Happy Oceans Day!
Although in reality our oceans are not happy – in fact, they are in a seriously sorry state. Forgive me if I get sentimental for a few moments here. Over the last couple of months I have had something of an epiphany, and I feel the need to share.
Until this year, I felt uncomfortable when people tried to label me as an “advocate for the oceans”. It wasn’t a label I had chosen, and I felt it didn’t fit me. The Atlantic Ocean beat me up pretty badly in 2005-6, and I was still bearing a grudge. My relationship with the ocean could best be described as ambivalent. I regarded her as a tough taskmaster, who occasionally tried to kill me. Not the best basis for a happy relationship.
But this year two things have happened that have softened my attitude towards the vast blue bits of our planet.
First, there was TED Mission Blue. For two days I received a concentrated dose of all the bad news that I had heard about the oceans over the last few years, and it shocked me.
- There is a 6:1 ratio of plastic to plankton in the ocean. This cannot be good.
Sure, I already knew about plastic pollution, collapsing fish stocks, ocean acidification, dead zones and coastal habitat destruction. But like so many environmental messages, the drip-drip-drip of bad news hadn’t really hit me with the sense of urgency that I got at TED. Here were world-respected experts telling us that we need to take urgent action before the oceans are too damaged to recover.
Given that the oceans cover 70% of our planet, it suddenly made sense to me that if our oceans are in trouble, then so are we.
Second, there was this third and final stage of my row. I actually almost enjoyed it. Although I didn’t see as much marine wildlife as last year, I felt a sense of companionship with the little entourage of fish that wiggled alongside my boat. I relished the sunrises and sunsets. I enjoyed the solitude and magnificence of the oceanic wilderness. So it was all the more upsetting when I saw plastic pollution and raw sewage out at sea. My perception of the ocean changed: I no longer perceived her as an enemy, but rather as a mistreated environment in need of love and restoration.
So it hurt all the more to hear about the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. My heart ached. We had already assaulted the ocean in so many smaller ways – and now here was the big one. The ultimate insult.
So on this Oceans Day, even if you have never spent a day at sea in your life, I beg you to do a blue deed for the day. Do something to help. Join an ocean conservation organisation. Make a donation. Post a tweet. Just do something. And then tell us about it at http://ecoheroes.me. Log a “water” deed and tell us what you did.
The ocean thanks you. And so do I.