I’m heading off to India on Sunday and currently in the midst of last-minute work and packing. I’ll blog about my trip, so stay tuned! For now, I’ll leave you with a revision of a speech I gave a number of years ago to the Independent World Commissions on the Oceans (IWCO) in 1997. The talk was subsequently published as an op-ed in the Providence Journal on June 25, 1997.
Here it is, slightly updated for the new millennium:
The oceans are home to a wealth of plant and animal species. They play a major role in regulating global weather and climate. They supply us with food and livelihoods, supporting our cultures and fueling our economies. And they provide us with an endless source of inspiration.
Exploring the deepest ocean trench is no less fantastic than glimpsing a distant star. For thousands of years humankind has stood in awe before the power of the ocean, taking to the sea in search for answers and adventure. From the sea-faring islanders of the South Pacific to the ancient peoples of the Mediterranean, humankind has looked to the sea with respect for its life-sustaining capacity, and reverence for its inherent majesty.
Every day we learn more about the watery realm that covers more than two-thirds of the globe. In addition to inspiring us, our growing knowledge of how the oceans work alerts us to the many challenges we face in conserving them for the future. Ocean issues require an international approach. Nations who wish to have long-term positive impacts cannot act unilaterally. Nor can any nation afford to abstain from action. The challenges that face the waters of the world affect all of us, everywhere. Water flows from shore to shore and fish and other marine species migrate across the imaginary lines that we draw between nations, regions, and territories. Pollution does not respect borders and the carbon dioxide that affects our climate warms the air and raises the level of the sea without regard to the ideologies, economies, or politics of the people who live on the land.
Caring about the oceans forces us to think globally even when we are acting to protect the waters outside our own doors. All the shores of all the countries are touched by the same oceans as it flows around the globe. Caring for the oceans means not only caring for the beaches near our homes but also having concern for all the beaches near all of the homes all over the world.
I love the smell of the sea and the sound of the surf. I love the fantastic variety of of creatures that live in the sea, all their different shapes, sizes, and strange colors. I love the motion and the freedom of the sea, the idea that the waves that touch the shores of Maryland, where I live, originated way across the Atlantic or from the Caribbean far south, and the water that laps the shore has traveled around the globe – many times.
We live on a water planet. We humans who are bound to the surface by our lungs and feet live on a planet that is more than 70 percent sea. A global sea comprised of myriad species and resources that we cannot live without, and endanger at our own expenses, as well as that of every other inhabitant of this Earth. The oceans are the lifeblood of this planet we call home. The are the very womb of creation. And they are the heritage of all humankind.