The importance of our oceans
When we think about what produces oxygen, we think of plants and trees. Yet, out of the natural world, it is the ocean that produces most of the oxygen we breathe.
Whether we let the leftover cans from a barbeque roll down to the edge of the shore, or let greasy fish wrappers fly into the sky and land on the surface of the sea we throw stones into. Whatever we do and however we choose to act around one of our biggest life sources – it all has consequences.
That is our rivers, our lakes and our oceans.
It’s our ocean that feeds us, transports us and generates the oxygen we breathe. The ocean does that for us and also a range of other species and creatures that we share it with.
Or at least we are meant to be sharing it and caring for it. There is a thing called ocean health, and unfortunately, over the years, we have made ours very, very sick.
The reality of ocean health
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, 80% of all marine pollution is made up of plastic waste. In other words, littering. This is caused by improper disposal of plastic, organisations not manufacturing goods correctly and the use of unsustainable fishing equipment.
It is difficult to work towards a sustainable future, if we neglect the significance of having a sustainable and healthy relationship with the ocean. The negative consequences to wildlife, human health and our environment are just too profound to ignore.
World Ocean Day
However, despite the current situation, researchers and experts know that we can turn this around. That is why World Ocean Day is so important. According to the United Nations, the purpose of World Ocean Day is to ‘inform the public of the impact of human actions on the ocean, develop a worldwide movement of citizens for the ocean, and mobilise and unite the world's population on a project for the sustainable management of the world's oceans.’
How do we achieve this? How does any movement or cause inform the public? Through education. If we want to achieve the goals of World Ocean Day, we must implement updated research and technology on all platforms – including curriculums crossing all levels of education.
The impact of education
Education is a broad term that can be understood here as an idea of informing. Informing others with updated research and informing others with skills and actionable strategies. Education comes through publications, activists, documentaries and other forms of media. Education also comes through a traditional means: schools.
We push to get the message of ocean health and World Ocean Day through schools, because schools speak to the next generation and also provide a structured system for implementing knowledge and skills. UNESCO have already initiated their Education for sustainable development programme, that emphasises this very point.
Our actions impact the future, but children are the future. The hopeful thing about our oceans is that they are resilient and have shown that even a short break can make a notable impact on their health. For example: COVID-19. We saw a clear reduction in greenhouse gases that inevitably impact ocean acidification and a time where marine life could breathe due to the reduction of fishing across the world. However, the positive effects the pandemic had on our oceans can only be sustained if we upskill ourselves and children with the necessary knowledge and practises to do so. The pandemic showed us that a collective response – regardless of whether it was intentional or not – can make a difference. All we need to do is imagine the impact a collectively taught, sustainable lifestyle can have on our oceans. This is why sustainability in the curriculum is important and necessary for our future.
What you can do
In the spirit and purpose of World Ocean Day, I wanted to leave you with information that will at the very least, make you consider the health of the ocean in talks about sustainability. At the most, it will leave you compelled enough to include ocean health in whatever work – no matter how big or small – you do to help work towards a more sustainable future.
10 Steps to Promoting Ocean Health
Whether you embed it into your curriculums, encourage more ocean health angles in your publications or orient your research to consider the implication on the ocean and bodies of water, the least we can do is remember that our ocean must be included, since there is no sustainable future without healthy oceans.
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