The ocean is everything to me. Being in the sea is where I feel the most balanced, connected and alive. It doesn’t matter whether it’s freezing cold, wall-like waves crashing over my head on a New Year’s Day dip or tiny ripples of serene aquamarine lapping gently around my shoulders on a summer’s evening swim. The ocean brings me back to my truest self. It’s where I feel both held and free. Revitalised.Rebecca Annells, PHD candidate, University of Bath and author of this feature
Currently, I don’t live near enough to the coast to get into the sea everyday, but there’s not a day goes by when the ocean doesn’t influence my life. Right now, for example, I’m listening to an ocean waves soundtrack. It’s not the same as the real thing but it’s perfect for writing this piece, providing unobtrusive inspiration and powerful focus.
There is one global ocean, a huge body of salt water that covers approximately 71% of the surface of this blue planet, which we are lucky enough to live on. Water and oxygen are essential to sustain life and the global ocean contains 97% ofthe water and produces over half of the oxygen on earth. The ocean also contains a whopping 94% of the earth’s wildlife, absorbs around 30% of carbon emissions from human activity and regulates the climate and weather patterns on a global scale. The survival of every single being on this blue planet is therefore affected by the sea every single day, but as humans we don’t always recognise or remember that, let alone celebrate it.
However, today is World Ocean Day, an internationally recognised day of celebration that propels action throughout the year to protect our blue planet. It was conceptualised in 1992 at the UN Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro by Judith Swan, the then Executive Director of the Oceans Institute of Canada, to celebrate and raise awareness of the essential role the ocean plays in enabling us all to survive and thrive. Thirty years later the original premise for World Ocean Day remains relevant, because the greater the collective understanding of how the ocean impacts humanity and vice versa, the greater the collective action to protect the ocean. To re-package our Earth Day sentiment on World Ocean Day: protect it we must, because our lives depend on it.
Events for World Ocean Day are taking place all over the world today, around this year’s theme of Revitalisation: Collective Action for the Ocean. Everything from talks to beach cleans, to musical performances and film screenings, these efforts will all contribute to the multi-year conservation action focus of protecting 30% of our lands, waters and ocean by 2030, or “30×30”. Currently less than 8% of the ocean and 17% of land is protected worldwide, but the 30×30 movement continues to grow, ahead of the next UN Biodiversity Conference in October. In fact, over 90 countries have now become members of the High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People, which champions a global deal for nature and people with a central goal of achieving 30×30. Perhaps the new set of targets for nature will live up to the coalition’s name.
As well as pushing for conservation action, World Ocean Day has strong ties to the future through its Youth Advisory Council and their global and 365 days-a-year attitude. Currently there are 25 members aged 16 to 23 from 22 countries around the world, and alumni from previous years brings it up to 40 countries. The Youth Advisory Council provide unique perspectives, ideas, and recommendations for rallying the world for ocean and climate conservation on June the 8th and throughout the year. According to Yutong Yang, a Youth Advisory Council member from China, “it is our duty to come up with new and creative solutions to the problems we’re facing, and to envision and usher in a healthy future for our planet by working together despite our differences – every day of the year!”.
Demonstrably, World Ocean Day and our own Blue Earth Summit have a common core. Both these events are about celebrating, inspiring and connecting people through shared ambition, passion and love for this blue earth, over a short time-frame but with a long-term and sustainable vision. Coming together on one day (or three) enables us to learn, re-energise and align so we can move forward collectively for our one ocean everyday thereafter. Nathany Herrera, World Ocean Day Youth Advisory Council member from Brazil puts it simply: “the words that guide us are collaboration and resilience”.
Since World Ocean Day is clearly not just about one day of the year, whatever day you are reading this, if you are looking for a sign from the world to get out and do something to celebrate and/or protect the ocean today – be it a quick beach clean, a swim, a community screening of a surf film, or something else – consider this a sign.
Whatever you do for World Ocean Day, do it in the spirit of collaboration, with resilience and as whole-heartedly as a budding grom who’s just caught her first wave!