World Ocean Day: Become a Wave of Change, Not a Drop in the Ocean
On World Ocean Day, the determination to reclaim clean and safe oceans and rivers for humanity is the Human Security For All (HS4A) message.
Water is life, and no life is possible without water. All living things depend upon it. Oceans are the largest reservoirs of life and need to be treated, and respected, as the sacred resource that they are.
Cristina Finucci’s artwork and installations (pictured below) carry a tremendous force. They are a powerful means to attract the attention of the layperson worldwide to the impact of this mega-disaster — plastics polluting our oceans. They are also a message in a bottle (adrift like the Garbage Patch State that Cristina founded 10 years ago) for all those who can make a difference and change things around.
A collective act of conscience is needed to drastically change the habits of our consumer society that throws away what is no longer needed, and that invariably ends up flowing into our oceans. Policies and habits must change to ensure life on the planet for future generations.
In my crisis management work at the UN, I have seen many times the coastal shores of West Africa, and other regions, littered with plastics, and no one in power is able to prevent the piling up of this garbage. This is happening in all countries and also in some of the most beautiful places — where indifference, ignorance, and poverty make things worse. In contrast, there are many good practices and examples in all countries too, but what is missing is the critical mass, an aggregation of scattered projects that can make a change.
We need serious waste management policies and educational programs to prevent the worst from happening. No coastal barrier will succeed if local communities are not empowered and gainfully engaged in waste collection and recycling.
Together we need to further public awareness, such as the work of the Human Security for All campaign, gathering the concerted efforts of institutions and individuals.
Ultimately, the universal collective of individuals can create change so that — to paraphrase the great Persian poet Rumi — “One person’s action is not a drop in the ocean, but the ocean in a drop.”
Donato Kiniger Passigli is Vice President, World Academy of Art and Science (WAAS), and former UN Senior Official. He is Co-chair of the ongoing UN-WAAS Human Security Campaign for All (HS4A). He is a professor of practice for crisis management post-graduate courses. Collaborates with the Open University of Catalunya (UOC), Barcelona, and the School of Advanced and International Political Studies (HEIP), Paris. Also collaborates with the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) where, for two years, served as senior adviser for peace and security. Until 2019, Donato headed the Fragile States and Disaster Response department of the International Labour Organization (ILO), in charge of crisis response programs in the wake of major humanitarian crises, addressing governance and employment deficits. In his 34 years at the United Nations, he was, inter-alia, spokesperson for the UN Humanitarian Affairs Office (OCHA) and head of the media and public affairs branch of the Hague-based Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).