Photo: Courtesy of Ocean Conservancy
One of the ways American Express is carrying out its commitment to advancing climate solutions is by helping Ocean Conservancyexpand its community resiliency programs and reduce plastic pollution.Bothorganizations recognize the positive impact local communities can make in the fight against climate change, a topic on the agenda of this year’s United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27).
Amex and Ocean Conservancy began working together in 2018 with an initiative to mobilize Amex colleagues to help cleanup beaches in several countries. More recently, American Express expanded its support to include a $2.5 million commitment in grant funding to help prevent the flow of trash and plastic pollution into the ocean and promote resilience through Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup® (ICC) and Urban Ocean® programs.
Photo: Courtesy of American Express
Janis Searles Jones, Chief Executive Officer of Ocean Conservancy explains her perspective on what can be done to protect our oceans, and how the organization’s work with Amex is helping drive climate and plastic pollution solutions locally.
Why is protecting the ocean a top priority?
The ocean is the life support system of our planet. Not only does it produce half of the oxygen in the atmosphere, but evaporation drives the hydrological cycle and global patterns in rainfall. Additionally, its ability to absorb and move heat from the equator to the poles governs our weather and moderates temperature.
While things might look fine if you go stand at the coastline, it’s important to build awareness around the many challenges our oceans face today – from overfishing to the effects of climate change, to plastic pollution. To protect the ocean for future generations, we must act now.
Ocean Conservancy has been around for 50 years. What does the organization consider to be some of its biggest achievements so far?
With a staff of more than 100 people and headquarters in Washington, D.C., Ocean Conservancy has a robust team of policy experts, scientists, and communication specialists positioned across the U.S.
Our achievements include helping turn the tide on depleted fisheries, stewarding the adoption of the United States’ first state-wide network of “underwater parks” in California (Marine Protected Areas or MPAs), and advancing restoration efforts in the Gulf of Mexico.
Ocean Conservancy has strived to be a leader on the issue of ocean plastic since 1986, when we organized the first International Coastal Cleanup®. Since then, we’ve worked with partners in over 150 countries to help mobilize millions of volunteers to remove approximately 350 million pounds of trash from beaches and waterways around the globe, all the while logging items and building the world’s largest database on marine debris.
Recognizing that cleanups are only part of the solution, Ocean Conservancy has leveraged that data and invested in additional science to better understand the sources of ocean plastics.
How does working with a company like Amex help you achieve your mission?
Ocean Conservancy believes that all people and stakeholder groups have a role to play in solving our ocean’s challenges; and partnerships are part of our DNA. We engage and collaborate with policymakers, academia, thought leaders, influencers, the private sector, and other key players to drive long-term change for a healthy ocean.
This expertise extends to large-scale public facing campaigns and partnerships. Support from Amex will allow Ocean Conservancy to expand the Urban Ocean program to three more cities that are keen to tackle the plastic pollution crisis by bringing together local leaders to build solutions. It will also allow us to expand the reach and impact of the International Coastal Cleanup program, which helps to remove millions of pounds of trash from communities most impacted by the plastic pollution crisis.
How can we work together to build more resilient cities and coastal communities to protect them from climate change?
Plastics and climate change are deeply interconnected: plastics are made from fossil fuels, and plastic production contributes to significant greenhouse gas emissions. People around the world can work to reduce the amounts and types of plastics produced or permitted in their municipality; support circular systems (such as reusable containers); and ensure collection and recycling of materials – all of which help to reduce carbon emissions.
What do most of us not know about our oceans?
More than 80% of our ocean has yet to be seen, explored, or mapped by humankind; and scientists discover new ocean life all the time. Even for those of us that work on the issues facing our waters every day, there are always new things to learn and love about the ocean.
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