In October, a EU-sponsored conference Our Ocean was held in Malta. The conference, that was held for the fourth time and each time in a new country, was attended by representatives of both public and private sectors who promised to allocate over 6 billion euros for the needs of more effective ocean management. Last year, the conference was attended by the US President Barack Obama and actor Brad Pitt, while this year, by Prince Charles from Great Britain.
“Oceans cover over 70% of the Earth’s surface. They produce the greatest amount of oxygen and absorb 30% of the carbon dioxide emissions. Today, oceans face a variety of threats, such as pollution, climate change, illegal fishing, and offshore crime. Every year, over 10 million tons of garbage get dumped into the sea, and by 2050, our oceans may have more plastic than fish,” said the conference review.
Young ocean scientists looked for solutions
During the conference, a meeting of young ocean leaders from all over the world took place. Among the 100 selected researchers, Klaipėda University, and simultaneously Lithuania, were represented by Donalda Karnauskaitė, KU doctoral student in Ecology and Environmental Sciences. “In the context of the conference Our Ocean, the workshops of young scientists were initiated by Daniela V. Fernandez who once, when participating in a similar conference, understood that young people ought to take part in decision making,” said Donalda Karnauskaitė.
In the workshops, young scientists were dealing with various environmental and ecological problems in small groups. “The tasks were not specifically related to the ocean. We were considering the ways of pollution reduction, the use of food waste, etc., and discussed them with mentors who had given presentations in the conference. It was most interesting to discuss the issues with competent experts”, said Donalda.
The scientists also developed questionnaires with their personal data and pledges of their contribution to the sustainable ocean development. “I pointed out that I was developing a system of indicators in my doctoral thesis that was to contribute to the measurements and sustainable development of the oceans,” said Donalda Karnauskaitė, presently a 3rd year doctoral student in Ecology and Environmental Sciences preparing a dissertation Assessment of the Coastal Zone and Marine Environment Sustainable Development through Indicators. “The questionnaires later became available to everybody: that is a good way of making contacts and finding partners for joint projects. I am already getting a lot of letter with offers to participate in scientific research activities,” added Donalda.
Big changes from small everyday habits
Major international consumer goods companies, such as Procter & Gamble, PerpsiCo, Marks & Spencer, MARS, etc., announced a significant reduction in the use of plastics in the coming years, while the European Commission promised that, in its buildings in Brussels, no disposable plastic cups will remain in beverage vending machines before the end of 2017. “Each big change starts with a small change in every person’s habits. In the conference, we all promised not to use straws. We can hardly imagine how they pollute the environment. One group of young scientists carried out an experiment: in half an hour, they collected a heap of straws on a Malta’s beech,”said Donalda Karnauskaitė.
According to Donalda, during the conference, its participants presented a number of inspiring stories. A 16-year-old from Bali, Indonesia, and her sister launched a project Bye-bye, Plastic Bag, that encouraged people to stop using plastic bags. “Young people have enthusiasm and positive maximalism to contribute to the well-being of our planet. I also want to encourage Lithuanians to participate, to get interested in environmental protection, to show that the door is open and a lot can be achieved by contributing to the processes taking part in the world,” said Donalda.
Donalda Karnauskaitė admitted that participation in international conferences provides an opportunity to share knowledge and to be exposed to a global context. “During the conference, I talked with different people. I was happy there was no exclusion whether one was a politician, a researcher, or a student. I was happy to represent not only Klaipėda University, but also all Lithuania. I showed people where my country was and told them about our habits of consumption,” said KU doctoral student Donalda Karnauskaitė.