What can we do to clean the ocean?

Each year on June eight we celebrate World Oceans Day, a date chosen by the United Nations to recognize our relationship with the ocean through various ways of world connection. Around the globe, through the World Ocean Network, The Ocean Project, and many other organizations with ocean interests, events will take place to highlight the value of our water resources. There will be maritime festivals and beach clean ups, school projects and environmental presentations.. What was once a bright idea is an international event that for one brief moment concentrates some part of ephemeral world interest on the ocean and its benefit for all human kind.

Of course, every day is ocean day. We can assert that with the authority of the headlines that every day point to some ocean issue of import: the crisis of plastic pollution and growing, swirling gyres around the globe, the catastrophic catastrophe of a failed drilling rig or shipping accident, piracy in Arabian waters, the trade impacts of an extended Panama Canal, the security implications of melting sea ice and the opening of Northern Arctic passages, the decline of fisheries across the world economy, relaxed ocean rules and increased drilling and mining, and the continuing, growing evidence of the negative affect of weather change on the ocean and its capacity for behind all parts of human survival.

What is World Oceans Day meant to do? If all those worried with ocean issues were to shout now, there could be a compelling sound, enough to let’s know that others around the globe also care, enough to give us confidence that our whole is greater by the sum of our individual voices, and possibly enough to penetrate the consciousness of a political structure that for the most part continues to disregard ocean issues, willfully waiting till it’s late. Sadly, if we hear anything at all, it’s either the silence of indifference, or the shrill pitch of denial, or sometimes, the clear prescient voice of science and reality, there, but seemingly not still deafening enough to make the needed difference for the deciders.

A 2016 survey conducted by The Ocean Project indicates that public awareness of ocean issues in the United States hasn’t advanced at all over a ten year period: no progress in spite of consistent and continuing efforts by conservation, ocean, and other environmental organizations to tell and educate. What, then, does it take for the will of the people to coalesce around a single issue, to be informed and changed into a voice for change, and to counter the lassitude and cynicism? The analogy that occurs, of course, is the ocean itself, believed to be infinite in its capacity to dissolve the pollutants, take in the oil, sequester the CO2, clean the waste, circulate the protein and new water, heal itself with the poisons of others. Cleaning the beaches on Oceans Day is a reminder of what the ocean can not assimilate poly nets and fishing lines, plastic bags and containers, and congealed residue of too much oil spilled or chemicals deposited, fish and birds struggling to recover from polluted, de oxygenated waters, and disrupted lives of so many global who have for generations made their living from the sea. This detritus, both natural and social, is plentiful evidence that the ocean reached its bound and that, if we continue to despoil it, we risk a vast, awful, irretrievable loss.

When we stand by the sea, or when we imagine it in our minds, we perceive Nature in the reality of its motion, changing light, and sense of life. When we study the ocean, we understand its share to our health and well being through water, food, energy, and economic, cultural, and spiritual connection. Should we put such a priceless thing at risk? Should we subvert a national policy to protect it? Why could we ignore a system of administration and law for the sea to manage it? Why, intentionally, through acts of commission and omission, could we let such a important, fecund thing to be compromised, poisoned, and killed? Surely, if on this Ocean Day we can come to the realization that such acts are really self destructive, we can then use every other day to spread the word, to act in some overt way to change our behaviors, and to otherwise transform the will of one Citizen of the Ocean to become thousands, to become millions, who demand that the ocean be returned from shortage to abundance, from clash to accommodation, from abuse to sustainability, from ignorance to intelligent action for our future.