The saltwater ecosystems of our planet are the blue heart and lungs of Earth. Our oceans breathe life into the world, and without them we could not survive.
Knowing this, you would think we’d do a better job protecting these precious natural resources that sustain every one of us.
In an effort to raise global awareness about the plights of our seas, the critical roles they play in our lives, and how we can better protect them, the celebration of World Oceans Day officially began in 2008. It was initially proposed by the Government of Canada in 1992 at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, but it wasn’t until 2002 that it was first celebrated by environmental groups around the world.
After several years of petitioning driven largely by the World Ocean Network and The Ocean Project, the General Assembly of the United Nations formally designated June 8thas World Oceans Day in 2008.
World Oceans Day Was Week-long in 2018
Since then, the number of organizations involved and events launched has grown annually, and the celebration has even expanded into an entire Oceans Week in many places. At both the UN Headquarters and The Explorers Club in New York, Oceans Week has become a well-attended happening on the East Coast. June 4-8,The Explorers Club (EC) featured a fantastic lineup of lectures, films, panels, and brainstorming sessions that delved into a wide variety of ocean topics.
Monday kicked off with panels at the UN addressing maritime security and ocean law followed by discussions at EC about the complicated relationships between urban communities and the ocean, culminating in a screening of the film Chasing the Thunder.
It is billed as “a high-seas documentary about the Sea Shepherd’s epic 110-day, 10,000-mile chase of the Thunder, considered the world’s most notorious poaching vessel.”
The next day featured panels on marine technology, robotics, and exploration, while Wednesday was entirely dedicated to addressing our massive plastic pollution problem with an emphasis on re-designing materials to revolutionize the future of manufacturing away from petroleum and towards biological sources.
Thursday focused on the state of our world’s coral reefs, populations of marine megafauna, and the need to explore the deep sea, with an evening screening of the film Bluefin, a documentary about how our insatiable appetite for bluefin tuna has driven this fish to the brink of extinction. The week closed out with a fascinating set of discussions about sustainable seafood and some new, delicious alternatives to fish-based protein.
Rolex sponsored the entire week’s events, so all were open and free to the public. While held at EC, the primary organizer of these events was Parley for the Oceans, a campaign-driven platform that connects scientists, artists, and innovators from all manner of seemingly disparate sectors to collectively solve ocean problems. “Parley is the space where creators, thinkers, and leaders come together to raise awareness for the beauty and fragility of our oceans and collaborate on projects that can end their destruction.”
Inaugural March for the Oceans Around the World
Right after this incredible week of stimulating educational opportunities during the daytime and super-charged problem solving sessions late into the evenings, Washington, D.C. played host to the inaugural March for the Oceans. More than 3,000 people all cloaked in blue garb showed up to celebrate our oceans together by marching through the streets of our nation’s capital to demonstrate their support for ocean-forward policy and global initiatives that support the health and protection of our seas.
Some amazing speakers showed up to rally the crowd after the march as well. Two of the four Cousteau grandchildren—Fabien and Philippe—spoke to attendees, along with environmental author, Carl Safina, neurologist and ocean advocate, Dr. Wallace J Nichols, world-renowned oceanographer, Dr. Sylvia Earle, and youth environmental group, Heirs for the Ocean.
This activism wasn’t just in D.C., though. There were more the 100 sister marches in cities all over the world including countries such as Brazil, Mexico, the Philippines, Indonesia, the Bahamas, and the U.K. There was even a March for the Oceans in Saipan (Mariana Islands in the western Pacific Ocean) organized by two teenage environmentalists. Plans have already begun to make the 2019 March for the Oceans even bigger and more far-reaching with increased media involvement and sponsorship.
It’s easy to look at the scale of the problems facing our oceans and throw our hands up in defeat, but the truth is, we are the only ones capable of solving these issues.
Over-fishing, pollution, habitat destruction, ocean acidification, climate change, all of these are changes that have been caused by us, and as such, are also uniquely solvable by us.
These may be monumental roadblocks on the path to a sustainable future, but they are also incredible opportunities for innovation and collaboration on a scale we’ve never seen before. If this year’s Oceans Week celebrations were any indication of what is to come, it’s safe to say that we should all have renewed hope for a better, bluer world.