven marine restoration, is closely aligned with the objectives of the Foro Marino to restore and protect the Mediterranean sea by 2030
Looking back on 2 intense days at the Foro Marino, there was only one void in the landscape of stakeholders, environmentalists and panel speakers. Not because they were not present – on the contrary, the panel of politicians was very prestigious. However, their words were just that: words. No passion, no inspiration, no innovation. They arrived in a flurry of importance, ready to pose for cameras, make their speeches and disappear.
Not one politician stayed to listen to the other speakers, who are the true warriors for the ocean; there was no connection with the workforce, the movers, the researchers, the creative entrepreneurs who are actively finding solutions to regenerate our seas.
Hard work is already being done to preserve and restore the Mediterranean Sea, however again and again, you heard the complaint that the Administration is painfully slow in providing necessary funds – so slow, that in the case of the Nacra (giant mussel), they may be too late! Surely, we can expect more from our elected politicians – at the most, engagement and collaboration; at the least, let the funds flow so that these “ocean warriors” can get to work.
I feel encouraged, motivated and more certain than ever that our joint efforts to regenerate the natural world around us is still within reach. The strength, energy and capacity to do so lies in a simple sentiment: We need to fall in love with the ocean, then the rest will follow.
Special thank you to the organisers and sponsors of the Foro Marino 2020. It was a privilege and pleasure for us, the Fundación Cleanwave, to take part.
- Line Hadsjberg