When Mr. Kitack Lim, Secretary-General of IMO, and Mr. Yohei Sasakawa-san of The Nippon Foundation, the main founder of the WMU-Sasakawa Global Ocean Institute, took to the stage on the inauguration day in Malmö last Monday, I had just a few days earlier delivered the first Opening Oceans Conference in Copenhagen, together with the Nor-Shipping team.
We had accomplished a conference to gather emerging and incumbent ocean industries, to discover new pathways for value creation in the ocean economy, and to explore collaborations to secure the sustained health of our oceans.
Now I was in a different room, albeit with a similar purpose. The WMU-Sasakawa Global Ocean Institute is the concrete implementation of WMU’s official commitment to UN SDG 14, and aspires to be an international focal point for the “ocean-science-policy-law-industry” interface. In his inaugural speech, Mr. Lim invites for an integrated approach, with an inter-generational long-term focus, with planned, coordinated and synergetic growth objectives. He asks us to look beyond the immediate economic cycle, and to move from “multiple confrontation to multiple collaboration”. Similarly, Sasakawa-san talks about a 7th generation stewardship, where every decision, personal, governmental or societal, is assessed for how it will affect seven generations ahead. Hearing this, I can’t help but thinking that seven generations ago, we were in the middle of the industrial revoultion. And that with such long-term focus, how could we possibly deliver on our short-to medium-term business objectives?
Then, the Swedish deputy prime minister Isabella Lövin uses the term I heard for the first time at the anniversary dinner last night: ocean literacy. The term to describe understanding the impact you have on the ocean, and the ocean’s impact on you. What a brilliant term! Let’s use this one! The Nippon Foundation delivers a clever analogy to explain how we need to both be inventive and imaginative, through a varied and open approach: the black bottle with light coming in only at its foot. [A bee flies in, staying where the light is, and eventually dies. A fly enters the bottle and doesn’t get fooled by the light: it checks out the entire captivity, and eventually finds the opening and flies out of the bottle.]
Jakob Granit, Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management, talks about creating a green and blue bio-based economy through smart management and connectivity. I look around in the impressive amphitheater-like lecture room and I can’t recognize anyone who was also at the Opening Oceans event the week before. Oh yes, I can. Special Envoy for the Ocean, Peter Thomson, was with us in Copenhagen, and is here too. But this time only over video link. The topics are so similar, yet the audience is so different. How are the ocean industries really connected?
Over lunch, I speak with a gentleman from the Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management. He didn’t know there was an unprecedented ocean business meet-up in Copenhagen the week before. He is a bit disappointed nobody told him about it. I mention the ocean conference currently also taking place in Trondheim, the Ocean Week 2018, hosted by NTNU. And there, over lunch under the orangery-ceiling at the beautiful Börshuset in Malmö, we recognize the need for triangulation. The policy environment must engage with the academic environment as well as with the industry environment. In a coordinated focused approach. To solve challenges. To build frameworks. To create viable and sustainable businesses which can continue supporting us all.
During the Think Tank session on marine spatial planning at the Opening Oceans Conference, the CCO of Port of Esbjerg, Jesper Bank, says something that might help us to solve these time-conflicting agendas of business objectives and generation-long perspectives. “We need to set a vision”, he says. All activities at sea, will need connection with a port, in one way or the other. Port infrastructure is not very agile, as it is developed with a perspective of maybe 50 years. How can then the different ocean industries, not least the emerging ones, have impact on how port infrastructure can enable these industries to scale, and doing so in a sustainable environment? Jesper Bank argues, that collaboration at vision level is needed. With a joint vision, a roadmap can be developed, and development can happen in stages, allowing for adjustment and thus flexibility, in between the steps.
I think Jesper Bank is right. Luckily, however, we already have an incredible joint vision in place. It is called the UN Sustainable Development Goals. It is by interpreting how your objectives, being it personal, societal or governmental, being it political, commercial or academic, are impacting the 17 SDGs, and how the 17 SDGs, are impacting your objectives. It is only then, we have a chance to develop the right roadmap for the future.
What should be our first steps into this sustainable future then? Asking me, I think we should all take that executive course in Ocean Literacy.