Seychelles: small islands with big aspirations

by MMC
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Victoria, Seychelles — Everyone knows that small island states are on the front lines of global warming. Rising sea levels, acidification destroying fisheries and coral reefs, and changing precipitation patterns are just some of the challenges ahead. Some low-lying islands have already disappeared into the ocean.

These challenges are real and can hardly be underestimated. But there is also another side to the story: one that tells of creative response and new opportunities. The fact is that small island states are at the forefront of the blue economy.

Several years ago, in 2016, I wrote a book (Rethinking the oceans: towards the blue economy) to show why urgent action was needed. Interconnected seas cover most of our planet and yet we have always treated them as a stopgap, as if the riches found there will last forever. Instead, I have long argued that our approach must be sustainable. It must meet not only the needs of today but also the generations of tomorrow.

Ten years ago, the concept of the blue economy was poorly understood. Why, people would ask, is this different from the way the sea has always been used? Things have changed since then and the question is no longer “why” but “how”. In my second book on the subject, Revisiting the ocean: living the blue economyI show what progress has been made and where we can find some of the most important changes.

There is still much to do, particularly to stem the incessant flow of harmful practices. But there are already signs of progress. To show this, I turn to local communities and business startups, to visionaries and philanthropists, as well as to international organizations. Travel to remote beaches to see how communities (often led by women) are taking matters into their own hands. Or to the workshops of young, inventive entrepreneurs who find ways to do things better. I’m a realist but also an optimist and in my new book I try to balance a pervasive sense of impending doom with a strong message of hope.

COP28 will bring together the great and the good, attracted by the prospect of a new approach. But it will also attract those who are not so enamored with a sustainable approach to the ocean. Fast-growing countries, with literally billions of mouths to feed, will not be so easily persuaded that sustainability is the right approach. The same goes for commercial and other interests that are poised to search the seabed for rich mineral reserves. Yet if we are not to destroy our planet, restraint must prevail. In the crowded halls of the next event in Dubai, we must not miss any opportunity to make our case.

My own country, Seychelles, has one of the smallest populations in the world and yet, surrounded by a vast expanse of ocean, we have developed new ways to wisely manage this immense gift of nature. Rational planning of our marine space is how we move forward and I recommend the lessons learned to other small island nations. We have also been innovative in attracting funds and the way we have done this is also a shared resource.