Wednesday, 14th September 2016

Our Ocean, One Future


The first blog post from Mitchell Chandler (Blake Ambassador, Young Blake Expeditioner and YELF Delegate) who is one of only two young people from New Zealand attending the Our Ocean, One Future Leadership Summit at Georgetown University in Washington DC, gives us an exciting overview of his first day on the ground, visiting a US Naval Academy.

Mitchel chatting to Oceanography Students

Today our group visited the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. As an oceanography student, I found this visit very interesting as we were hosted by Captain Emil Petruncio, a leading naval oceanographer. We were invited out on a naval ship to experience some of the practical work that the oceanography students were carrying out as part of their studies. During the time we were there, we were involved a CTD cast, which is very similar to the practical work I have been involved in in my studies in Dunedin. CTD stands for conductivity (used to measure salinity of the water), temperature, and depth, and is a common oceanographic tool used to create vertical profiles of the ocean based on salinity and temperature characteristics. Salinity and temperature are important oceanographic measurements as they are used to identify different water masses in the ocean.
The visit to the Naval Academy was also eye-opening due to the sheer size of the academy. The campus is home to around 4000 students (known as midshipmen) and acts as both a university and naval training facility. As such, it has all the things you would expect of an American University, including an American Football team, but also many things you wouldn’t, most obviously the Navy ships. In the evening we had the opportunity to have dinner with the rest of the New Zealand delegation to the Our Ocean Conference.

This delegation included Hon. Minister Maggie Barry, the Minister of Conservation, and Hon. Tim Grosser, the New Zealand ambassador. This was a unique opportunity to meet these people and hear their views on environmental issues facing New Zealand, as well as an opportunity to share our thoughts on some of these issues as we prepare for the international conference.

To me, a lot of the environmental issues that parliament debates seem to take much longer than they should. However, in order to properly represent the views of New Zealand as a country, in-depth consultation must be undertaken with a large number of groups. This consultation can take a long time, and, if different groups have differing opinions, reaching agreement can be problematic. Seeing and hearing more about this side of process has made me more aware of the importance of communicating science to both the public and to parliament in a way that people can easily understand. I believe that if people better understood the important science behind these issues and why good evidence should guide our policies, the resolution process and implementation of policies and action would not take as long.