Senior Gets Front Seat in Crafting Historic U.N. Ocean Treaty

Kyra Bostick
Kyra Bostic, a Rutgers University-New Brunswick senior, served as the High Seas Youth Ambassador for the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), a global authority on the environment.
Nick Romanenko/Rutgers University

For two weeks this spring, Kyra Bostic served as a delegate participating in talks to develop a landmark international agreement to protect the oceans, which play a crucial role in absorbing carbon emissions – a key driver of climate change.

The conference in New York ended after a hectic 38-hour final United Nations session when the High Seas Treaty was finalized. The intent is to safeguard global marine species from global warming, overfishing, shipping traffic and mining at sea and to support the goal of placing 30 percent of the seas into a protected area by 2030. Up until now, only 1 percent of waters, known as the high seas and international waters that lie beyond national jurisdiction, have been protected, leaving the possibility of exploitation by individuals and countries.

“It was a real nail-biter in the last session to get this done,” said Bostic, a Rutgers University-New Brunswick senior who served as the High Seas Youth Ambassador for the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), a global authority on the environment. “I feel so fortunate to be able to take part in such an historic process.”

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Bostic received the opportunity of a lifetime in March. Cymie Payne, an associate professor in the Department of Human Ecology at the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences (SEBS) and the Rutgers Law School, who served as a delegate at the treaty negotiations, asked Bostic to be a delegate with her at the U.N.

The treaty will allow for the participation of indigenous peoples and local communities with “relevant traditional knowledge,” as well as the scientific community, civil society and relevant stakeholders. Ocean ecosystems cover most of the Earth’s surface, produce half of the oxygen we breathe and absorb carbon dioxide, considered the primary reason for climate warming.

Payne said scientists are just beginning to venture into the ocean to map the seabed, identify ecosystems and their inhabitants and discern the linkages between human impact and the ocean.

“Kyra’s generation will be far more familiar with the ocean’s potential than we are today,” said Payne. “We need sophisticated, knowledgeable people who understand the complexity of governing the global commons. This is why her engagement in the U.N. process is so valuable.”

Bostic, who has spent the last year as an intern with the Rutgers Office of Climate Action helping to develop an advocacy program to raise climate awareness and sustainability efforts, sees her future as an environmental lawyer. She will graduate this May with a bachelor of science degree in environmental policy, institutions and behavior from SEBS.

Her parents are both attorneys. Her father, who is a criminal defense attorney, spent five years working on federal crimes involving MARPOL, a treaty that prevents ships from dumping waste materials into the sea, protecting whistleblowers. Her mother works for the state Office of the Public Defender. She wants to follow in their footsteps. Her plan is to spend two years at an international organization like Greenpeace, a non-governmental organization (NGO) that is working for a better environment around the globe, before going to law school.

During the U.N. conference on the High Seas Treaty, Bostic met and spoke with actor and activist Jane Fonda, who was there to deliver a 5.5 million signature petition from 157 countries that demanded a strong global ocean treaty. She urged leaders to put politics and special interests aside and sign an agreement that would protect the world.

She is such a champion,” said Bostic, a student in the Rutgers-New Brunswick Honors College. “It was an honor to be able to watch the effect Jane Fonda had on the process. It was people like her and others who worked and advocated for so long that finally made this happen.”

In between advocating for solutions to curb climate change and helping to educate her generation, Bostic expresses herself through music. The 21-year-old Mount Holly resident, who will graduate with a minor in music and history, began playing the piano at age 4. She plays the guitar, used to play the trumpet, sings, writes music and is the lead singer in Kyra Camille & the Chameleons. The four-member Indie Rock band, which includes three other Rutgers’ alums, has played throughout the tri-state area, including Brooklyn, Philadelphia and New Brunswick.

While she expects advocacy and the law will be her profession, music has always been her passion as well.

“I’m the type of person who would always rather be busy than bored,” said Bostic. “The things that I am passionate about I always make room for, so regardless of whatever profession I wind up in, music will always be a part of my life as well.”