December 13, 2016
— Am Geophysical Union (@theAGU) December 1, 2016
I hate to admit this – but based upon the chatter in the audience at Monday’s Presidential Forum, I was not alone in my puzzlement as to why HSH (His Serene Highness) Prince Albert II of Monaco was selected to kick off the 2016 AGU Fall Meeting. But once he began speaking, it was clear that he has a passion for our oceans (in fact, our overall planet) and a message for AGU scientists.
It is hard for me to capture all that Prince Albert II of Monaco shared with the audience. He gave a quick introduction to his concerns about climate change, water and biodiversity, and the overall impact of human activities on our planet. Then he shared stories about travels to the North Pole, following in the footsteps of his great-great-grandfather (oceanographer Prince Albert I). And he was quick to add that all of us can take action to save our global oceans. He has formed a foundation for environmental protection (Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation) which allows him to go beyond government and form partnerships that allow for multi-level actions.
Prince Albert II stated three issues he feels are important to address when it comes to our planet. First, we need to address the acquirement of knowledge, from the high seas to the deep ocean, by mobilizing the scientific community and bringing in the social sciences as collaborators. Second, we need local and global action to protect the planet from climate action and effects. He gave an excellent example of marine protected areas (MPAs) and how political and technological resources could enhance the efforts to establish new and protect existing MPAs, especially in the Arctic and Antarctic. Third, society and public opinion needs to be brought in to the discussion, requiring scientists to “do a better job shedding light” on issues, while businesses and political leaders become part of the identification and execution of solutions. In the end, all of us need to be aware of opportunities and what we can do to help.
There was a short Q&A, and I appreciate one of the responses Prince Albert II gave to the question of how we get people to listen and believe climate scientists. He said it is like driving a car down a road. The road could be dangerous, but it won’t be viewed as dangerous by the greater community until a big accident occurs – then, something will be done (such as installing a roundabout to route traffic). In the case of climate change, we can’t wait any longer for the big accident, that we need decision makers to take action immediately.
Prince Albert II held a press conference before the Presidential Forum, recorded in the video below. AGU published an article for EOS titled Monaco Leader Urges Climate Action, Calls on Trump to Help.
Here is his recorded lecture (*move the time bar ahead to the 11 minute mark for the beginning of the session)
So what did I come away with from the Presidential Forum? Hope. I have seen global leaders on the news, in television documentaries, and read articles where they make statements about “saving the planet.” But to hear from Prince Albert II about his own experiences and what he has witnessed… I could tell he has an honest passion and concern for taking care of our planet, especially the oceans. He is also taking action and sharing his call to action on the global stage. He ended the Q&A by stating that we as scientists of AGU need to personalize our stories when we communicate about science – and Prince Albert II did just that in a very effective way. His talk and message were inspiring, and now, I must take my personal experience of hearing from Prince Albert II back to my students to hopefully inspire them.