John Kerry, US Secretary of State, has championed environmental protection, ever since the very first Earth Day in 1970. In particular, he has recognised the value of the oceans to us all. He has worked hard for their protection, serving as Chairman of the U.S. Senate's Oceans and Fisheries Subcommittee and has been a passionate advocate for the full protection of the Ross Sea in Antarctica. On July 16th and 17th John Kerry will host the Our Ocean conference in Washington DC to discuss ocean protection. Unfortunately, at odds with Secretary Kerry's passion is the fact that the US is blocking progress towards a new UN agreement that would provide the framework for establishing a global network of ocean sanctuaries to restore the health of our oceans. We are worried that John Kerry's love for the oceans is fading, so it's time we wrote him a letter:
It breaks our hearts to say this, but we are worried that your love for our oceans is fading.
You once seemed to care so much, and so genuinely, for our oceans. Remember how passionately you spoke of the "remarkable waters that we are blessed to have," – the waters that you learnt to love as a little boy playing on the coast of Massachusetts?
You said all the right words, made all the right promises. You said, "There can be no doubt that the ocean requires our protection and our collective action." You showed you were thinking of our joint future when you said, "If we're going to pass on a livable ocean to the next generation, we need to act much more forcefully now." And yet, when it's time to actually do the right thing, you're holding back!
You, John, have a chance to lead real, collective action: to commit your government to an international agreement, and use your global influence to convince other world players to secure the very protection you say we need. We're talking about the development of a global framework for high seas protection at the United Nations, an international agreement under the Law of the Sea Convention. With this agreement, we could protect the amazing myriad of marine life in international waters. Without such protection, our oceans remain defenseless.
With more than half of our oceans lying beyond the authority of any one country, it will take nothing less than a network of ocean sanctuaries – large areas where you don't take anything, break anything or pollute anything – to secure the future we want for ‘Our Oceans'.
'Our Oceans', your own conference, would be the perfect opportunity for you to show your true self and signal the United States' leadership on oceans issues by supporting the launch of a high seas biodiversity agreement by the UN General Assembly. It would be extraordinary good timing too, as your conference will be followed by a meeting at the United Nations… to discuss precisely this agreement!
We all love the oceans, John, and as you say in your invitation to ‘Our Oceans' conference, they are really significant to life itself. You promised that your conference would be an "important start to a much larger effort" – we can only hope that you will make this true, that the US government's support for a new high seas agreement will be one of the many successes of the conference.
Stay true to the trail, John, prove your love. Show us that you're determined to secure a better future… for Our Oceans!
With great hope for our future together,
Phil, on behalf of Ocean Lovers worldwide
Phil Kline is a Senior Oceans Campaigner at Greenpeace USA.