U.S. Senator for Rhode Island Sheldon Whitehouse was among an engaging and diverse group of international experts and change-makers who spoke Wednesday at the Ocean Race Summit, a virtual event broadcast from the Sail Newport facility. The event featured a curated line-up of panelists who shared their solutions and experiences around urgent issues related to ocean health,.
Their main message: We can solve this, but we have to act right now.
“For many generations, we have been takers from the ocean and we have to change our mindset and be caretakers of the oceans,” the Senator said. “People have to put their mind to think about oceans in order to appreciate the work that needs to be done. But it can be done. It has to be done rapidly and with intention. But we can solve this.”
Also among the group were world renowned sailors Mark Towill, CEO of the 11th Hour Racing Team, and New Zealander Peter Burling, an Olympic gold medalist and America’s Cup winner. The two spoke about strategically leveraging sport to make a positive impact on ocean health.
“We want to demonstrate that being competitive at top level sport and prioritizing sustainability are not exclusive,” Towill said. “It is to our benefit to be leaders in this space and to encourage others to join in… We’re at a tipping point and we want our team to be driving change.”
In addition to pointing out how the values of ocean racing can be applied to the challenge of ocean health restoration, topics covered by other panelists included the promotion of Marine Protected Areas, endangered marine species, climate change and the need for a paradigm shift in the way we view our economy. The historical moment presented by the pandemic underscored the opportunity to build back better with a collaborative, holistic approach for promoting resilient, thriving, environmentally-conscious economies and communities that can restore ocean health and live in harmony with our planet.
The Ocean Race Summits, developed in collaboration with 11th Hour Racing, are a global series of events that bring together change-makers to create winning strategies that help restore ocean health. Wednesday’s broadcast event was third in the current series of Summits that started here in Newport in 2015.