By Ryan Elizabeth Cope –
June 8 is World Oceans Day. Much like Earth Day, it is a day to truly be celebrated every day one chooses to visit the ocean. But, similarly to Christmas, it’s wonderful to dedicate one entire day to one specific cause. The oceans are certainly worthy of our celebrations. Why?
Well, simply put: without our oceans, you wouldn’t be reading this article, this magazine wouldn’t exist, and none of us would be around to be aware of any of this in the first place. The oceans provide us with a space to recreate and the majority of the oxygen we consume as humans. They give us a whole host of marine life to observe, study, and, yes, sometimes eat (dolphin-safe, Ocean Wise, and sustainable, of course!). The oceans are energy powerhouses, something that we have only just begun to dig into. They supply us with some of the world’s most innovative energy solutions, including tidal power and open-ocean wind farms.
While we are not always connected directly to the oceans, one quick visit to the shoreline is all that’s needed to feel the unique energy of the ocean, not found anywhere else. The sound of the crashing waves, the feeling of salt water on our skin, and the observation of marine flora and fauna is a feast for the senses. The oceans help us in more ways than we can possibly imagine.
We need our oceans, but they are in peril. According to UNESCO, by the year 2100, we stand to lose more than half of the world’s marine species (flora and fauna) due to extinction. That’s 81 years from now and while many of us currently contributing to and reading The Green Gazette may be long gone by then, anyone born today or onwards may exist in a world devoid of much of the charismatic mega and micro fauna we have come to know and love. The time is now to protect what we love and preserve it for ourselves and for future generations of ocean-loving humans.
With our climate in flux and being impacted by human-induced carbon dioxide emissions, so, too, is our ocean impacted. The results are ones we are already witnessing around the world: hotter, dryer summers (more forest fires for interior BC); increased plastic pollution on beaches and in waterways; chemical runoff via agricultural waste; and things like sunscreen melting off our skin every time we take a dip.
Conventional sunscreen contains chemical substances known as “oxybenzones” and are the active, chemical filter ingredients purported to keep our skin safe from UV rays. We are only just recently coming to understand that oxybenzones are wildly destructive to coral reef habitat (and human health), which is rather unfortunate considering that the first thing we all do before hitting the beach is lather up on SPF 30. These chemicals, not normally experienced by coral reefs (or humans), disrupt a coral’s reproduction and growth cycle. When a coral’s cycle is disrupted, it triggers a bleaching event, causing it to die.
Coral is a living organism and is fundamental to the health of coastal seas—lose the coral and we lose the abundance of marine life that thrives here, including many magnificent tourism snorkeling destinations. As we are already witnessing, places like The Great Barrier Reef and the Hawaiian Islands have all fallen victim to bleaching events.
So, what’s an ocean-loving person to do? No need to bury your head in the sand. The next time you’re about to head off on your coastal vacation, consider the following to tread lightly on this Blue Planet:
– Look for “reef-friendly” sunscreen. Brands such as Tropical Sands, Badger, or Raw Elements are committed to both the health of humans and our oceans.
– DIY a picnic lunch instead of buying one ready-made. You’ll be amazed at how much plastic packaging can be saved from this one, tiny step.
– Carpool or bike to the beach. It’s not just what we do when we’re in the water that counts. Think of the journey it requires to get to your favourite ocean hangout spot.
This World’s Oceans Day, wherever you celebrate, consider the impact our Blue Planet has on your daily life, and the impact you have on its beautiful blue waters. Give thanks for the oceans. They cover 70% of our planet. Much like people, our oceans are a living, breathing organism and just like us, they require nourishment, love, and support in order to survive and thrive.
Ryan Elizabeth Cope is a Kelowna, BC-based advocate for plastic-less, healthful living. She blogs at Seven in the Ocean (sevenintheocean.com) where she marries her love of food with her disdain for plastic-wrapped garbage.