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Ideas from the Our Ocean, One Future Leadership Summit

Posted on Wednesday, October 12th, 2016 at 3:01 pm.

By Mariliis Eensalu, J-1 Intern from Estonia

Climate change affects everything, including the Ocean. The cause for this change is not fully understood; nevertheless, humankind can work towards reducing the ecological footprint. On September 15-16, I had the pleasure of attending “Our Ocean, One Future Leadership Summit” hosted by Secretary of State John Kerry in Washington, D.C. The conference was organized to engage the next generation of political leaders, entrepreneurs, and scientists to identify solutions and commit to actions to protect our ocean – so it can continue to sustain us all in the future.

Mariliis Eensalu at Our Ocean, One Future Leadership Summit at the State Department.

Mariliis Eensalu at Our Ocean, One Future Leadership Summit at the State Department.

The reason I wanted to attend this conference was because I am generally interested in water related issues. As an Estonian, I have always lived near the sea. And since many of my hobbies, including diving, are very closely related to Our Ocean, I feel that it is also my responsibility to help sustain the water-related environment and eco-systems within. My master thesis that I defended in spring of 2016 focused on the changes in the hydro-chemical properties of Estonian surface water bodies. This is highly related to the Our Ocean conference topic because of the large amount of waste water generated from oil shale mining that finds its way to the Baltic Sea.

Mariliis Eensalu diving in the Mediterranean Sea.

Mariliis Eensalu diving in the Mediterranean Sea.

Having all these young professionals and students together at the conference made us understand that we all work for the same goal – and that our research can fit together in the bigger picture. As Secretary of State John Kerry said, the greatest challenge is getting over this hurdle of being able to build consensus around facts rather than mythology or scare tactics or theories.

Adrian Grenier, John Kerry, and Joel Hellman lead a group discussion at Gaston Hall, Georgetown University.

Adrian Grenier, John Kerry, and Joel Hellman lead a group discussion at Gaston Hall, Georgetown University.

In October 2015, a youth group acting under the supervision of the Union of the Baltic Cities presented a “Baltic Youth Declaration for the Sustainable Future” as an outcome of an International Youth Conference “Youth for Equity, Equality and Peace” (YEEP) in Gdynia, Poland. I was a part of that youth group, representing Tallinn City Youth Council, which formulated a declaration that disapproves of cruise vessels pouring waste water into the Baltic Sea. Focusing more on this youth declaration is one of the ocean-related topics that I would like to work on after finishing my internship in the United States.

Young professionals and student participants in front of Healy Hall, Georgetown University.

Young professionals and student participants in front of Healy Hall, Georgetown University.

I feel that my current work at Northern Illinois University, which is focused on finding out more about past climate change, can also have a positive impact on narrowing down the exact reasons that have caused Our Ocean to change. Taking the knowledge that I gained in the United States – including from the Our Ocean, One Future Leadership Summit – will hopefully help me contribute to connecting science and policies in ocean and climate related topics in the Baltic region.

Categories: Program Spotlight

About G. Kevin Saba

Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Private Sector Exchange


G. Kevin Saba serves as Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Private Sector Exchange at the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). In this capacity, he oversees the Exchange Visitor Program, which brings around 300,000 foreign citizens to the United States annually to teach, study, and build skills. He is the Director for the Policy and Program Support Division in ECA’s Office of Private Sector Exchange.

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