The fifth SLOW LIFE symposium took place this year in the Maldives at Soneva Fushi graciously hosted, as ever, by Sonu and Eva Shivdasani. Four days of barefoot brainpower, the symposium convenes business leaders, scientists, NGOs, renowned thinkers and policy makers to help accelerate progress towards environmental sustainability. This year’s theme was System Innovation: Capitalism within Planetary Boundaries.
BLUE was represented by one of our ambassadors, Jonathon Porritt who chaired the event, one of our trustees Arlo Brady and Managing Director, Cindy Forde.
The theme was one that BLUE was taxed to explore in the context of the Maldives itself and the project that we support in Baa Atoll, now declared a UNESCO biosphere.
Baa Atoll is in a precarious state, like all reef systems around the world. Professor Terry Hughes, Director of the Australian Research Councils Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, highlighted that climate change, pesticide pollution and over-fishing are the three big contributors to destruction of global reefs. Facing severe climate change impacts, the situation is undeniably grim in The Maldives. Yet there was distinct encouragement in Professor Hughes’ research conclusions: the coral reef crisis is one of governance and management, not biology. Professor Hughes outlined how much of the coral cover has disappeared from Baa Atoll in recent years, but that with appropriate management there are promising signs that it can flourish once again.
Maldivian Minister for Environment and Energy, Ibrahim Thoriq, focused on the complex issue of how to protect the biosphere reserve whilst also protecting the livelihoods of the local community. Maldivian Minister for Fisheries and Agriculture, Mohammed Shainee, described some of the key challenges he faces and asked a clear question: How can we make good fishing practices truly sustainable? In particular, how can this be achieved in a world where sustainable fisheries have to directly compete with unsustainable fisheries?
Along with other leading practitioners at the Symposium, BLUE has undertaken to explore how the fisheries can be managed responsibly and yield a viable livelihood for the community as the same time as maintaining the health of the reef. Developing a model to enable these equally pressing needs would be a genuine systems innovation and, as with our project in Lyme Bay, an important stepping stone towards a sustainable Blue Economy.
BLUE Ambassador Jonathon Porritt, Trustee Arlo Brady, Baa Atoll Marine Biologist Frederica Siena, MD Cindy Forde