World Oceans Day Reflection

Over the summer, we have the pleasure of having Bryan Nordley join us as our Communications Assistant.  Here, he shares with us some of his thoughts on our oceans.
Coming from the Midwest, an area devoid of oceans and marine life, I would never have guessed I would be spending World Oceans Day out on the tranquil waters of Vancouver’s English Bay on a schooner sailboat with a team of environmentalists.
Photo by Bryan Nordley 
June 8th was International World Oceans Day and in a delightful twist for me, I took part in my first Oceans Day in the country it originated in.  In 1992, the Government of Canada first proposed the idea for World Oceans Day  at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. World Oceans Day officially became recognized by United Nations General Assembly in December of 2008 as being on June 8thof each year.
This day shines a spot light and much needed attention to organizations like the Georgia Strait Alliance, who have deep commitments and compassion for the cause of marine conservation.
On a much broader horizon, World Oceans Day gives people across the globe many reasons to celebrate our vast, mysterious, and precious bodies of water. On a very basic level, Worlds Oceans Day reminds us that our oceans generate most of the oxygen we breathe, are an abundant source of food, offers us boundless wonder and recreational activities, have the potential to generate new medicines, and regulate our climate. And of course our water “provides limitless inspiration.” 
It was a strikingly relaxed experience aboard the “Passing Cloud,” sailing around English Bay on June 8th.  Besides ships looming on the Strait’s horizon, to the everyday person you would never think that that our oceans face critical threats.  It is an especially sad irony that one of the earth’s most critical climate regulators is so vulnerable to our own man made climate change. 
Photo by Bryan Nordley
Even on this pleasant trip, conversations about the environment turned to global climate change. Having the rare opportunity to chat with three professional, highly educated and active environmental scientists. I asked questions about ocean acidification and climate change to find out what professionals in the field were thinking.  My friend who joined me on the outing also asked questions related to possible scientific and man made mitigation strategies to help the oceans cope with the affects of climate change.  We talked about process like iron fertilization but the overall consensus of the discussion was that we must reduce or stop emitting greenhouse gases to help our oceans.
Another option that arose was that we too often think we can fix things with technology and the reality is we cannot depend on technology to fix or mitigate the real cause.
This seems ominous in the face of further industrialization in Russia, Asia, and the global south, and even in many parts of North America. I asked one of the environmental scientists whether he felt frustrated or discouraged about working on the political and legal side of marine environmental issues. His response was a positive one. Although he explained that change was often slow, he acknowledged that a lot of people working on the politics and legal aspects did truly care about the environment and there was a general movement to lay the framework for more conscientious policies regarding our marine ecosystems. This surprised me but it was really refreshing to hear since so much of the content that makes it into the news media, books and even in scholarly articles is more or less doom and gloom when it comes to peoples’ behavior in acting to stop things like climate change.

His thoughts on a changing consciousness regarding marine issues are reflected in the positive awareness that is also being created by declared days like Oceans Day. In 2012, around 600 events were held in 55 countries and 42 states with 180 of these events hosted at zoos, aquariums or other science related centers. Several of the events actually involved hands on experience of cleaning beaches like in Ballena National Park in Costa Rica, while Kids’ Ocean Day in California has many as 8,000 youth involved in a huge beach clean up effort.   It is events like Oceans Day that help grow the consciousness of people across the world, gaining momentum to encourage a better future for us all.  

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