Global Future of the Environment

Global Future of the Environment

September 28, 2016

Understanding our Oceans

Monica Mahal

On Friday, September 16, hundreds of Hoyas and visitors alike gathered in Gaston Hall to hear Secretary of State John Kerry deliver his take on the state of our ocean. A day before his visit to the Hilltop, Secretary Kerry also spoke at the “Our Oceans” conference, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State.

The essence of the topic “our ocean” represents the multifaceted nature of global environmentalism. Oceans pertain to not one but many prominent environmental issues, including climate change, pollution, biodiversity loss, and resource depletion. Secretary Kerry took this expansive topic and broke it down into four basic categories: the importance of the ocean, its status, current political action, and further potential for progress.

Like a typical Georgetown student, my ears perked up at the discussion of political action and the role the United States plays in leading the ocean initiatives. “This is not a question of what do we do,” Secretary Kerry stated. “This is a question of the willpower to do what we know we can do.” I would challenge that statement further, and say that we should acknowledge what we do not know yet, and dedicate resources towards changing that. Solving these complex problems requires pushing the frontier of innovation, and hearing his words made me think of the importance of funding research and development. The ocean is one of the least understood areas in environmental science, and therefore calls for intense further study. Funding research and development can lead to innovative solutions to many problems that our ocean faces. This could include cost effectively generating electricity from ocean currents, reducing the quantity of garbage and pollution, and potentially discovering additional algal biomass.

“We have to think big and we have to think small at the same time.” Secretary Kerry provided examples of the progress made under the Obama administration and during the Paris COP21 agreements. Adding to this, funding R&D is critical in conjuring the big ideas that have the potential to be the best solutions towards the challenges our ocean faces.

Like Secretary Kerry says, “saving our ocean isn’t just an option or a priority, it’s an absolute necessity.” If we lead with this mindset, and focus on funding research and development, the United States can lead the global community in protecting and preserving our ocean.

Monica Mahal is a senior in the College, majoring in government and minoring in economics and environmental studies. She has interned for Georgetown’s Office of Sustainability for the past two years and works on sustainability outreach on campus.

Other Responses


Climate Change and the Oceans: Challenges Ahead

John Kerry | September 30, 2016


Fishermen, Fish, and the Tragedy of the Commons

Paul Sullivan | September 30, 2016


Ocean Degradation as a Source of Conflict

Camille Gaskin-Reyes | September 29, 2016


Our Ocean, One Future, Our Common Home

François Pazisnewende Kaboré | September 29, 2016


A Global Commitment Grounded in Local Stories

Paulus Bambang Irawan | September 29, 2016

Randallamster 1

Saving Our Oceans, Saving Ourselves

Randall Amster | September 29, 2016


Everything is Interconnected

René Micallef | September 29, 2016

About the Blog

Over the course of 2015 and 2016, the Global Future's Initiative invited the Georgetown University community to address four critical global issues: development, governance, security, and the environment.

During the fall 2016 semester, the Global Futures blog tracked a number of high-level events centered on the future of the environment. A series of lectures were co-sponsored with the Walsh School of Foreign Service, which emphasized the environment as a strategic centennial theme over the course of the 2016-2017 academic year.

Georgetown is home to a number of environment-related centers and programs in the School of Foreign Service, Georgetown College, and the Georgetown Law Center. Among these are the Georgetown Environment Initiative, the Center for the Environment, Georgetown Climate Center, and the Program on Science in the Public Interest.

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