Sofia Tsenikli In Nagoya, Japan for the UN Convention on Biological Diversity meeting.
I am just back to my room after our Greenpeace coordination meeting where we regrouped and set our plans for the week to come- the final week of the Convention on Biological Diversity. I have been working with Greenpeace for almost six years but the passion and energy of our people never fail to amaze me.
Last week was tough. Not merely physically - as most of us spend an average of twelve hours each day in the crammed rooms and corridors of the CBD venue surviving on mass-produced sandwiches and coffee - but primarily it was a tough week for the spirit. It’s not easy to keep faith when negotiators here argue over technicalities, blocking progress and even taking steps backwards instead of making progress to save our oceans and forests and life on earth.
A moment always comes during meetings when you think to yourself: “God, they will never move forward?!” It is probably a collective feeling throughout the meeting, one shared by NGOs and country delegates who want to create agreements to protect nature and not just keep legal loopholes open for fishing, logging and energy industries. Sometimes, though, things start to move… you see that delegates are working together, you see opinions change and our team here getting the message across. Governments here are meeting and negotiating, offering concessions and saying that they have bottom lines. One of the few constant things at a UN meeting like this one is change: side meetings, after-hours phone calls, video conferences between people here and their bosses back home all have impact on what these countries do here at the bargaining table.
Call me an optimist! I really hope we are at that point of the meeting. I’m one of the people keeping an eye on the oceans-related discussions here in Nagoya. This meeting is so important for our oceans. Many diplomats will enter the meeting room tomorrow morning with the will to do the right thing – right now, we’re in the middle of agreeing list of environmentally important waters (or, ecologically and biologically significant areas, if you speak the CBD language) that would form the beginnings of a network of marine reserves. Me and my other oceans-defending colleagues are pressuring these diplomats to form a marine reserve network covers at least 20% of our oceans by 2020. This will help us reach the goal of protecting 40% of our waters, which scientists tell us is what we need to do if we’re going to leave behind healthy oceans for the future.
We’re here to remind delegates of the hundreds of millions of people around the world who depend on our oceans. The life in our oceans provide humankind with food- and without healthy waters, the world’s food supply will vanish. Healthy oceans are not a luxury; they are indispensable and they are priceless. We hear a lot here about “financing biodiversity protection,” but I remind people that this isn’t about financing, it’s about investing in our future and keeping our planet and its people alive. Who can put a price on our planet’s ability to feed us?
Listening to my fellow Greenpeacers at the meeting I realized once more that we only get more willful and creative when things get difficult. I wish the same to our countries’ representatives, so I’m telling all of them- you represent the people of 193 countries and you are here to decide on a plan to protect all of us, all life on earth. Monday would be a good day to start creating our future. If not now, when?
Sofia Tsenikli is an Oceans Policy Advisor with Greenpeace International, based in Athens, Greece. For the past six years, she has been working to save the Mediterranean Sea and all of our oceans. Help her defend our oceans by adding your voice to the movement for a global network of oceans-saving marine reserves here.