Over the last few months, day in, day out, I've been breathing, sleeping and eating all things blue! You might just call it a severe case of ocean on the brain, the symptoms of which I can't really describe as an ailment but rather as a humbling experience and blessing. A blessing that's allowed me to let the Oceans in all their majestic glory, preoccupy every aspect of my thoughts, to seep into every inch of my imagination and to become infused into every fiber of my being.
I've floated on 14,000-foot deep layers of it. I've viewed 360 degrees of it, I've definitely swallowed far more than I would like of it! All of which has helped me to become far more deeply and intensely connected with our Oceans, which is why I can't help but think whoever named our planet was guilty of a terrible oversight. Surly "Earth" should really be known as "Ocean." After all, even if you think this is just the biased opinion of one recently converted land crab, what you can't ignore is the fact that salt water covers 72 percent of our planet's surface. The Pacific Ocean on its own is actually larger than the entire landmass all of the continents and subcontinents and innumerable islands combined.
Put simply, in essence, whichever way you want to slice it, we are all part ocean. In basic terms:
No Oceans = No You and Me!
No Oceans = no place to hide the 41% of carbon that is so conveniently and fortunately absorbed by our oceans.
No Oceans = no protein supply to one fifth of the world population.
No Oceans = no home for the estimated 50-80% of all life on earth that lives under the surface of our oceans.
No Oceans = no place for the swordfish and the marlin, the fastest fish in the ocean, to reach their top speed of up to 121 kph.
No Oceans = no deep water currents like the Gulf Stream that help to keep our planets climate livable!
No Oceans = no place for our largest living structure on earth to inhabit and, in turn, to be able to have the perfect conditions the for the 400 species of coral, 2,000+ species of different fish, 4,000 species of mollusc and countless other invertebrates that call the Great Barrier Reef their home.
No Ocean = no possibility of matching the astonishing fact that a mouthful of salt water contains millions of bacterial cells, hundreds of thousands of phytoplankton and tens of thousands of zooplankton, all of which might just hold the missing pieces of the puzzle that our future may depend on for survival.
In fact, I could easily and effortlessly keep on churning out staggering statistics and facts, all of which reinforce why our oceans are so truly unique and priceless and why World Ocean Day is not only so important but must become more than just one day! However, what I can't keep on doing without feeling a heavy heart and a sense of despair is to try to explain the reasons for our general disconnect from our Oceans. Or why, annually, we allow toxins and waste weighing three times that of all fish caught to end up in our Ocean? Or how during the recent ecological apocalypse that unfolding in the gulf of Mexico right in front of our very eyes, the media and commentary seems to be more concerned on speculating what this might all mean for the price of British Petroleum stock value rather than articulating the tragic state of affairs that now leaves millions of marine species at risk of death, if they are not already dead. Multiple ecosystems have been irreversibly devastated at the hands of a situation that could probably best be summed up with four words: greed, stupidity, unnecessary and ego.
Even more upsetting and unnecessary is the fact that the media, corporations and, even us consumers, have failed to recognize and pick up on that we're allowing more oil than was spilled in Prince William Sound by the Exxon Valdez to reach our oceans every year as a result of leaking automobiles, big industry run-off and other non-point sources. Again, I can't even comprehend how we continue to justify the slaughter and mutilation of millions of dolphins and marine mammals in tuna purse seine nets in the Eastern Tropical Pacific Ocean or just ignore the estimated 44,000 albatrosses that are killed each year by tuna long liners.
A modern 'factory' super trawler can be longer than a football field and can drag a trawl net that could encircle more than a dozen "jumbo jet" Boeing 747 aircraft at its opening all of which means that each of these floating super slaughter centers are capable of catching and processing up to 200 tons of fish daily. So what is it that possessed us to go to war with our oceans and, for that matter, with Mother Nature herself and anything else that has to try and share this planet with us? Could it be we have created a dangerous and false dichotomy that there's nature on one side and humanity on the other and hence nature is just an external commodity that we can command and 'must' conquer? Or maybe we've had our foresight and common sense obscured by an addiction to consume and grow faster, bigger and cheaper? Or could it possibly be that as a species we still believe in the endless horizon and a place called away?
Whatever the excuse or the reasoning might be, it needs to stop fast or it's going to stop our ability to survive even faster. This is why more than ever we need to get vocal, not just today on World Oceans day but every day. We need to give nature her voice back; to give her a chance to breathe if we want to keep breathing!
How can we regain some harmony amongst all this ecological madness? Luckily, there seems to be a sea change (for want of a better word) and we have visionaries and ocean pioneers like Sylvia Earle and her Mission Blue campaign and Enric Sala and his National Geographic backed Ocean Now campaign, both of which are fighting back on behalf of our oceans and its inhabitants.
But what if we were to take awareness one stage further and try and create a legal frame work that would actually offer nature some real protection? To declare the mass destruction of ecosystems as an international crime against peace -- alongside genocide and crimes against humanity? To get the United Nations to accept "ecocide" as a fifth "crime against peace", that could actually be tried at the International Criminal Court? Imagine the profound effect it would have on big industries blamed for widespread damage to the environment. The radical idea of the campaign is the brainchild of British Polly Higgins.
Her vision uses a simple equation: extraction leads to ecocide, which leads to resource depletion, and resource depletion leads to conflict. However, it wouldn't just stop there: "ecocide" would include damage done to any species. Under an ecocide law, you would see prosecutions against individuals rather than just the companies. In turn, you then might just see traditional energy companies having to become largely clean energy companies or extractive mining groups would have to either be scaled back massively or stopped, chemicals which contaminate soil and water and kill wildlife would also have to be abandoned and large-scale deforestation would not be possible at all. The potential impact of this could be more than monumental. Especially as its these types of visionary projects that keep me positive, inspired and driven that we are soon not only going to see an increase in awareness bubbling to forefront of the collective consciousness but see some really exciting real world solutions and legislation coming on-line. Ultimately, this can only but help build towards a happier healthier Ocean, Nature, planet and humanity!