Ocean Literacy for All. Launch of the toolkit in Italy

“Ocean Literacy for All. A toolkit”, the two-volume manual was jointly produced in 2017 by UNESCO Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe and the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO as a result of joint work and contributions by members of the global partnership led by IOC. The toolkit was officially launched in Italy on 22 September 2020 by the Italian Ministry of the Environment, Land and Sea, the UNESCO Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe and the Italian National Commission for UNESCO.
The ocean is a source of food, energy, raw materials, minerals and, increasingly of innovative drugs. In addition, it regulates the global climate and hosts the greatest diversity of life and ecosystems, providing at the same time, economic, social and aesthetic services to all humanity. Knowing and understanding the influence of the ocean on us and our influence on the ocean, becomes therefore, fundamental to living and acting in a sustainable way: this is the essence of Ocean Literacy.

On 22 September, at the Salone delle Fontane, the Minister of the Environment, Sergio Costa, the Director of the UNESCO Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe, Ana Luiza M. Thompson-Flores and the General Secretary of the Italian National Commission for UNESCO, Enrico Vicenti joined in Rome to inaugurate a day to launch the publication, “Ocean Literacy for All: A toolkit” in Italy.

Opening the event, Ana Luiza M. Thompson-Flores conveyed that the ocean will teach and serve as a reminder that everyone on the planet is connected in such a way that the effects of what takes place in Italy, in the Mediterranean, will be seen on the other side of the world and vice versa. “For this reason, it is essential that the values of cooperation and solidarity be promoted and that these values are also, above all, promoted to young people. Our future and that of future generations are at stake.”, she added.

The volume, available online through open access on the UNESCO website, is aimed at teachers and educators to propose activities that involve students of all ages in the discovery of the ocean, its importance for life on our planet, and problems that threaten its health.

In reiterating the importance of ocean literacy to young people, the Minister of the Environment, Sergio Costa, underlined that: “Young people must not repeat our mistakes. We are fighting the presence of plastic in the sea. A battle is underway against plastic thrown into the ocean and rivers. Sustainable development is never at the expense of anything; seeing economy and environment as incompatible makes no sense today.”

The round table, moderated by Sky TG24 editor-in-chief, Daniele Moretti, followed the official opening of the meeting. The panel included representatives of both Environment and Education Ministries, Carla Guetti and Maria Carmela Giarratano; President of the National Association of natural sciences teachers, Paolo Bortolon; a representative of the academia, Rosalia Santoleri; President of the Italian Oceanographic Commission, Tullio Scovazzi; Professor of International Law, Maurizio Spoto; Director of the Marine Protected Area of Miramare, Danilo Casertano, the initiator of the first sea kindergarten in Italy; and, two representatives of NGOs, Selvaggia Santin, Ocean Literacy Italy and Silvia Orlandi, Worldrise onlus.

The panel discussed how to use the toolkit, both in formal and informal contexts. Some of the main points related to the need for developing specific training for teachers and educators as well as finding an efficient way to connect different ocean literacy initiatives. It was proposed to develop a database of the best practices for ocean literacy in Italy, just as those described in the toolkit but happening in different countries.

The day met its goal, involving several actors engaged in the field of sustainable development education to define concrete actions that can be initiated immediately and for the coming years. On the same note, IOC Programme Specialist, Francesca Santoro stressed that, “Ocean literacy must not only be considered a learning tool but also a way to stimulate direct action by all. We all have a role to play in protecting the sea.”

The discussion further integrated important events and international programmes set to start in 2021, such as the beginning of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, the organization of the Youth UNFCCC COP26 in Milan and the G20 for the first time under Italian leadership, which will give great importance to environmental issues and ocean protection.