In the next ten years important decisions are going to have to be made concerning climate change. For the team working on tara expeditions, the coming decade is full of promise and discoveries are to be expected. Let’s take a look at the challenges.
After a decade of intense activity, there is plenty of work left to be done for all the teams and scientists working at sea and on land within the framework of Tara Expeditions. « There is no question of us stopping now », insists agnès b., the Tara’s number one supporter. « And more sponsors need to get involved if we are to broaden the Tara’s scope! I say to our potential partners: Join us on this voyage ! »
An ambitious scientific challenge
The foremost challenge has to be scientific. In terms of research, the coming decade will provide us with an increasingly detailed analysis of the complex data gathered by the Tara Oceans expedition. « Our intention is to describe the world’s planktonic system, of which surprisingly little is known when you consider that it is the pulse of our planet. We shall also assess its biotechnological potential », says Éric Karsenti, scientific director of Tara Oceans.
The discoveries made by Team Tara will be as much in the realm of research as in scientific ecology, in particular within the framework of the Oceanomics programme which runs until 2020. Tara Oceans collected 28,000 samples of plankton ranging from viruses to animals. Thanks to Oceanomics, scientists succeeded in establishing a combination of sequencing and high-speed imaging protocols with which to extract the information contained within the samples. The result will be the first detailed view of plankton biodiversity.
2015-2018: En route for the Asia and the Arctic
Another polar expedition is probably in the works. « It could happen between 2016 and 2018 », confirms Romain Troublé, general secretary of Tara Expeditions. What will make it special? « Our first Arctic drift was Franco-European », continues Romain. « The next time we want it to be international, with perhaps 8 crew members, scientists and sailors from different countries ». Étienne Bourgois, president of Tara Expeditions, picks up the theme: « We’re already looking closely at doing another drift. But for now we are planning an expedition in 2015 to study coral reefs at the surface and at greater depths in collaboration with f ilm director Luc Jacquet and his association Wild Touch. The expedition will take the Tara to the Pacif ic and south-east Asia where she will make port calls in Australia, New Zealand, Korea, China and Japan. From there the ship will set off to start her drift through the Bering Strait. »
« The Asians are showing great interest in the Tara », says agnès b., « in Japan, Hong Kong and China. They are listening, truly interested. » Eloïse Fontaine, director of communications for Tara Expeditions confirms the foundation’s desire to broaden its outreach: « In the last ten years, thanks to the interest and support shown by the media, we have managed to reach out to a wide audience in France, Europe and other French-speaking countries. We must continue our efforts on the international stage. Our aim is to reach out to people elsewhere in the world. »
Capacity builiding and negociation power
Following on from previous collaborations with numerous private/public laboratories and organizations, Tara Expeditions intends to encourage scientific dialogue between « developing » and « developed » countries. « Only six or seven countries have the capacity to conduct maritime expeditions », says Romain Troublé. It is time for us to share our knowledge with less-privileged countries. We must do this if we are to arrive at a consensus about the Ocean which covers 71% of our planet. The agreement signed on 27 June 2013 between Irina Bokova, director-general of UNESCO, and Étienne Bourgois stipulates that UNESCO and Tara Expeditions « shall undertake common projects to further scientific research, international cooperation, the sharing of data and raising public awareness. » So that’s the humanitarian side taken care of, but what about the science? « We can look at that too », says Romain Troublé. « Fundamental research in international waters has to be given special status, in the interest of all peoples. » André Abreu of the Tara Expeditions team is already active on several fronts: international waters, ecosystems and pollution, the Arctic and climate. « We structure our actions around the big issues. Since our success with the Tara at the Rio+20 conference we are now part of the discussion process which includes climate conferences, United Nations negotiations, the Barcelona Convention and so on. Our objective is, of course, to make progress in concert with others. We are doing it, step by step, and shall continue to do so ».
Focusing on education
Over the next ten years, Tara Expeditions intends to pursue its education initiatives aimed at children. In total 19,000 school classes followed the Tara Oceans expedition. « Sharing knowledge with the younger generations will be more of a priority », says Xavier Bougeard, responsible for education initiatives. It’s important work raising awareness among children and teenagers of the major climate issues, their future.
Promoting responsible citizenship
« It’s time to take stock », adds agnès b. « And we need to be objective. We need to trust our gut feelings. What have we done well? Where have we been successful? And less successful? What can we improve? » Romain Troublé agrees: « What’s more, with the Tara, there’s the question of citizenship. We felt it when we launched, in collaboration with Catherine Chabaud, the Appeal for the high seas which was supported by dozens of campaigners, enterprises, organizations and had the direct support of the United Nations and its secretary-general Ban Ki-moon. » « The Tara is a platform for science and education, and that’s good », says agnès b. «But there is also this issue of responsible citizenship and that is inevitably political. Climate change is a political issue! Politics has been so denigrated that we, the citizens, have to invent another way of engaging. We’re lucky that we do not have to rely on being elected or lobbying, and there’s no media pressure on us. The Tara’s strength is her independence! »