We have moved to www.ashadevos.com

The material on this site is the copyright of Asha de Vos. Photographs should not be used without the express permission of the photographer. For more information contact whalessrilanka@gmail.com

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Rio+20 = Rio-40 or Rio Fail?

Speaking on behalf of the Ocean and everything in it with my Ocean Hero, Dr. Sylvia Earle, at the Rio+20 Oceans Dialogue.

"More money was mobilized at  than at any previous UN conference, to benefit the planet & its people" @UN Twitter statement. 

But what really was the outcome for the planet and the people? 49 pages of fluff. The outcome document, titled 'The Future We Want' has been shunned by many who attended the summit and many more who watched eagerly from their seats at home, anticipating positive outcomes. For those of us who attended, participated and voiced a general need for ACTION rather than RECOMMENDATIONS, particularly for the oceans and the high seas - which form half our planet, the mood is low. 

Finding silver linings is tough....especially seeing as the will of 183 countries to develop a framework for high seas governance was killed by a very small number of powerful countries - namely, the United States, Russia, Canada and Venezuela. How that is even possible, is beyond me!

The resulting document has been described as "watered-down text that has very little teeth" by Kumi Naidoo the executive director of Greenpeace International. Frankly, the results are discouraging.

The final outcome document does however, contain recommendations on ending overfishing, taking action to stop illegal fishing, phasing out harmful subsidies, eliminating destructive fishing practices and protecting vulnerable marine ecosystems. I, like many others, await action. 

It becomes evident once again that the one thing that will rescue us and our oceans is education. This was reflected in my message at the Oceans Dialogue of Rio+20. Below is an excerpt,

"We need to empower people with knowledge so they can make informed decisions. We live in this incredible age of digital technology and social media. We need to embrace the tools that lie at our finger tips to get the word out about oceans and get people excited enough so that we can begin to see the positive change that we so desperately need. We need to involve the local communities in the protection of their own back yard. Mobilize the masses. A bottom up approach might be our only hope."

Finally, it is important to note that Rio+20 was not a complete failure because after two decades of trying, the Oceans were finally on the agenda. There was a high amount of public participation in Rio+20, including the fact that people from 163 countries submitted nearly one and a half million votes online about environmental issues they wanted to see discussed. 

The conference has been a celebration of knowing that nature matters - for business, industry, healthy, security, and every breath we take, every drop of water we drink," said Dr. Sylvia Earle. "Whether the political leaders endorse what people are saying or not is not as important as the lift this conference has given to the growing awareness that the planet has limits."

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Statement made at Rio+20 United Nations Sustainable Development Dialogues - Asha de Vos

Photo credit IISD Reporting Services

Photo credit IISD Reporting Services

Me taking a picture of you on live TV. Photo credit Yasha Hetzel.

Sylvia Earle, Ocean Hero, My Hero.
Photo credit IISD Reporting Services.

I would like to begin by applauding and thanking the Brazilian government for their efforts to engage and involve civil society in this otherwise high level and exclusive meeting. I feel honoured to have been invited to sit on this panel amongst some great ocean heroes and represent the youth of our planet ocean.

I believe the biggest achievement we have had since the first Rio summit is getting the oceans on the agenda. We have a number of people to thank for that, some who are present and others who aren't. It is an incredible achievement and we must not fail to recognize that. Now I believe we must honor their efforts a use this opportunity wisely bearing in mind that the unfortunate truth is that the future we want is not in 20 years time. It is more immediate. It is tomorrow.

We have already left it too late because we have been complacent and left it in the hands of governments for the last 2 decades. But we are all part of the problem and so instead of depending so heavily on this top down approach that we now know does not work effectively on its own, we need to evolve a different way of thinking. We need to empower people with knowledge so they can make informed decisions. We live in this incredible age of digital technology and social media. We need to embrace the tools that lie at our finger tips to get the word out about oceans and get people excited enough so that we can begin to see the positive change that we so desperately need. We need to involve the local communities in the protection of their own back yard. Mobilize the masses. A bottom up approach might be our only hope.

If governments choose to make pledges then we need to be able to hold them accountable. We need clear and concrete measurable outcomes that are achievable within reasonable timelines. We also need to consider developed and developing countries separately as each have different priorities and face different challenges.


Right now we need more than recommendations. We need actions.Setting targets that look good on paper does not achieve anything. Creating X number of protected areas by a certain date is less important than Measuring the success of the protected areas we already have. I know that in my part of the world these are all paper parks and are possibly more damaged than other areas because all people were ever told about them is that's where theres lots of fish.

The ocean makes up 70 % of Our planet and I believe we need more than a single dialogue to really get any depth of discussion. The current recommendations are all so closely interlinked that it is almost too difficult to vote for them in isolation. This is a true reflection of the complexity of the ocean which we are only just beginning to understand.


That said, I strongly support recommendation number 4 because this is our time to really do something for a part of the ocean that is currently under no governance and i extend my support to recommendations 1 which has already been selected and 10 because they both reflect the important role of education, community engagement and making people part of the solution to save planet ocean.

(To watch my statement at the Rio+20 Oceans themed Dialogue click on the link. I start at 1:03:25)







Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Where do we go from here? Rio+20

The panelists for the oceans theme with the Minister for Foreign Affairs in Brazil, Julio Bittelli (center).
Photo credit IISD Reporting Services.
Moderator Phillipe Cousteau from CNN addresses the panel.
Photo credit IISD Reporting Services.

Photo credit IISD Reporting Services.

As many of you know, yesterday concluded the Sustainable Development Dialogues of Rio+20. These Dialogues were a great effort on the part of the Brazilian Government to involve civil society in the debates and discussions on ten very important themes. The panel for Oceans featured a prestigious line up of 'ocean luminaries' all there to make a plea for the oceans. The occasion was graced by the presence of H. M. Carl XVI Gustaf, King of Sweden and H. M. Queen Silvia, Queen of Sweden.

If you missed the live webcast of the event please click here. Its available in English and Portugese. There was a lot of varied thought and comments on the state of the oceans and how to tackle the issues. I would urge anyone interested in the state of the planet to watch this and the other dialogues. Here's a summary of my thoughts:

1 We need action not just words

2 The ocean needs more than one dialogue

3 Education is key to solving problems

4 The top down approach does not work on its own. While we need governance frameworks we can't depend on governments alone. Each of us must take responsibility.

The statement I made will be available as a separate blog post. Please look out for it.

I strongly supported the rest of the panel in the decision to support a framework of governance for the high seas. The high seas is all seas that are out of national jurisdiction...that is a good 50% of the ocean. Basically because it is beyond the area under regulation of individual countries there is a huge and very real risk that it will be used and abused freely and this is something we have to prevent. Declaring protected areas in these parts and implementing regulations will have their own complications, but its a much needed start. If we don't do it now, we may lose our only chance.

Other issues discussed highlighted the need for the removal of harmful fisheries subsidies, stakeholder consultation prior to launching activities, the need for the control of pollution and understanding the link to land based pollution, education, outreach and implementation.

For more information about the event click here and here.


Monday, June 18, 2012

Watch Rio+20 live!

For all of you interested in watching the events at Rio +20 including the Sustainable Develpment Dialogues, visit the live UN webcast page. For the schedule and times of different dialogues click here.

The Oceans dialogue featuring Sylvia Earle, Jean-Michel Cousteau, myself and seven other prestigious panelists will be telecast live from 1100-1330hrs Rio de Janeiro time. To figure out the time difference between your location and Rio try this link. If you do miss the live broadcast you can look for it in the list of per-recorded programmes.

For great interviews and all things oceans at Rio +20 visit the dedicated website of Oceans Inc.

This is our planet and we must all work together to achieve the future we want. Join me!


Saturday, June 16, 2012

Ocean-a-Rio! Ocean facts from Rio thus far....

Sri Lankan flag flutters in the Copacabana breeze.

Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. All major cities were built along the ocean. While the ocean provides us with so much, what do we do in return? Dump waste, making it unsafe to marine life and ourselves. Fabian Cousteau says we dump 10 million tons of plastics per day!

Jean-Michel Cousteau, son of the legendary Jacques-Yves Cousteau, speaks at TEDxRio+20. 25% of belugas found dead on the east coast of Canada have cancer.

Jacques Cousteau's grand son Fabian talks about his grand father and his 'plant-a-fish' project. An advocate of the bottom up approach to conservation and therefore a man after my own heart.

Director of Scripps Institue of Oceanography Tony Haymet says "the ocean is our friend, we should look after it" in a talk about the robot that accompanied James Cameron on the bottom of the Mariana Trench. What did they bait it with? Chicken of course!

Sugar loaf mountain and Christ the Redeemer from the ocean at sunset. A different, more peaceful perspective.

The city centre at sunset.

Sylvia Earle invites us into her magical world

Explorers are people who have never grown up! Sylvia Earle shows us around her space.....and reminisces. What an incredible lady! What an honor to sit on a panel with Her Deepness. I look forward. Watch us online on the UN website.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Rio's iconic Christ the Redeemer turns green for Rio+20

Christ the Redeemer watches over the busy city of Rio de Janeiro as it launches into a fortnight of discussions, talks and agreements for Rio+20,the United Nations conference on Sustainable Development. The green hue is symbolic of the main theme being discussed this year - greening the world's economy.

How do we move forward into the upcoming decades in a sustainable manner that ensures the protection of our resources for future generations?


Saturday, June 9, 2012

Meet your team!

I would like to introduce to you the panelists for the 'Oceans' theme at the upcoming Rio+20 Sustainable Development Dialogues. This session will be facilitated by Phillipe Cousteau.

Thank you to all those who have voted thus far. If you haven't yet, there's still time - Click here to find out how. There are a total of ten very important themes being discussed at these Dialogues and I hope you will take a few minutes to look through the entire list.

Our team is looking forward to discussing the issues that you vote for on the 19th of June 2012 between 10-1330 Rio de Janeiro time. Please join us live via the UN website. More details to follow. Until then, have a browse of the official website here.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Spare a minute for our Oceans now!

Thank you for your contributions to the Rio+20 Dialogues online platform. The lively discussions will continue and evolve continuously but the period for proposing and supporting recommendations ended on the 3rd of June. Now I need you to help narrow down the topics for discussion at the Dialogues so myself and the 9 other panelists on the Oceans theme can sit and iron them out on the 19th of June. The hard work's already been done - the list has been narrowed to the top 10 recommendations. 

All YOU have to do is VOTE by clicking here http://vote.riodialogues.org. It doesn't even matter if you haven't participated up to now. These recommendations, ranked by the support received inside the platform and by the votes received in the public site will be assembled and organized by the Facilitators and presented to the Panelists in the Sustainable Development Dialogues (Rio de Janeiro, 16-19 June 2012), during Rio+20.

Don't forget to vote on the other themes too. The whole process will take a matter of minutes....the environment needs you....remember, this is OUR world, this is our chance to be part of the change we want to see in it!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Watch the Transit of Venus now or wait 108 years!

That little black dot is Venus transitting across the face of the sun. Look out for it on the 5th/6th of June!

Perhaps you are wondering how Venus got a mention on this blog given that all I talk about is marine stuff. Well here you go - Venus is believed to have previously possessed oceans however, these evaporated as the temperature rose owing to the runaway greenhouse effect which "is a process in which a net positive feedback between surface temperature and atmospheric opacity increases the strength of the greenhouse effect on a planet until its oceans boil away" (Wikipedia).

The Transit of Venus is when the disk of the planet Venus crosses the face of the sun. The Exploratorium website has lots of interesting information about it here. It will be visible from all over the world and to find out what time you should be ready click here. It is IMPORTANT to note however that watching the sun with unprotected eyes could severely damage your eyesight. I recommend you watch this video to learn how to put together a simple viewing structure. 

Finally, if you aren't able to find the materials to watch it yourself, or its super cloudy outside (like it is outside my window) and you can't find the sun, let alone Venus then I suggest you join me in watching the live webcast here.

P.S: the transit is so rare that only 6 have been seen since the invention of the telescope.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Are dolphins toymakers?

This incredible video featuring Senior Fellow Manu Prakash shows a dolphin making its own toy and playing with it. 

Friday, June 1, 2012

The Importance of Whale Poop

Blue whale poop. Photo credit: Asha de Vos
All of those who know me, know about my absolute fascination with blue whale poo. I often challenge people to find me a more beautiful poo in the animal kingdom....but mostly what I love is the stories it can tell. 

Dr. Joe Roman a conservation biologist and fellow at the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics at the University of Vermont provides plenty more insight in this interview....In conclusion, his research shows that not only are whales important because people want to see them, they are also really important because they provide us with a lot of services. Find out more here