By Asia Williams, Waitt Institute Blue Economy Manager
September 5th is Amazon Rainforest Day, established in 1850 and celebrated mostly in Brazil. Reflecting on the importance of the Amazon (the “lungs of the earth”), we see many similarities between the vital role of the world’s largest rainforest and the function of its blue counterpart, the ocean. At a basic level, both provide us with immense benefits beyond oxygen production, such as capturing carbon and providing diverse ecosystem services with their high levels of biodiversity. These natural ecosystems act to protect us, support the livelihoods of millions of people, and maintain the balance in environmental, social, and economic systems that depend on them.
Mangroves forests absorb carbon from the atmosphere and should be used as a solution against climate change.
Both environments also face increasing threats and degradation from human activities. Habitat destruction through deforestation and development, pollution, and unsustainable harvesting of resources can weaken ecosystems. These local human impacts are only worsened by climate change, which increases the risk of uncontrollable wildfires and further degrades water quality through acidification.
But the Amazon Rainforest and our ocean are not just victims of human development and climate change -- they also can be the solution to these problems. The ocean absorbs carbon at a rate comparable to the Amazon, through mangrove forests, seagrass, and other marine species that act as great carbon sinks, while also regulating temperature and recycling nutrients. Due to their multidimensional superpowers, the Amazon and the ocean are both home to an array of diverse and rare species. High biodiversity is not just important for the intrinsic value of the billions of creatures sharing our planet, but many species bring economic benefits to communities through ecosystem services, tourism, and the potential for medicinal applications.
It is more important than ever to recognize the value of our marine and terrestrial resources, to safeguard the unique environments around us, and invest in smart development that capitalizes on environmental solutions. This is at the heart of a Blue Economy approach. Luckily, we at the Waitt Institute have been fortunate to work with many partners around the world who have been leading the way in creating new economic solutions that support and restore their local marine environments.
The Waitt Institute is honored to host the second annual Hometown Heroes event at the 2021 Virtual Island Summit, this time hearing from “The people making thriving Blue Economies a reality.” All from small islands with large ocean spaces, speakers have first hand experience with how dependent island communities are on ocean industries like tourism and fisheries. These ocean champions have pushed to dream big while also implementing tangible ways to shift the use of their national ocean assets to benefit long term marine health and local communities.
Join us to meet our Hometown Heroes from Tonga, the Azores, the Federated States of Micronesia and the Maldives as they explain the excellent work they have begun in the Blue Economy and the opportunities that lay ahead in creating sustainable ocean economies.
When the ocean thrives, we thrive!
RSVP for Hometown Heroes on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/1136673346858378
Register for the Virtual Island Summit (it's free!): https://islandinnovation.co/virtual-island-summit-2021/