Seychelles president Danny Faure has delivered a speech to the world from a submersible to warn his nation's survival, like that of many other island states, depends on the world taking swift action on climate change. Aside from rising seas, Faure noted our poor understanding of deep ocean ecosystems and the threats of pollution and overfishing.
"This issue is bigger than all of us, and we cannot wait for the next generation to solve it. We are running out of excuses to not take action, and running out of time," Faure said. To cut through where others have failed, Faure went 124 meters (400 feet) beneath the waves aboard the research vessel Ocean Zephyr.
The location allowed Faure to draw attention to the biological richness of the waters around the Seychelles, whose economy depends heavily on tourism. “At this depth, I can see not only the incredible beauty of our ocean, but the care that it urgently needs to stay this way,” Faure said.
The Ocean Zephyr is part of the First Descent expedition, which is recording the life of the Indian Ocean at depths inaccessible to scuba divers. The Indian Ocean is less explored than its counterparts, and is also less protected. Halfway through the expedition, 75 deployments have been undertaken, with transects of the sea floor 25 kilometers (15 miles) long studied and hundreds of samples collected.
“The deep ocean is the beating heart of the planet, yet we have better maps of planet Mars than we do of the ocean floor,” Faure added.
The Seychelles consists of 155 small islands. The majority are low coral islands that would be wiped out by a few meters of sea level rise, particularly as ocean acidification hinders new coral formation. Unlike many counterparts, the Seychelles has granitic islands, some with high peaks, that support most of the population. However, even these could soon lose much of their territory.
Faure's idea is not entirely original. In 2009 the cabinet of the Maldives, an even more vulnerable chain of islands, conducted a meeting via hand signals while scuba diving on a nearby reef. That event attracted global attention, but produced little action. Mohamed Nasheed, the first democratically elected Maldives president in what had previously been an authoritarian state, made it his priority to spur the world to climate action, only to be forced to resign at gunpoint. He was later convicted on charges widely accepted as having been fabricated by his political opponents, possibly including those with much to lose from his climate activism.