Oceans and People
As part of the observance of United Nations World Oceans Day 2013, the United partnered with the New York-based American Museum of Natural History for a panel presentation by, respectively, Dr. Alex de Voogt, Curator of African Ethnology, and Dr. Jennifer Newell, Curator of Pacific Ethnology. At a press conference earlier in the day, the two Curators, from the Museum’s Anthropology Division, discussed the impact of climate change and degradation of the marine environment on the peoples and cultures of the Indian Ocean and the Pacific regions. Ms. Newell said that researchers were witnessing the changing relationship of Pacific Islanders to their waters due to climate change. Many cultural transformations were under way because of the impact on communities of sea-level rise, water salinization, and even drought. “Life is becoming quite untenable, especially in low-lying areas,” she said, adding that several island nations have already elaborated plans to move their entire populations elsewhere. It was predicted that tens of millions of people may have to leave their homes by 2050, “and where these people will go is of course a big concern.”
Meanwhile, in his message on the Day, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that oceans are integral to all humanity, and urged the international community to do more to reverse degradation of the marine environment. “Let us work together to create new waves of action for ocean sustainability – for people and the planet,” Mr. Ban said. “If we are to fully benefit from the oceans, we must reverse the degradation of the marine environment due to pollution, overexploitation and acidification,” he said, urging all nations to work towards that end, including by joining and implementing the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, the broad based treaty governing the world’s waters, often referred to as “the Constitution of the oceans.”
Dr. Seuss stamps for healthy oceans
In other activities in honour of the Day, the UN Postal Administration (UNPA) issued on 31 May 2013 a set of 12 new stamps featuring iconic images from the classic Dr. Seuss book Once Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish. The stamps incorporated fanciful characters in the story, like the “winking Yink” and the “boxing Gox,” who brought their own unique view on healthy oceans. “Designing these stamps using the colourful images from Dr. Seuss was not only a lot of fun but allows us to draw attention to the subject in a creative and unique way,” said UNPA Creative Director Rori Katz. The Administration partnered with Dr. Seuss Enterprises on the project, and the stamps were sold at the UN stamp shops at the world body’s headquarters in New York, Geneva and Vienna.