The Mediterranean: A symbol of the wounds and the hopes of our earth
Prince Albert IIThe environmental future of the Mediterranean today is constructed around the key issues of global warming, the alarming erosion of biodiversity, and the reduction of freshwater resources in the region. These three subjects guide my environmental action not only as a country leader but also through my foundation.
In recent decades, the natural fragility and abundance of Mediterranean have faced threats related to intense urbanization, over-exploitation of resources, changing water regimes, the proliferation of introduced invasive species, an explosion in maritime transport, and an exponential growth in pollution, which threatens the survival of many species in the Mediterranean.
In addition to the moral consequences of an irreversible degradation of the shared resources belonging to mankind, these losses also have serious economic consequences. Indeed, biodiversity is not only a direct source of human activities of which tourism is just one example, but is also fundamental for many innovations, particularly in the health and biotechnologies industries.
However, it is unfortunate that the evaluation of these benefits accounts for too little when faced with the pressure for immediate yet often harmful profitability from human activities. Once the costs to the environment are included, the profitability is much lower than the prospects offered by more sustainable technologies.
Almost 30 million people around the Mediterranean without access to drinking water, while in some countries, nearly 70 percent of the population is not connected to any water treatment system. Beyond the food and health effects alone of such a shortage, the issue arises of the balance of societies and entire areas that can no longer find the resources needed for their survival, regularly leading to crises and tensions.
Furthermore, these environmental threats appear to be major factors in geopolitical stability or tension. In this respect, the fact that these phenomena relating to human activities have not yet reached an irreversible stage, makes it clear that effective action is not only possible but more importantly, necessary.
There are various courses of action available to us to save the Mediterranean and thus protect the region’s fragile balance. Among the policy actions that are needed, I will of course refer to the international negotiations conducted under the authority of the UN, which accelerated in 1992 at the Earth Summit in Rio. For the past twenty years, these international efforts have made substantial progress that must be praised. However despite this undeniable progress, it is clear that these international efforts have struggled to produce truly binding declarations, since these alone can lead everyone down the path that our planet needs. These actions only provide the Mediterranean, and other fragile areas, with incomplete instruments of protection.
Consequently, other policy tools are necessary, based more on local realities and cooperation between those directly involved. The challenge is to replace a declining economic model, a transformation which requires immense effort, and is not in our own most immediate interests but rather is in anticipation of the looming threats. Therefore, we need to be motivated by reasons other than the selfish pursuit of profit or comfort.
The same requirement for solidarity also applies to international cooperation. In fact, in the same way as the environmental issue creates a temporal solidarity between generations, it generates a demand for geographical solidarity between those living in a single place, whether that place is Earth itself or more immediately a region such as ours.
This is why the Principality of Monaco has made development assistance a priority area in its international action, through its many partnerships with developing countries, especially in the southern Mediterranean. We know that no sustainable result can be achieved unless it is through shared global progress.
If the Mediterranean is abandoned to pollution and desertification, it is the very life of our children that will be endangered, not only due to the direct damage caused by unsafe waters, poor fishing and a one dimensional economy, but also due to the geopolitical consequences brought about by any impoverishment of natural resources in this already deeply fragile area marked by a dense and disparate population.
This is why, in my opinion, consideration of the dangers, imbalances and rifts that cross our region can only lead to the acknowledgement of a compelling duty of solidarity, especially in the environmental field. And it is in the name of this solidarity that I act, by any means currently available to me.
*H.S.H. Prince Albert II is the Sovereign Prince of Monaco. This abridged article was taken from Turkish Policy Quarterly’s (TPQ) Summer 2012 issue (Vol. 11 No. 2). To read it in full, please visit www.turkishpolicy.com.