In the last decade, humanity has experienced many major world issues. With the rapid changes in the world’s climate and the increase of heated feuds between nations, world leaders knew they had to take action against these issues. As a result, the United Nations decided to adopt a plan to address some of the most pressing universal problems relating to the environment, economics, and politics. In 2012, they adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) platform. These seventeen goals were meant to replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) of 2000 which made great strides against poverty, child mortality, lack of education and the spread of deadly diseases. In contrast, the Sustainable Development Goals were supposed to finish the work the MDGs had started, while ensuring humanity was acting sustainably. In this way, the SDGs bring humanity together to tackle issues which will affect future generations. They also are committed to uniting people of all socioeconomic statuses and geographic locations, to fight for our home planet and the creatures who live on it, by 2020.
One specific goal which the Ian Somerhalder Foundation is passionate about is Goal #14: Life Below Water. Since over seventy percent of the Earth is covered by oceans and “over three billion people depend on marine and coastal biodiversity for their livelihoods,” it was determined measures had to be taken against the depletion of marine environments. This is not only a cry for help from those who live under the sea, but also from people who rely heavily on marine activities in order to sustain themselves. Our oceans not only give us a means of food, water and transportation, they also provide numerous jobs in the tourism, fishing, shipping, and biotechnology industries. Thus, this goal is meant to ensure the $24 trillion water businesses are protected and seen to be important.
Goal #14 hopes to conserve oceans for sustainable use while combatting the impact of climate change, pollution, and overfishing. Climate change is known to cause ocean acidification which occurs when carbon dioxide combines with seawater. This has a destructive effect on calcifying organisms such as oysters. Since these organisms play an important role in the food chain, depleting their numbers could adversely affect other marine creatures. This is a big issue, since it has been predicted oceans could become 150% more acidic by the end of the 21st century. In addition, pollution and eutrophication (having too many nutrients in water) has caused the destruction of coastal areas. There are many locations in Western Europe, Asia, and the Gulf of Mexico at high-risk for continued depletion. Overfishing also impacts these areas by excessively destroying biodiversity.
Not only is SDG #14 important when considered as a whole, but it is also important due to its connection to the successful completion of the other Sustainable Development Goals. Essam Yassin Mohammed of the International Institute for Environment and Development states, “Achieving Goal 14 will contribute to meeting Goal 2 on ending hunger, Goal 12 on sustainable consumption and production and Goal 15 on biodiversity.” Creating Marine Protected areas to protect the biodiversity of a particular segment of the ocean, contributes to minimizing poverty levels by creating jobs and improving sanitary conditions. Likewise, decreasing one’s carbon footprint not only decreases the amount of water one wastes, but can also help with climate change. Similar to the way all aspects of life are interconnected, so too are the Sustainable Development Goals. Thus, by contributing to a single goal, one becomes part of a greater and grander purpose.
Working towards Sustainable Development Goal #14 is much easier than many might expect. The first step is something you may have already done: learn about the goals in their entirety! The next step involves sharing what you have learned within your personal network. Leveraging your contacts is an easy way to ensure others are learning about the issues plaguing our environment. Informal conversations about your learnings, even with family members at dinner, help spread awareness of the importance in protecting our bodies of water. This creates a chain reaction effect of learning. As you share information with another person, he or she will do the same thing with other individuals they know, resulting in an exponential learning curve.
Additionally, using fewer plastic products and attending beach clean-ups in your area are great ways to reduce the amount of trash from making its way into the ocean. Simple tasks like these enable just one person to bring about much change in the world.
Taking strides to achieve Sustainable Development Goal #14 is something each and every one of us can do. Every effort we make to ensure our planet continues to thrive is important. This planet is the only home we have and we cannot take it for granted. We must ensure we are moving forward, rather than backward. This is the attitude the United Nations adopted five years ago. It is one I urge you to adopt as well. Our oceans need our help and the journey to recovery must begin today.
Written by Annmarie Gajdos
Edited by Bob Stone