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Space Station View of the Chesapeake Bay, July 2016 | NASA

With this post World Ocean Observatory begins an informal partnership with the Smithsonian Institution’s Ocean Portal to address ocean solutions and innovative projects in the context of the Earth Optimism Summit to be held Earth Day Weekend, April 21–23, 2017, in Washington, D.C. and around the world.

The mission, as announced by the Smithsonian, is as follows:

“The global conservation movement has reached a turning point. After decades of patient study, we have documented the fast pace of habitat loss, the growing number of endangered and extinct species, and the increasing speed of global climate change. We have communicated our findings to a concerned public, and we have their attention.

But this is the beginning, not the end, of a conversation. For while the seriousness of these threats cannot be denied, there are a growing number of examples of improvements in the health of species and ecosystems, along with benefits to human well being, thanks to our conservation actions. Innovations to reduce our impact on the planet are also starting to make a difference.

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.”

The event is intended to be “a celebration of success, where the science and stories of conservation accomplishments are shared and discussed. The goal is to overwhelm participants with the magnitude and diversity of what is working in conservation, moving the conversation from doom and gloom to optimism and opportunity. There will be a special emphasis on youth and traditionally under-represented groups; streamed internet access to plenary and concurrent sessions; films, storytelling, the arts, musical performances and theater.”conversations featuring major figures in the conservation and innovation world addressing issues such as biodiversity and agriculture, saving species and protecting spaces, energy of the future, sustainable cities, and environmental justice.”

In anticipation of this event, the World Ocean Observatory, through World Ocean Radio and its social media, will broadcast a series of profiles of exemplars and environmental innovators and ocean activists, individuals and organizations around the world that are but a sample of the new vision, new ideas and inventions, and new behaviors that are transforming our relationship with the natural world.

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.

The “Earth Optimism Summit” is part one of the Earth Optimism Series, 24 posts that will profile conservation actions and innovations to reduce our impacts on the planet. The Earth Optimism Series is brought to you by the World Ocean Observatory in partnership with the Smithsonian Institution’s Ocean Portal, to raise awareness of the Global Earth Optimism Summit during Earth Day weekend, April 21st through 23rd, 2017 in Washington DC and around the world. Read more solutions and success stories here and share your own ideas at earthoptimism.si.edu.

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Peter Neill is founder and director of the World Ocean Observatory, a web-based place of exchange for information and educational services about the health of the world ocean. Online at worldoceanobservatory.org. He is author of “The Once and Future Ocean: Notes Toward a New Hydraulic Society” available wherever books are sold.

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Dedicated to sharing information about ocean issues: climate to trade, culture to governance. The sea connects all things. Online at WorldOceanObservatory.org.

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