Our Ocean Conference Confronts Ocean's Biggest Threats
The two-day event is hosted by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. Hundreds of world leaders, foreign and environment ministers, scientists, philanthropists, heads of civil society and heads of companies across 90 countries are expected to attend.
The first and second Our Ocean Conferences have generated $4 billion in pledges for ocean conservation projects and a commitment to safeguard nearly 6 million square kilometers of the ocean—an area almost twice the size of India.
"We have to keep the momentum going so that we can come together and protect our ocean. Why? Because our ocean is absolutely essential for life itself—not just the food, but the oxygen and weather cycles of the planet all depend on the ocean," Kerry said in a statement.
At a teleconference on Wednesday, Catherine Novelli, a U.S. diplomat and the current Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment, gave several reasons why the ocean needs special protection.
Under Secretary @CathyNovelli provides a preview of the #OurOcean Conference https://t.co/d8UePyzhpE— Department of State (@Department of State)1473873430.0
"We have to care about this because half the oxygen we breathe comes from the ocean, it regulates our weather and fish is the primary source of protein for 3 billion people," she said. "So [this conference] is extremely important for everyone even if you don't live in the ocean."
Novelli described how 90 percent of world's fish stocks are being fished at or over capacity, that the ocean's absorption of carbon dioxide has led to increasingly acidic waters that cause the destruction of coral reefs and shellfish, how Earth's warming weather has caused a rise in sea levels and how the staggering rate of plastics running into the oceans might one day outnumber fish.
On a positive note, Novelli noted in her speech that "the ocean is resilient, so if we take action now we can actually protect the ocean."
By 2050, there may be more plastic than fish in the ocean. This week's #OurOcean Conference can help prevent that. https://t.co/R7af4YLGP5— John Kerry (@John Kerry)1473724435.0
Actor and environmental activist Leonardo DiCaprio highlighted a new campaign among the many solutions he mentioned in his speech today at the Our Ocean Conference. The Global Partnership for Sharks & Rays (GPSR), a collaborative effort to halt the alarming decline and overexploitation of shark and ray populations due to market demand for shark fin, liver oil, cartilage, leather, meat and ray gill plates.
"Sharks and rays are among the most threatened vertebrates on the planet," Cristina Mormorunni, GPSR acting director, said. "For many of these incredible animals, the future is uncertain. Unfortunately, the scale of current conservation efforts and investments don't match the level of urgency sharks and rays face.
"GPSR was founded by five visionary philanthropic organizations, which forged a shared commitment to fight this looming ecological crisis by funding the most effective conservation projects on the planet."
Funders for the organization include the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, Paul M. Angell Family Foundation, Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, and Oceans 5.
"Sharks and rays have cruised the world's oceans for tens of millions of years and have evolved to fill critical niches in preserving the health of reefs and other near-shore environments," GPSR chair Jim Angell said. "Yet many species are in imminent danger of extinction as a result of rampant overexploitation and habitat degradation.
“The GPSR is a direct response to this serious threat. We have come together around a shared conservation vision and commitment to make significant investments in the future of these species, the oceans and the billions of people around the world who rely on healthy ocean ecosystems for their food and livelihood."
Novelli hopes that this year's conference helps to elevate ocean conservation into a foreign policy and national security issue. She expects that the world dignitaries and leaders attending the conference will announce at least "one-hundred new initiatives worth billions of dollars."
According to Reuters, more than 20 countries will announce the creation of 40 new marine sanctuaries around the world. President Obama announced today a 4,913 square mile marine monument off the coast of New England, the first national marine reserve in the Atlantic, the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument. The monument will protect a portion of the Atlantic Ocean off Cape Cod from commercial fishing by 2023.
.@POTUS has designated more ocean for protection than any other President. Fitting, inspiring he speaks at tomorrow's #OurOcean Conference.— John Kerry (@John Kerry)1473886183.0
"This marine monument will protect critical deep sea habitat off the coast of Cape Cod," Greenpeace senior oceans campaigner Phil Kline said. "Our oceans are rapidly changing from the impacts of climate change, factory fishing and other stressors. Fully protected marine areas increase the chances our ocean ecosystems can continue to function, enabling marine populations to recover and protecting biodiversity.
"President Obama's action today continues to add to his already impressive ocean conservation achievements and leadership. He has led negotiations at the UN for high seas marine protected areas, proactively involved the U.S. in the fight against Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fishing, and expanded the Papahanaumokuakea National Marine Monument to become the largest fully protected marine area in the world, just to name a few."
Our Ocean Conference organizers and Georgetown University are also co-hosting a youth summit to prepare and inspire the next generation of ocean conservation leaders.
Watch the livestream of the conference here:
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Tiffany Means
Summer and fall are great seasons to enjoy the outdoors. But if you're already spending extra time outside because of the COVID-19 pandemic, you may be out of ideas on how to make fresh-air activities feel special. Here are a few suggestions to keep both adults and children entertained and educated in the months ahead, many of which can be done from the comfort of one's home or backyard.
The coronavirus may linger in the air in crowded indoor spaces, spreading from one person to the next, the World Health Organization acknowledged on Thursday, as The New York Times reported. The announcement came just days after 239 scientists wrote a letter urging the WHO to consider that the novel coronavirus is lingering in indoor spaces and infecting people, as EcoWatch reported.
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It is undisputed that vitamin D plays a role everywhere in the body and performs important functions. A severe vitamin D deficiency, which can occur at a level of 12 nanograms per milliliter of blood or less, leads to severe and painful bone deformations known as rickets in infants and young children and osteomalacia in adults. Unfortunately, this is where the scientific consensus ends.
Where Does the Deficiency Begin?<p>Nobody knows exactly how much vitamin D a person actually needs. The question of when a deficiency starts is correspondingly controversial. However, vitamin D is becoming increasingly popular.Not only is the pseudo-scientific literature on the "sun vitamin" experiencing an upswing, but the number of published studies has also increased enormously in recent years. For example, in 2019 <a href="https://academic.oup.com/edrv/article/40/4/1109/5126915" target="_blank">a study found that</a> Vitamin D is responsible for keeping the skeleton functional and is associated with cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and various types of cancer. <br></p>
An All-Rounder<p>Vitamin D levels in the body rise and fall according to sun exposure. If sufficient UV rays reach the skin, the body is able to produce the vitamin itself. However, the human body only derives an estimated 10 to 20 percent of its daily requirement from food.</p><p>The vitamin D that we synthesize from sunlight or food is not biologically active at first. Before the kidneys can produce the biologically active form of the vitamin, known as calcitriol, and release it into the blood, some metabolic processes must take place beforehand.</p><p>In addition, many organs have receptors to which the precursor of calcitriol binds. Further, this substance is also present in blood.</p><p>From this precursor, the organs then produce calcitriol themselves, which the body then uses for countless other processes in the body. This form of vitamin D thus regulates insulin secretion, inhibits tumor growth, and promotes the formation of red blood cells as well as the survival and activity of macrophages, which are important for the <a href="https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/5/7/2502/htm" target="_blank">immune system.</a></p>
Low Vitamin D, Severe COVID-19 Disease?<p>A research study carried out <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352364620300067?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">at the University of Hohenheim</a> has now established a link between vitamin D deficiency, certain previous diseases, and severe cases of COVID-19.</p><p>According to the study, "there is a lot of evidence that several non-communicable diseases (high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, metabolic syndrome) are associated with low vitamin D plasma levels. These comorbidities, together with the often accompanying vitamin D deficiency, increase the risk of severe COVID-19 events."</p><p>"This statement is completely correct," said Martin Fassnacht, head of endocrinology at the University Hospital of Würzburg. However, he qualifies that it is a pure association, "i.e. a mere observation that these events occur together.</p><p>Dr. Fassnacht is very critical of the hype surrounding vitamin D, but not because he denies the vitamin serves important functions. However, studies on humans have not been able to show that vitamin D has the healing powers many often propagate.</p><p>Fassnacht says, "If you take a closer look, the hopes that the administration of vitamin D has a healing effect have not been confirmed so far."</p>
Association Versus Intervention Studies<p>Many studies on the vitamin are association or observational studies. "By definition, these studies cannot prove the causal relationship, but only point to mere correlations," said Fassnacht. The physician tries to illustrate this with an example:</p><p>"Imagine two groups of 80-year-olds. One group is spry, active and does sports. If you compare them with another group living in nursing homes, the difference in vitamin D levels will be dramatic. Life expectancy would also be extremely different."</p><p>But to try to explain the difference in fitness by vitamin D status alone is far too simplistic. "Vitamin D levels are a good measure of how sick someone is. But not more," says Fassnacht. </p><p>According to Fassnacht, none of the intervention studies carried out to date -- that specifically examined the effect of vitamin D on various diseases -- has been able to confirm the previous association and laboratory studies or the presumed positive effect of vitamin D.</p>
Further Research Is Needed<p>"If a coronavirus infection is suspected, it is therefore absolutely necessary to check the vitamin D status and quickly correct any possible deficit," said the recommendation of the paper published by the University of Hohenheim.</p><p>"Studies are underway to see whether vitamin D helps in COVID-19 infection, but I personally do not believe that this is really the case," says endocrinologist Fassnacht. Nevertheless, he says it is of course useful to carry out these studies.<br></p><p>"I don't want to rule out that there are actually subgroups of people who benefit from an additional vitamin D dose," he says. After all, this has been proven to be the case with a severe deficit.</p><p>In view of the study situation, Fassnacht does not think much of preventive, nationwide vitamin D substitutes. "My belief that the vitamin helps somewhere is very low. But, of course, I can be wrong."</p>
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EcoWatch sat down with some of the scientists spearheading the collaboration to learn more.
Climate models are predicting faster warming of the North Atlantic Ocean, which will shift the Gulf Stream. NASA
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By Jessica Corbett
As a United Nations agency released new climate projections showing that the world is on track in the next five years to hit or surpass a key limit of the Paris agreement, authors of a new study warned Thursday that increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is nearing a level not seen in 15 million years.
<div id="1a097" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="3be1f37aee62477983e577219c84d7a9"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1281182404116385792" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">https://t.co/3sNdmN8mCz New study covered by @guardiannews, we look at CO2 levels in the Late Pliocene (~3 million… https://t.co/xRhhLcpdJ5</div> — Tom Chalk (@Tom Chalk)<a href="https://twitter.com/ChalkyOceans/statuses/1281182404116385792">1594292663.0</a></blockquote></div>
<div id="23d44" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="a800573625ce69a53bedfe537b572116"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1281123005695959040" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Annual mean global temperature likely to be at least 1° C above pre-industrial levels in each of coming 5 years (20… https://t.co/WOBeEOhbCe</div> — World Meteorological Organization (@World Meteorological Organization)<a href="https://twitter.com/WMO/statuses/1281123005695959040">1594278501.0</a></blockquote></div>
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