EXPO 2012: IAEA Raising Awareness to Preserve our Oceans for the Future

EXPO 2012 Youth AwarenessWorking alongside colleagues from 24 UN bodies, the IAEA joined the International Exposition Yeosu Korea 2012 (EXPO 2012), held in Yeosu, Republic of Korea from 12 May to 12 August, as it opened its doors to an estimated 8 million visitors. With the theme “Oceans and Coasts: Connecting our Lives, Ensuring our Future” EXPO 2012 attracted participation from more than 100 countries and international organizations, including the IAEA, represented by its Department of Nuclear Sciences and Application’s Marine Environment Laboratories.

Situated in the United Nations Pavilion, the second largest at the exposition, from 22 July to 4 August, IAEA representatives highlighted the importance of the oceans and the work that is being done to preserve them. The Agency exhibit educated approximately 15 000 participants each day on the benefit of isotopic and nuclear techniques to address global ocean acidification, understand oceanographic processes, track the fate and effects of transboundary ocean pollutants and alert on harmful algal blooms, a threat to maintaining a safe coastal environment and seafood.

Picture Wall EXPO 2012In addition to the event materials provided for adult participants, the IAEA, in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the pavilion’s coordinator, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), also reached out to a younger audience. These young visitors to the pavilion were encouraged to draw their “Ocean of Tomorrow”, focusing on the effects that pollution and climate change could have on the well-being of marine resources, humans and the oceans themselves. Drawings were also encouraged to demonstrate how we can protect our marine environments for generations to come.

“It is important to stimulate young minds to think about the importance that oceans have for our planet and all of the beings that inhabit it,” said Thomas Lacoue-Labarthe, the IAEA’s representative at EXPO 2012. “These are the people that will be the leaders and scientists of the future, and establishing an understanding of the human impact on our planet and explaining how, through isotopic and nuclear techniques, among other approaches, we can make a difference is essential.”

The IAEA message was taken to heart by many of the young participants who contributed to the drawing activity, with some even writing e-mails to the Agency’s representatives. One participant, Richard age 13, demonstrated the effectiveness of the exercise saying, “By learning about the bad condition of marine life and the sea, I got awareness of preventing sea pollution. I will share this important knowledge with my friends when I get back to school.”

The Agency is glad to have had made an impact at the EXPO and, through its many important programmes and laboratories, will continue to spread the message of the exposition, in order to preserve our oceans for the generations to come.

Background: The world’s oceans, home to 80% of biodiversity on earth, are increasingly impacted by rising temperature and acidification, oxygen depletion, continued pollution and over-exploitation. Currently, heightened levels of CO₂ are causing the oceans to absorb an unbalanced amount of carbon, millions of tons of oil are reaching the sea each year and about 70% of the world’s fisheries are considered as “fully-“ or “over-exploited”. As coastal zones support approximately 60% of the global human population, the importance of maintaining healthy and prosperous oceans is paramount.