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Shedding Light on Oceanus Conservation: Preserving our Marine and Coastal Ecosystems

by Bea Venzuela

We've been hearing all around us how our oceans are becoming dumps for our global garbage reserves, how our beaches are washing ashore more garbage-filled species that are meant to thrive, live, and contribute to our underwater ecosystems, and how our greenhouse gas atmospheric levels may soon go beyond the allotted carbon budget per nation. With news at this urgency, a project initiated at the Union Square in Manhattan on September 2020 by artists Gan Golan and Andrew Boyd, titled the 'Metronome', showcases a 62-foot-wide 15-digit electronic clock that was programmed to illustrate the critical window of action to prevent the effects of global warming from becoming irreversible.


"A monument is often how a society shows what's important, what it elevates, what is at center stage," the illuminating words from Mr. Boyd himself. At that time, the numbers 7 : 103 : 15 : 40 : 07 that represented the years, days, hours, minutes, and seconds showcased the estimated time we have left. "This is arguably the most important number in the world," as Mr Boyd said. Given the present time... How much time do we have left? 

 

Image by Pol Cariño

 

It's easy to let information like this bring our hopes down, but there are movements and organizations that reverse that and restore our hope in humanity. We had the wonderful opportunity to get to know an organization that contributes in their own way, and this organization is none other than Oceanus. This innovative NGO combines advanced technology with the conservation of our marine and coastal ecosystems here in the Philippines. Their aim is to combine remote sensing and geographic information systems in monitoring our impact in forest restoration. 

 

Image via Oceanus Conservation 

 

“What we envision is that funders and other individuals who support us will be able to monitor planted trees through our website platform,” said Camille. For now, they are training communities to effectively and efficiently restore areas with high survival rates. Oceanus aims to achieve sustainable development goals with a mission to spread education and uplift the livelihood and resilience of Filipino communities. Their projects will always have community in mind either through education, or providing sustainable livelihood. 

 

Image via Oceanus Conservation 

 

“At the moment, we are spreading ocean education through providing bilingual storybooks to kids who do not have access to ocean education”, said Camille. They also aim for communities to protect and restore mangroves through the selling of seedlings where they help these communities build diverse mangrove nurseries. We see here how, with as big of an issue climate change can present, it is all about contributing in-line with what we are passionate about. Seeing ourselves in light of the bigger picture.

 

 Image via Oceanus Conservation

 

 

 Global warming is big, but if we all work together, that is much bigger.

 

 

 Image via Oceanus Conservation

 

It all began in the year 2020. Camille Rivera just came from an extensive work opportunity with Marine Conservation Philippines, a local non-governmental organization that preserves and protects coastal resources in the Philippines through education, volunteerism and research. After her time at Marine Conservation Philippines, she then decided it was time to begin an organization of her own. At the beginning of it, the thick of her work was to engage in networking amongst different organizations. 

 

Image via Oceanus Conservation 

 

She joined the Global Landscapes Forum, a worldwide network of scientists, practitioners, and science communicators whose aim was to restore hectares of idle and degraded land to protect and conserve biodiversity-rich landscapes and promote sustainable use of natural resources.  During her time at Global Landscapes Forum, there was a program she engaged in that deepened her knowledge. She then took a chance.


Competing amongst 200 applicants, only 6 were to be called, and she ended up getting a spot in the team. A representative was needed for each landscape: One for the oceans, the peatlands, the mountains, the forests, the drylands, and the wetlands, in which she earned the spot for. Most of the work she did revolved around mangroves. This was where her deep work with mangroves began. 

 

Image via Oceanus Conservation

 


She got involved with groups like Youth for Nature and Global Biodiversity Network, which merged biodiversity conservation and climate change and aimed to increase youth representation within those areas. Camille is particularly passionate about engaging with the youth, “I believe they are the future” she mentioned. Camille was invited to the Environment and Youth Summit hosted by the International Union for Conservation in which she spoke about her extensive work in restoration.

 

 

Camille spoke of Oceanus as an organization that combines advanced technology with the conservation of marine and coastal ecosystems. Their organization is focused on conserving Blue Carbon, the CO2 that is removed from the atmosphere by water ecosystems. This includes algae, salt marshes, seagrass, macroalgae, and mangroves, and is achieved through plant growth, accumulation, and burying of organic matter in the soil.

 

 

The aim of Oceanus is to shed light on undervalued ecosystems and mangroves are one of them.

 

 

Image via Oceanus Conservation 

 

Many of us don't know about mangroves, and yet there is an increasing demand for water farming (the farming of fish, crustaceans, mollusks, aquatic plants, and other organisms), otherwise known as aquaculture. Since the 1920's, approximately 50% of mangroves in the world have been cut down due to aquaculture. This indicates that about 365,000 hectares of mangroves are left on the planet with 0.5% yearly loss. How can we have these strong inclinations toward aquaculture without understanding the ecosystems that operate in those zones, and are directly endangered by these farmed waters? 

 

Oceanus works closely with Blue Carbon habitats. Mangroves are forests in themselves and have many plants that store carbon. Carbon is important for living systems and life can't exist without carbon. There is a carbon cycle in ecosystems that needs to be sustained. This life-sustaining element, Carbon, travels from the atmosphere, to the oceans, and into the organisms - and the cycle repeats itself. Blue carbon is found in coasts and oceans, while green carbon is found in land. 

 

Her community work during her time in Marine Conservation Philippines

 

 

According to Camille, their organization focuses on protecting natural homes and habitats. “Without habitats, there would be no wildlife. Without a home, we have nowhere to go", states Camille.

 

 

Oceanus' headquarters are currently based in Makati. They are a growing team, determined to take on the titan-like challenge of saving our waters. The team frequently works with consultants in their field. “One of them, Dr. Hilly Ann Roa Quiaoit, trained me during my first few years post-college. Soon after, I chose my own path and learned from experience working with different settings, communities, and islands”, said Camille. But nonetheless, as the experienced integrated coastal manager and researcher that she is, she helped build the organization to what it is today. "We want to make sure we have our decision-making and problem-solving based on well-backed science", as Camille concludes. 

 

Source: Stuytown

 

Here, we remember the Metronome clock. 

Going back to the time estimate based on calculations by the Mercator Institute in Berlin. 

"We can't argue with science," said Mr. Boyd, "You just have to reckon with it."

 

As we open up this conversation and promote awareness towards mangroves by learning more of what Oceanus is about, it brings our eyes to what is undervalued. As Oceanus sheds light on undervalued ecosystems: Perhaps this is a call to shed light on what we are undervaluing in our day-to-day surroundings. We may not be experiencing firsthand the effects of the climate crisis, but the fact is that a million species are at risk of extinction due to its effects, most especially if we don’t do something. In a decade, its effects will turn irreversible, especially if we don’t act as a team. 

 

 Image via Oceanus Conservation

 

Though we may not be experiencing climate change as potently as climate risk zones in the world (such as small islands, Africa, the Arctic, Australia, and large Asian river deltas); We need to remember everyday that Mother Earth never operates separately. What is happening in one part of the world is just as vital for us to know. Because when it's too late, we will all be experiencing the climate crisis' effects equally. But there is hope and it is in what each of us chooses to do for the world.

 

Grounded has collaborated with Oceanus to bring forth a cause that sheds light on undervalued ecosystems, as well as our mission for the environment - which is to save it. We thrive on the spirit of collaboration and creativity, as we’ve developed candle collections and podcast creations in-line with this mission. For our #GroundedlovesEteri candle collection we donate a portion of our revenues to Oceanus Conservation. For Grounded Radio Season 3 the podcast episodes revolve around educational storytelling about the environment. With episodes that talk about how we can protect and care for our underwater treasures.

 

Image via Oceanus Conservation

 

This crisis affects us all in part because as temperatures rise both in land and water, as sea levels rise, as natural catastrophes increase and grow more volatile, as do our thawing permafrost - it is human health that poses the most vulnerable. Our changing environments are expected to cause more heat, increase waterborne disease, have poorer air quality, as well as more extreme weather. At this point; We need to be thinking about the future of our children’s children. Because they are our future. Humanity is truly capable of so much more. As we are vessels of unimaginable creation on this Earth; It is now time we start thinking about our world, our only home - Mother Earth.