On 2 November 2023, Blue Water EduFest 2023 made a splash with its press conference promoting the three-day marine conservation festival at ONE°15 Marina in Singapore. This year’s edition featured events such as the Ocean Collective Summit 2023, a conference on ocean technology solutions, Blue Water Heroes, an awards ceremony honouring young trailblazing ocean defenders across Southeast Asia, and the ONE°15 Clean-Up, a beach and marina clean-up for participants to dive into environmental stewardship first-hand at Sentosa Cove.
The opening speakers at the press conference were Arthur Tay, Chairman and CEO of SUTL and the brainchild of Blue Water EduFest, and Fabien Cousteau, aquanaut, oceanographic explorer, and founder of the Fabien Cousteau Ocean Learning Centre and Proteus Ocean Group. In their addresses, Tay and Cousteau emphasized the theme of this year’s festival, “Inspiring Innovative Ocean Solutions,” and the importance of environmental education as a wellspring for inspiration to encourage ocean protection.
Tay spoke to the urgency of public engagement with marine conservation issues, and how he envisaged Blue Water EduFest as a platform to increase environmental awareness and enable climate action. In particular, Tay highlighted Blue Water Heroes as a celebration of “ASEAN eco-champions” turning the tide for good in the region. The Blue Water Heroes gala night additionally featured youth members of the Ocean Geographic Antarctic Climate Expedition, a programme that brings industry changemakers and curious teenagers to Antarctica to bear witness to the effects of global warming.
On the topic of investing in the next generation of environmental leaders, Tay mentioned SUTL’s seed funding for environmental science education across various levels, from sponsoring early-career marine science researchers to supporting secondary school students in Science Centre Singapore’s Young Sustainability Champion programme finding ingenious solutions to ocean degradation. (Read more about the Young Sustainability Champion programme and how to get involved here.)
Similarly, Cousteau emphasized the value of youth engagement, reminding the audience that “education is key.” Cousteau shared anecdotes from his unusual childhood on the ships of his late grandfather, the famous oceanographer, naval officer, and inventor Jacques Cousteau, known by many as the “father of scuba diving.” He talked fondly about scrubbing barnacles under the RV Calypso‘s hull, scuba diving as a four-year-old, and sailing with his grandfather to remote places. These immersive learning experiences and his early exposure to diverse marine ecosystems nurtured his passion for preserving ocean ecosystems.
Cousteau’s opening remarks focused on relearning the ocean as “our connector” and “our network,” rather than a faraway entity, and fostering a culture of understanding that “whatever we do to the ocean we do to ourselves.” For instance, when we say “throw something away,” Cousteau asserted that “there is no such thing as away,” alluding to the enormous mass of plastic disposables dumped into the ocean. Beyond simply implementing STEM solutions for ocean conservation, Cousteau emphasized the need for marine conservation initiatives to be communicated in ways “tangible to the average person who may never get the chance to see the ocean” and for more environmental stories bringing people all over the globe in closer connection with the sea.
After their opening addresses, Tay and Cousteau were joined by panellists Julian Chang, President of the Asia Chapter of the International SeaKeepers Society, and Crispian Cuss, the APAC Head of Sustainability & ESG at Citibank, for a short fireside chat on the topics ranging from the responsibilities of boaters, blue finance, and the role of technology in coastal conservation.
Chang described how the International SeaKeepers Society equips private yachts to become research vessels contributing valuable oceanographic data to mitigate climate change. Furthermore, Chang discussed how these yachts become floating classrooms for students to learn marine science hands-on. (Explore the educational resources of the International SeaKeepers Society including free lesson plans on ocean plastics here.)
On the subject of reconciling economic growth with environmental protection, Cuss discussed “the role finance can play in trying to drive a sustainable future,” in particular, providing the necessary funding for neglected marine conservation causes. Cuss explained that amongst the UN’s seventeen sustainable development goals, “number fourteen, life below water, receives the least money.” In that same vein, Cousteau discussed the underlying problem that the ocean is simply taken for granted, and we have little appreciation for the true value of marine resources like fish, plankton, and water, to the extent that our “natural resource bank account” is “going bankrupt” because we continue to exploit the sea.
As for ocean technology solutions, Cousteau talked about his latest project to “build the International Space Station of the sea,” a cutting-edge underwater habitat and global laboratory named PROTEUS™. The advanced research facility will provide scientists with a “house and workspace on the final frontier of our planet” to “gather essential data” on the health of marine environments, which have not been well-mapped. Cousteau explained that while scientists have historically been limited by the time they can viably spend underwater, the observatory will grant researchers the time and space needed to reach breakthroughs in how we understand climate risk and the ocean.
All in all, Blue Water EduFest 2023 was an insightful platform for the public to deepen their knowledge of ocean conservation and absorb new ideas from thinkers at the forefront of protecting our blue planet. Science enthusiasts keen to plunge into more ocean conservation-related topics can visit related exhibitions at Science Centre Singapore such as Climate Changed, Earth Alive, and the Ecogarden.
Written by Jamie Uy