Kerry: Ocean Protection Is 'Life and Death' National Security Issue
The secretary of state spoke at Georgetown's "Our Ocean, One Future" Summit.
September 16, 2016, 8:16 PM
• 3 min read
-- Secretary of State John Kerry spoke this morning at an ocean preservation summit at Georgetown University, saying the state of the world's oceans is a pressing international security issue.
"This is life and death. This is national security. This is international security," Kerry said.
He cited black carbon in the Arctic, rapidly increasing acidification in oceans that harms crustaceans, and illegal, unregulated fishing that is "strip mining the oceans and threatens to destroy an entire ecosystem."
The speech comes just two days after State Department Under Secretary Cathy Novelli cautioned in a press briefing that the amount of plastic in the ocean is so high that "if you lined up garbage bags of plastic along the coast, every coastline that touches the ocean in the entire world, you would have five deep of garbage bags."
If current patterns continue, there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050, she said.
Almost 50 percent of the planet is dependent on food from the ocean, and 12 percent of the world's workforce depends on the oceans for their livelihood, Kerry said.
The Obama administration has garnered recent praise for its environmental activism, including for the president's Aug. 26 creation of the largest marine reserve in the world. At a half-million square miles, or twice the size of Texas, the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument in Hawaii protects marine life (some of which is thousands of years old) from commercial extraction activities, like fishing and deep-sea mining.
Kerry, who lives just a few blocks from the campus’s front gates, traced his environmental activism back to the first Earth Day in 1970, when he returned from his military service in Vietnam to participate, as well as his time as chairman of the Senate's fishery subcommittee.
Georgetown's "Our Ocean, One Future" leadership summit was co-hosted with the State Department as a parallel event to its "Our Ocean" conference. Kerry's statements today were part of a discussion with actor Adrian Grenier.
The 2004 presidential candidate referenced the 2016 campaign when a student asked a question about the most challenging issue he's dealt with in his environmental work. "Ignorance," he said. "We still have people who run for president of the United States who don't acknowledge that there's a problem."