Protecting Our Blue Planet
Protecting Our Blue Planet
Water is the basis of life on Earth as we know and understand it—and it is unique to our planet.
The ocean acts as a storehouse of carbon dioxide—that it absorbs from the air—and along with its marine life, produces more oxygen than the plants and forests on Earth. It is the heart and the cradle of our existence, having been the source and support for all life on Earth for over three billion years.
It is therefore unfortunate that our actions are threatening the health of our oceans. But as human beings we also possess the unique power to individually and collectively have a profound impact on the well-being of our waters and its ecosystems.
Need for Action
ONE°15 Marina’s Blue Water EduFest was conceived with that objective to honour and conserve our waters for generations to come. The non-profit event, organised by SUTL Group, which owns the marina and ONE°15 Events Management, was launched in 2022 to build awareness of the rising concerns of climate degradation and the pressing need to accelerate marine conservation efforts in Southeast Asia. Termed the Blue Water Movement by the Chairman and CEO of SUTL Group Arthur Tay, it aims to build a platform for solution-based discussions and activate action-based partnerships with governments and industry partners across the region.
Key to this has been recognising the region’s eco champions, who have dedicated their lives to conserving the health of our oceans, and preserving the biodiversity and the coastal communities they support. They are the catalysts for the change they want to see in the world.
Blue Water Heroes Awards, a signature segment of Blue Water EduFest that is powered by Tatler Gen.T, honours such passionate marine conservationists with a prize money amounting to $50,000 and networking opportunities that can help them catalyse their impact.
The second edition of Blue Water EduFest ran from 2 to 4 November 2023. The event included a two-day conference, The Ocean Collective Summit—held in collaboration with The International SeaKeepers Society and Fabien Cousteau Ocean Learning Centre—the awards ceremony of Blue Water Heroes and a meaningful beach and marina cleanup.
Conserving our Lifeline
The oceans cover 71 per cent of the Earth’s surface, yet only 5 per cent has been explored by humans. What we do know now is that the oceans absorb 90 per cent of the excess heat that is a cause of climate change, and this includes human-caused carbon dioxide emissions. Adding to that are the damage caused by plastic, noise and light pollution, overfishing, and other activities of urban life.
Plastic pollution and circular economy, ocean governance for sustainable ocean management, ocean technology and blue finance were the main topics of discussion at The Ocean Collective Summit (TOCS) held on 2 and 3 November. Entertainment personality and environmentalist Paul Foster was the emcee for the conference—Foster was one of the judges for Blue Water Heroes Awards 2023.
Fabien Cousteau, renowned aquanaut, filmmaker and Founder of the Fabien Cousteau Ocean Learning Center kicked off the discussions on ocean technology. He elaborated on Proteus, a marine analogue to a space station, slated to be functional by 2025. Complementing the technological capabilities was the keynote lecture by fellow filmmaker and CEO of OCN.ai on the technology company’s mission to map the ocean bed for data collection.
Cousteau also participated in related discussions with a panel comprising experts, stakeholders and key decision makers. It included Rena Lee, Singapore’s Ambassador for International Law; and Dr Winston Chow, Associate Professor of Urban Climate at SMU and Co-chair of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Dr Chow is also part of the panel of judges for the awards.
The second day of TOCS focused on ocean finance and blue carbon. A panel discussion Blue Carbon: Challenges and Opportunities was moderated by Blue Water Heroes Awards 2023 finalist Kong Man Jing. The expert panel included Dr Siti Maryam Yaakub, Director of International Blue Carbon Institute; Dr Yani Tanzil, Facility Director at St John’s Island National Marine Laboratory; and George Foulsham, Director of Danish Hydraulic Institute.
Other interesting presentations included that of Cesar Jung-Harada, Associate Professor in Design at Singapore Institute of Technology. His projects elucidated the deep links between art, science and environmental education.
One of the objectives of TOCS is to involve people from different walks of life and industries in the dialogue for a better planet. The conference was interspersed with fun quizzes, games of Kahoot!, and brainstorming sessions which saw the participation of students and industry experts alike.
A notable highlight of the solutions-based conference were presentations by the winners of the inaugural edition of Blue Water Heroes Awards: Melati Riyanto Wijsen of Indonesia-based movements Bye Bye Plastic Bags and Youthtopia; Thanda Ko Gyi of Myanmar Ocean Project; and Dr Louisa Ponnampalam of Malaysia-based MareCet Research Organisation.
An Assembly of Heroes
The awards ceremony of Blue Water Heroes Awards 2023 was held on the evening of 3 November as a gala dinner event at the Club.
Tay referred to it as “a vital corner-stone of the entire event”, in his welcome speech, as it offers the opportunity to shine the spotlight on the “outstanding conservation work of committed and passionate ASEAN eco-champions’’. “We will never kindle the flame of change if we adopt the mentality of ‘leaving it to others’ ,” he added, commending the 10 finalists, who had promptly initiated action upon identifying the problems polluting our oceans.
Among the 10 finalists were founders, co-founders and heads of social enterprises, their designations were as varied as the issues, from coral reef degradation and plastic pollution, to blue carbon deterioration, and more, but their goal was one: To improve marine health.
At a Pitch Presentation held on 10 October as the second step in the selection process, the finalists showcased the community-centric initiatives, environmental educational programmes and innovative and technology-enabled solutions they have employed to achieve their conservation goals and their long-term vision for a sustainable planet.
A distinguished panel of judges, which included Tay, Foster and Dr Chow, also comprised other executives and industry experts. They were Dr Toh Tai Chong, Senior Lecturer at National University of Singapore; Janet Shum, Sustainable Investing Specialist, APAC, at Citi Global Wealth; Christine Amour-Levar, Founder and CEO of Her Planet Earth, Co-founder of Investors for Climate; and Chong Seow Wei, Regional Senior Editor at Tatler Gen.T.
This year’s finalists were Alvin Chelliah, Chief Program Manager at Reef Check Malaysia; Anna Oposa, Executive Director and Chief Mermaid of Save Philippine Seas; Jessica Novia, Founder of Carbon Ethics and Bumi Journey; Kong Man Jing, Co-founder of Just Keep Thinking; Made Merta, Founder of Mina Bhakti Segara Lestari; Mathilda D’silva, CEO and Founder of Ocean Purpose Project; Oh Chu Xian, Founder of Magorium and M-Impact; Swietenia Puspa Lestari, Founder and Executive Director of Divers Clean Action; Tom Peacock-Nazil, Founder and CEO of Seven Clean Seas and Gary Bencheghib, Co-founder of Sungai Watch.
The 10 finalists, who hailed from Singapore, as well as Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines, came together for the event to support each other and prove their solidarity to the cause. A video showcase illustrating each of their work, and impact and achievements proved beyond doubt that they were each winners in their own right.
It was fitting therefore that the gala dinner held in honour of such eco-champions was kicked off with a personal note—a prerecorded video message—by Dr Sylvia Earle, Explorer in Residence at the National Geographic Society, and Founder of Mission Blue and Deep Hope Inc. Guests also had the opportunity to listen to the inspiring stories shared by the young members of the Ocean Geographic Antarctic Climate Expedition (ACE) led by Dr Earle, which included the emcee of the evening, Melissa Tan, and 12-year-old pianist, Hillary Yifei O’Sullivan. The latter’s live performance Rhapsody for a Changing Antarctic, written by composer, orchestrator and sound designer, Eric Bettens, set against the moving backdrop of Antarctica kept the guests enthralled. The young pianist had given a similar performance in Antarctica and also recently at the Royal Highland Festival 4,000 feet above sea level in front of the King of Bhutan.
Michael Aw, Founder of Asian Geographic, Ocean Geographic and Deep Hope, further elaborated on ACE, drawing attention to the urgent need for action through pictures depicting the shocking polar environment with brown and pink-stained snow landscape—a far cry from the “snow white” Antarctica of postcards. An image of a rainbow captured during the expedition further drew the point home.
At the end of the evening, three among the 10 finalists were announced as winners of Blue Water Heroes Awards 2023. First place went to Peacock-Nazil based in Singapore and Indonesia, second place went to Oh from Singapore and third place went to Oposa from the Philippines.
Adding to the joyous commemorations were upbeat and soulful cover renditions by live band Skye Sirena and Band. The sustainable menu served during the event aligned with the cause and the Club’s personal commitment to sustainability and its Farm-to-Table accreditation from the Singapore Food Agency.
Blue Water EduFest is, as Tay expressed, “an impassioned plea to gather more people and organisations to the cause of marine conservation,” and will continue to be the stage for impactful action.
Blue Water EduFest is organised by ONE15 Events Management, in partnership with Sentosa Development Corporation, International SeaKeepers Society Asia, Fabien Cousteau Ocean Learning Center, Kin, Ocean Geographic, Tatler Gen.T and Serial Cleaners. It is sponsored by Citi Private Bank, K3 Ventures, V3 Group, Greenlab, Fazioli, Fords Gin and Singapore Airlines.
The original article was published on the January/ February 24 issue of Longitude, ONE°15 Marina’s Club magazine. Read it here.