‘Roll on, thou deep and dark blue Ocean—roll!Lord Byron, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, 1818
Ten thousand fleets sweep over thee in vain;
Man marks the earth with ruin—his control
Stops with the shore.’
The Global Ocean, also known as the World’s Ocean. It covers 71% of our planet’s surface, and a full 90% of the biosphere. If that difference confuses you, the biosphere can be described as the worldwide sum of all ecosystems: simply put, the areas on earth that support life. Our planet is just under five billion years old, the biosphere with living matter has been around for approximately 3.7 billion years. To put that into more understandable terminology, a very long time. At this stage in our interplanetary and intergalactic explorations, no other biosphere has been detected on another planet. That’s not to say they don’t exist – the chances are odds-on that somewhere in the 93 billion light year span of the observable universe and its trillions of stars, a number of Earth-type biospheres are quietly evolving. We can only hope that they are making a better job of preserving their oceans than we humans are. Homo sapiens – that’s us – means ‘wise human’. It’s about time we lived up to our name. No ocean; no biosphere. No biosphere; no life. It’s that simple.
And so back to that Global Ocean. We refer here to the sum of all the oceans, of course. Despite the romantic ideal of five oceans and/or seven seas written about by explorers, dreamers and poets, it’s all one collective mass of water, interjoined and constantly flowing around our planet. Sea water that hosted cod off Greenland a few centuries ago may now be swilling through the gills of snoek here in the Cape. Oddly, given how much our scientists have gleaned about space and other aspects of life, the origins of the ocean are unknown: there is a vague idea that it formed in the Hadean eon about 4 billion years ago, and is understood to be the cause of the emergence of life. Even the current life in the ocean is rather vaguely understood; there are 230 000 known species, but estimates are that over 2 million species have yet to be discovered, and what might be even more testing, named.
You see where we are going with this. As the world’s ocean is the principal component of Earth’s hydrosphere, it is integral to life as we know it. Life, of course, includes us homo sapiens. It forms part of the vital carbon cycle, and is the principle influencer of weather patterns and the global climate. We need to maintain that ocean, nurture it, look after it. But instead, when you investigate facts about the ocean, you continually stumble across caveats like ‘marine pollution’, ‘over-fishing’, ‘ocean acidification’, and ‘effects of climate change on oceans’, amongst others. It may have taken 3.7 billion years for the ocean to reach a stage where it could host a wide variety of life and dominate the climate of our planet; it’s taking a mere few centuries for mankind to destroy it. Waldo Emerson, the 19th century American essayist and poet, put it this way: “We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.” It appears that when we return it to our kids, the way we are going now it will be unusable.
We have written before about World Ocean Day, but given the importance of the subject, we feel that it’s an event that needs to be recognised and acknowledged – positively – by every person on the planet, so we make no apology for banging the World Ocean Day drum. Eighty percent of the ocean pollution comes from land, and that’s where we live. Most of the balance comes from air pollution; iron, carbonic acid, nitrogen, silicon, sulphur, pesticides or dust particles. I’m pretty certain that the bulk of that comes from the land too, so all in all we have to make some pretty drastic changes to clean things up. The target of World Ocean Day in 2021 is the 30/30 initiative: ensuring that 30% of our oceans are protected by 2030. It says a lot about the current state of things if we regard a mere 30% as a win: we need to get our act together and get everyone on side, including certain nameless governments who ignore pollution prevention and mitigation as an inconvenience slowing ‘progress’.
A little more about World Ocean Day: coordinated and promoted internationally by The Ocean Project since 2002, World Ocean Day is an annual celebration on 8 June as well as a call for ocean conservation action throughout the year. Starting in 2009, World Ocean Day has also been officially recognized by the United Nations. At Waterfront Charters we are busy investigating ways of focussing people’s attention on the day and the cause; keep an eye on our website for specials that will highlight the 30/30 initiative.
We say it over and over: we work, play and recreate on our ocean – but it’s the heart and lungs of our planet too. Join Waterfront Charters and World Ocean Day initiatives to make a difference that could, quite literally, alter the course of life on our planet.