Universities and oceans: President Florizone presents at Beijing Forum

- November 21, 2014

President Florizone speaks at the Beijing Forum. (Richard Florizone photo)
President Florizone speaks at the Beijing Forum. (Richard Florizone photo)

For the past decade, the Beijing Forum has welcomed hundreds of scholars each year to discuss topics in the humanities and social sciences. Organized by Beijing University, the Beijing Municipal Commission of Education and the Korea Foundation for Advanced Studies, its aim is to promote global academic development around the themes of “the harmony of civilizations” and “prosperity for all.”

This year featured a Dalhousie presence at the Beijing Forum: President Richard Florizone was part of a panel focused on “Humans and Oceans,” offering a first-hand look at how universities help improve both our understanding of our oceans and efforts to protect and sustain them.

Dr. Florizone presented a paper titled: “The Role of a University in Developing Marine Science, Technology and Management in Support of Prosperous and Sustainable Human-Ocean Relations.” It was co-written by Dr. Florizone and John Cullen, professor emeritus in Dal’s Department of Oceanography. Dr. Cullen has long been one of Dalhousie’s most prominent oceans researchers, with his work into global phytoplankton and the dangers of large-scale iron fertilization receiving international attention and playing a key role in shaping global public policy.

The paper argues that universities need to be a crucial part in our oceans’ future.

 “It is critical that communities work together now — across sectors, regions and nations — to develop and implement strategies for sustainable relationships between humans and the oceans,” write the authors.

“The natural sciences and technology provide the foundations for responsible development and stewardship of the ocean and its resources; the social sciences, policy and law link evidence and inventions to responsible practice. Universities have a central role in this process. As long-established centers for teaching, learning, research and discovery, they are pivotal in society’s efforts to build a sustainable and prosperous future for humankind in relation to the oceans.”

The role of universities

The paper provides a history of oceans research at Dalhousie across a variety of fields, from oceanography to marine law and marine affairs. It notes the work of individuals such as the late Ransom A. Myers (left), whose sense of moral obligation to communicate his and his colleages’ conclusions about the role of overfishing in the cod fishery collapse led him to leave government to become Dalhousie’s first Killam Chair in Ocean Studies. The academic freedom he had within the university led to some some of the most important global research on fisheries conservation.

Dr. Florizone and Dr. Cullen’s paper notes examples where some of Dalhousie’s contributions to global oceans knowledge have been focused on general scientific research — in ozone depletion, fisheries conservation biology, global decline of phytoplankton — but also more targeted projects like the Ocean Tracking Network and the Marine Environmental Observation Prediction and Response Network (MEOPAR)

“A thriving, globally competitive university absolutely needs to take a balanced approach,” write the authors in their conclusion, “pursuing both targeted research and pure curiosity-based research. Without the former we risk our engagement and direct connection with broader society; without the latter we would lose our ability to illuminate, investigate and address the unknown. Society critically needs both.”

Dr. Florizone’s presentation on November 8 took place at the beginning of a Dalhousie delegation’s visit to China. Learn more about the trip here.


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