Four Essential Steps toward a Responsible US Ocean Policy
International agreements are imperative if we are to pursue international solutions to international environmental policy, regulation, redress, and sustained natural resources as natural capital for the future. The recent return by the United States to the Paris Climate Agreement is a significant case in point as a symbol and reality for international goals and cooperative actions to address greenhouse gas, increased temperatures, and other human-impacts on climate, affecting us all worldwide in almost every aspect of our lives.
But there are four other, major environmental treaties that pertain even more directly that the U.S. has failed to ratify, without which the Paris action is but a gesture, a best intention without necessary action to assure a successful outcome. For this post I am relying on a simple but extremely important article by Tara Lohan in The Revelator, an insightful on-line aggregator of environmental news, and an initiative of the Center for Biological Diversity, that I heartily recommend for “wild, incisive, and fearless” coverage of the most important environmental issues.
The treaties are as follows:
First, the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea, a framework for managing and protecting the ocean, ratified by 167 nations and the European Union, the United States excepted with the exception of the US that has rejected its structure as an intrusion on national sovereignty, in contradiction of the integration of ocean challenges for the benefit of other nations, worldwide.
Second, the Convention on Biological Diversity, an international framework for the conservation of biological diversity, sustainable use of natural components, protection against species extinction, and equitable sharing of benefits that arise from genetic resources. The U.S. is the only member of the United Nations that has not signed on to this critical tool for the protection of Nature from indiscriminate extraction, exploitation, and destruction.
Third, the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, a framework for protecting global public health and controlling the disposal of harmful chemicals that migrate through the air and ocean as enduring poison circulating invisibly worldwide affecting habitat, species, and coastal communities.
Fourth, the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal, that limits the transport of waste between countries, to include vast volumes of un-recycled household, plastic waste, radioactive materials, toxic computer components, mining, fracking, and industrial by-products, and other materials that we are unwilling to address in our own backyard.
These represent an effort by the international community of nations to address these problems through controls and regulations standards for storage and disposal, protections for all forms of life on Earth, and the necessary collaborations to deal with solutions for these man-made problems for the common good.
That the United States has failed to ratify these agreements is a travesty, a national disgrace, an abdication of our responsibility as a world leader, in favor of the most, narrow, predictably financial interests. Treaties are ratified by the Senate, and since the Reagan era, a small minority, often backed by corporate donations, influenced by lobbyists, has consistently opposed ratification and isolated us in an almost unique position outside the world community.
The ocean is integral to all these challenges. It encompasses and integrates the public interest in every way, as a global environment, as host to fecund biodiversity, as system of distribution for food, weather, toxins and waste. Each of these Treaties pertains directly to the health and protection of our natural world, to species survival on land and sea, to beneficial economic exchange, to political and social inter-action, to personal and social security, and to the prospect for international peace and benefit for all mankind. Each of these treaties should be addressed and ratified now.
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. He is also host of World Ocean Radio, upon which this blog is inspired. World Ocean Radio celebrates 12 years this year, with more than 600 episodes produced to date.