April 21–23, 2017, Washington, D.C.
In mid-2016, the World Ocean Observatory entered into a collaboration with the Smithsonian Institution’s Ocean Portal to promote the Earth Optimism Summit in Washington, DC, in April of 2017 to address ocean solutions and innovative projects in the context of the April Summit, coming up on Earth Day weekend: April 21st through 23rd. For the last six months we have searched for and reported on examples of ocean optimism and innovative projects around the globe. We have highlighted marine protected areas and their importance to biodiversity and the mitigation of climate change; progress in ocean conservation reflecting upon the initiatives and dedication of people around the world confronting ocean problems with solutions and inspiration; highlighted the work of collaborative forces in Tampa Bay, Florida to clean up their waterways and experience a sea grass revival; introduced readers and listeners to Dr. Jonathan Foley of the California Academy of Sciences whose insightful thoughts on global issues, conservation, and protections on land and sea provide us with a perspective not often found in scientific discourse; and we discussed some of the winners of the Movement for Change Initiative’s Lighthouse Activities which reward some of the most innovative examples of what people around the world are doing to address climate change and to benefit the planet.
As part of the Optimism Series we also praised the work of the Center for Biological Diversity in Oregon, a group of dedicated individuals using the legal system to advocate for species and habitat on the verge of extinction; we shared information from William McDonough’s article published in Nature.com entitled “Carbon is Not the Enemy” which argues for a new vision for how we view the carbon cycle and for ways to redefine and mitigate its negative consequences; we celebrated the revival of a once-plummeting population of a spawning fish species on a river in Maine, thanks in part to conservationist actions; and we argued for more funding and energy directed toward the ocean, for the importance of scientific endeavor and observation, and introduced readers to the General Bathymetric Chart for the Oceans (GEBCO) — a project dedicated to mapping the world ocean by 2030. We also devoted time to sharing reports, projects, and publications integral to the evolution of ocean policy and science, including the Atlas of Ocean Wealth, published in 2016 by the Nature Conservancy; and we discuss innovative ocean research and data collection and the connection to geothermal energy generation; and finally we devoted time to the history of the recycling movement and the modern day efforts of local groups to mitigate waste from the trash cycle.
We did our best to find projects and efforts that reflect the initiative, dedication, and success of people around the world confronting ocean problems with solutions and providing inspiration for us all.
On Earth Day weekend in April 2017, the Smithsonian will convene colleagues from around the world — thought leaders, practitioners, pioneering scientists and researchers, major civic and industry participants, artists, national and international media, and philanthropists — to discuss and share solutions. What’s working in conservation, why, and how can we scale up and replicate our successes? What are the best minds, boldest experiments, and most innovative community practices telling us about how to preserve biodiversity, protect natural resources, and address climate change?
The D.C. proceedings will be live-streamed for global viewing, and sister events will take place around the world. With its 2017 Earth Optimism Summit, the Smithsonian Institution’s Ocean Portal celebrates a change in focus from problem to solution, from a sense of loss to one of hope, in a dialogue about conservation and sustainability. We invite you to join us in pursuit of the models and success stories that will inspire progress at the species, ecosystem, and global level, grounded in sound science and collective experience.”
Why optimism? Well, it surely beats the depressing pessimism that grips so much of the news today. Optimism may be defined as “a disposition or tendency to take a favorable view of things and to anticipate favorable results,” and such an orientation is evermore necessary particularly when times seem dire. Conservationists, on land and sea, have made and are making still major changes in how we engage on every level and in every place with the urgent need to preserve natural places, endangered species, and ecological systems. Through research, innovative practices, and political activity, they are changing our world for the better. This is neither naïve nor ineffective; it is hard work, persistence, commitment, and success in many more ways than we may today know or yet understand. The Global Earth Optimism Summit, and the people and projects we will describe are on the front line of “favorable results” and should be known and celebrated.
Tune in to the Earth Optimism events by visiting their program page at earthoptimism.si.edu/calendar/summit.