An Ismaili Imamat delegation led by Prince Rahim is attending the Ocean Conference in Lisbon at the invitation of the United Nations (UN). The conference aims to raise awareness and action around the alarming degradation of the planet’s oceans – which not only provide us with oxygen, food and livelihoods, but act as a giant carbon sink.

Our ocean covers 70 percent of the Earth’s surface, contains 80 percent of all life, generates 50 percent of our oxygen and absorbs 25 percent of all carbon dioxide emissions. It also provides food, jobs, minerals and energy. It is therefore a vital shield against the impacts of climate change and is essential for supporting life on our planet. Yet, oceans are currently in a state of decline.

Recognising this issue as critical to the future of humanity, delegates have gathered in Lisbon – at the 2022 UN Ocean Conference, co-hosted by the Governments of Kenya and Portugal – to discuss and debate how to conserve and sustainably make use of the world’s oceans and resources. 

Representing the Ismaili Imamat, Prince Rahim is accompanied by Prince Hussain and Prince Aly Muhammad, and senior AKDN leaders. Representatives of the UN and nation states around the world are in attendance. Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta are presiding over the proceedings, which run until 1 July.

“This conference takes place in the right place, at the right time,” said President Rebelo de Sousa. “Portugal is what it is because of the oceans.”

“The Ocean is the most underappreciated resource [on] our planet,” added President Kenyatta. “We urgently need to build an ocean-based economy where effective protection, sustainable production and equitable prosperity go hand-in-hand.” 

An exhibition of Prince Hussain’s marine photography, Fragile Beauty, is on display at the Portugal Pavilion as an official side event of the conference. An exhibition is also on display at the Ismaili Centre, Lisbon, open to the Jamat and public. The exhibition is dedicated to Sylvia Earle, the accomplished 86-year-old marine biologist, oceanographer, and explorer, who has made great strides to protect the ocean and its wildlife.

Having spent many years swimming alongside dolphins, turtles, sharks, whales and more, Prince Hussain has noticed with sorrow the increasingly rapid degradation of our oceans:

“Over the five decades of my own life, I have been heartbroken to see how our oceans have become so clogged up by plastic and other forms of pollution and waste… Coastal areas I visited as a child are unrecognisable today – the wildlife is suffocating and the coastal economies are stagnating. It is clear to me that we have to act now before it is too late.” 

Prince Hussain has suggested ways for each of us to help protect the oceans and the planet in general – by changing our behaviour to live in a more sustainable way, in harmony with the natural environment.

“Consumers have the power to drive real change in the way big businesses run. By demanding more sustainable products and behaviours, the purchasing power of individuals and communities can drive sustainability into the heart of business models,” he said.

The faith of Islam teaches followers to care for Allah’s creation and the natural resources gifted to us – rather than waste or disrupt the delicate balance of nature. Each of us has a responsibility to leave behind a better social and physical environment for the next generation. This requires change from our current levels of consumption.

“The Jamat has a real opportunity to play its part in bringing about these changes – especially if we act as a community,” added Prince Hussain. “If we all make some simple but important changes to our own lives the collective impact could be huge.” 

He recommends the following actions:

  • Stop using plastic completely. Use glass instead. 
  • Refuse plastic utensils, cups and the like. Insist on reusable straws. If we absolutely must use a plastic bag, reuse it as much as possible.
  • Recycle everything we can.
  • Buy fewer new clothes, and when we do, try to buy only items made of natural fibres that can biodegrade, rather than synthetic materials that end up in landfill. 
  • Plant as many plants as possible – the benefits for the environment and our community spaces and homes are huge.  
  • Buy local as much as possible. 
  • Reduce the amount of travel we undertake for work – use digital technology instead of travelling, wherever possible. The pandemic showed us that businesses can thrive in a digital environment.
  • Look for alternative modes of transport in every part of our life – use trains instead of planes, bicycles instead of cars, and wherever possible use electric vehicles.
  • Consider using solar, wind and battery power sources. 
  • Resist financing the pet trade, which is considered one of the greatest threats to wildlife today. If buying a pet, try to make sure it is captive-bred. 
  • Try to have at least one meat-free day a week.

The Ismaili community, spread around the world, lives in many countries that have a coastline. People in cities along the coast rely on the ocean for their local economy and by extension their quality of life. 

But the ocean affects every human life. It supplies freshwater (most rain comes from the ocean), moderates the Earth’s climate, influences our weather and affects human health.

“When we see the Earth from space, we truly appreciate that we live on a blue planet,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres, urging societies to work together to turn the tide on rising sea levels, plastic pollution and overfishing. “The ocean connects us all.”