World Oceans Day
The concept of World Oceans Day, which is annually observed on the 8 June since 2002, was already introduced at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. The major goals are: raise awareness about the vital role of the oceans for our lives, provide ways and knowledge about sustainable management and protection of the world’s shared ocean as well as celebrate, unite and develop a worldwide movement of citizens for the ocean. Since 2009, after official recognition of the holiday by the UN, the various themes are been selected each year. This year the focus was on “Gender and the Ocean”, that goes within general trends of our global society.
Despite the fact that only around 10 % of the world’s population has direct access to the sea/ocean, and roughly 3 billion people (40 %) live within 100 km of the coast, it is extremely important for all the inhabitants. That is because our drinking water, weather, climate, coastlines, much of our food, and even the oxygen in the air we breathe, are all eventually provided and regulated by the ocean. During all human history, oceans and seas have been vital for economic development (for instance trade and transportation). In regard to this, only prudent maintenance of this essential global source is a vital feature of a sustainable life in the future.
Facts and figures about oceans
In order to know how to manage carefully the oceans, it is needed to understand and be familiar with some key facts:
- oceans cover ¾ (72 %) of the Earth’s surface, contain 97 % of the Earth’s water, and represent 99 % of the living space on the planet by volume;
- the ocean-economy (marine/coastal resources and industries, and cultural services) is estimated at $3 trillion per year or about 5 % of global GDP;
- marine fisheries and aquaculture directly or indirectly give jobs to around 260 million people worldwide;
- the world’s oceans contain nearly 200,000 identified species, but actual numbers somewhere between 500,000 and 10 million marine species;
- oceans are one of the largest sources of protein (17 %), with more than 2.6 billion people (mainly from least-developed countries) using the “oceans food” as their primary source of protein;
- oceans absorb about 30 % of carbon dioxide produced by humans (e.g. fossil fuel burning, cement production, deforestation), diminishing the impacts of global climate change;
- so far almost 40 % of the world oceans are heavily affected by human activities, such as pollution, depleted fisheries, oil spills, nutrient over-enrichment or decrease of coastal habitats.
Most probably we cannot even image on which extent we are polluting the oceans. The great example on how far we get can be a recent finding of the plastic waste in the Pacific Ocean's Mariana Trench - the deepest place in the ocean (11 km, which is 2 km higher than Mount Everest, if inverted). There are several causes for ocean pollution, among of them sewage and polluting substances, toxic chemicals from industries and agriculture, large scale oil spills, ocean mining and last, but not least littering. The devastating effects are so visible, like the creation of the trash islands in the ocean, but sometimes also unseen for us, which are disruption to the cycle of marine life, a decrease of the oxygen level in the water and acidification, contamination of the food chain.
What can I do with all of that?
If you missed this year celebration and didn’t take part in a World Oceans Day event or activity, you have always a possibility to support and protect the ocean for the future. As it is our individual decision to help ensure that our ocean is clean and sustainable for the next generations as well. Thus, World Oceans Day just encourages and provides people with ways how to act anytime:
- Spread the word: talk to your friends, colleagues, relatives about what the ocean means to all of us and how it is important to conserve it for the future.
- Educate: learn and discover as much as possible about the marine biodiversity, how our daily actions affect and interconnect it.
- Change your lifestyle: even tiny modifications in your every day habits can make a difference and benefit our blue planet. Hence, if you see the garbage: pick it up and properly dispose of it, while remembering the golden rule - reduce (plastic bags usage, products with excessive packaging), reuse (take a reusable bag to the shop), recycle whenever it is possible (not just throw away).
- Celebrate: take time to reflect on your personal connection and influence on the ocean, and then organize or participate in activities that help to preserve it.
All in all, each of us definitely has some relation to the ocean, despite the fact we were born and spent whole life on the land or near the shore. For me, for example, it is pretty special as the World Oceans Day is celebrated on my birthday. Nonetheless, I saw the ocean only twice in my life, but this experience was unforgettable as I was fascinated by the power of nature and the powerlessness of humans against it.
Remember no matter where we live as we are all linked to, and through, the ocean and should take care of it! The world’s oceans (their temperature, chemistry and life) are the driven forces of the global systems that make possible for mankind to live on the Earth.