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As you read more about the growing impacts of climate change and threats to our planet's extraordinary aquatic wildlife, it can feel overwhelming. In times of crisis, we can either be frozen and overwhelmed by the scale of the problem, or we can join together, increasing the magnitude of our efforts by aligning each of our unique skills with the task at hand by working with neighbors, friends and new acquaintances.

A teeming school of little yellow-striped fish.

Shedd Aquarium was honored to be welcomed to Palau, the host of the Our Ocean conference in April, to work with U.S. and global dignitaries, fellow non-governmental leaders and Indigenous and Tribal leaders from small island nations to commit to specific and impactful actions to address the growing climate and biodiversity crisis.

During the conference, the attendees rolled up their sleeves and got to work to deliver bold, measurable and impactful actions to protect and build resilient ocean and coastal communities. There were multi-national sessions urging nations to join together to take action on topics such as illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, marine protected areas and off-shore wind energy.

At the same time, non-governmental organizations, philanthropic leaders and corporations joined forces to advance new solutions, from sustainable shipping to community-driven blue economies. More than 410 total commitments were made worth $16.35 billion across six issue areas and new infrastructure was put in place to track impact and increase transparency.

Why is this important?

According to the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) climate report released in April, the group insists, “…that all countries must reduce their fossil fuel use substantially, extend access to electricity, improve energy efficiency and increase the use of alternative fuels, such as hydrogen” or risk consequences of a steep rise in global temperature, extreme heatwaves, severe storms, water shortages and mass species extinctions.

Taking action and making an impact

Making commitments is an important first step. Taking measurable and impactful action can create lasting change. We recently joined our Aquarium Conservation Partners to take climate action within our own operations.

Similarly, the United States government took action on the commitments it made at Our Ocean conference recognizing Tribal and Indigenous communities as the original stewards of land, waters and wildlife since time immemorial. The U.S. government just announced a suite of Indigenous-led initiatives including the Initiation of Three National Marine Sanctuary Designations, the Establishment and Development of the Northern Bering Sea Climate Resilience Area (NBSCRA), and the signing of an Indo-Pacific Marine Protected Area (MPA) Partnership with the Republic of Palau.

Moving from commitment to collective action will make an impact in our neighborhoods, local communities, states and across this beautiful blue planet.

Making change at every level, together

The Our Ocean conference was “collective impact” at work. At Shedd, we built the Surge community to do just this, to bring together smart, hard-working people who care about protecting, restoring and rewilding aquatic wildlife and the habitat they call home.

Everyone’s efforts complement each other and create a flow of change for the better, from our homes all the way up to the international stage. We know now more than ever that it’s imperative that we take immediate and collective action to protect and conserve our planet at every level.