Oceans…the final frontier



A side by side image of a reef taken just months apart from Chasing Coral [Image Source]

I am not a good swimmer. I am still thankful I somehow managed to pass the swimming unit in gym class. I have never much progressed beyond the doggie paddle to be quite frank. But water has always been a love of mine. I adored being near it, watching it. I brave my hatred of sand and sun for it. I loved, even more, being out on it. I don’t come from much of a boating family but we often took boats during our travels and I was lucky enough to have a friend’s family adopt me a few summers for their family boat trips on Lake Ontario and into the St. Lawrence. It is perhaps another thing that bothers me about where I live in Florida. On a peninsula,  covered in lakes, I managed to find a town that doesn’t have much water to it. Water is close by in most directions. But I don’t see it on a daily basis unless I go looking for it.

In 5th grade, all my friends and I went through the “I’m going to be a marine biologist” phase. Seriously, I was looking through the pages of my 5th grade “yearbook” the other day and at least a quarter of the girls in my class wrote that down for their answer to that question. I know all of us, at least the ones I’m still in contact with, are not in any kind of science field. That’s a different discussion. I’m not sure why we were all in that stage. We had a very science-friendly classroom that year; we raised baby snapping turtles and visited the swamp for our class field trip. It was awesome. I just know a part of me never really grew out of it even as I started to realize that science involved a lot of math and I wasn’t very good at that.

So, fast forward to 8th grade and our first research paper. We were given a list of prompts to pick and I chose the one that leaped out at me, “Discuss why ocean pollution needs to be addressed on a national and international level.” I proceeded to fill 10 pages, single-spaced, of facts and figures and reasons why we needed to worry about that. Keep in mind this was supposed to be about a 6-page double-spaced paper. I still have this paper – one of many research papers I’ve written over the years and I think it’s one of my favorites because I was still so full of hope when I wrote it. I truly believed all those facts and figures meant we could do something to help. That, of course, we would because well, the facts said we should. Science didn’t lie.

I watched Chasing Coral recently. It’s much along the same lines as Chasing Ice, just coral reefs instead of glaciers. It made me cry. I remember tearing up with Chasing Ice but there were some major tears during Chasing Coral because the 8th grader in me is so disappointed. She is even more disappointed and frustrated and just plain angry than I think the 32-year-old me is. Even as I read yet another article on how climate change is being ignored, willfully denied and/or actively encouraged by those who should be doing something about it. Our oceans are the balance of our planet. As they go, so do all of us. How we cannot act when they are sending up major distress signals be it by coral bleaching or unheard of hurricane seasons? I guess in the end we’ll get what we deserve. Is it petty to hope the climate change deniers get it first?

But, I will not end on a petty note. I’ll end on a passionate note. On the note of an 8th grader who believed her words and research could make someone sit up and take notice and do something about it.

The damages and impacts on the environment, the marine life, and humans that marine pollution is causing still isn’t enough for governments to realize that by polluting the ocean, they’re polluting us. The ocean’s delicate balance and relationship with us is being pusher further past its limit each day…The science fiction movies of the 1950s and 1960s often depicted space as the growing frontier. Why not stay closer to home? The ocean’s depths hold just as much possibility as space, but not for much longer…Do you really want your grandchildren asking you what a blue ocean looks like? I doubt it, but to pass a clean and blue ocean onto our children and their children, we must take steps to protect the ocean and save it from ourselves. And we must take them now. For as Arthur C. Clarke said, “How inappropriate to call this planet Earth, when clearly it is Ocean.”


From Moviegoods.com

I have a life-long fascination with the ocean. I honestly can’t tell you why. I didn’t grow up near one, and have never spent much time near one either. I can remember the handful of times when I’ve stood on the Atlantic’s shores. And I think that the trip-that-shall-not-be-named brought me to the Pacific’s shores for the first and last time when I was eighteen months old. Marine ecosystems though continue to enthrall me. Its animals even more so. I can watch sea otters by the hour at zoos, marvel at the colors of tropical fish and literally remain spellbound in the grace of dolphins when I get a chance to see them at an aquarium.

The library’s summer reading and film challenge has started for this year and I am sadly lagging in getting a move on my list. So tonight I sat down to watch Disneynature’s Oceans for the science category. Disneynature films usually come to Netflix streaming just in time for its latest release and Oceans was no different, streaming a little before African Cats came into theaters. I am usually a year behind, living in a place that doesn’t get Disneynature films into the local theaters. I have to say I liked Oceans even better than its first outing, Earth. Oceans had less peril to it and more of the story of why we need the oceans and its creatures. Plus, the ocean just has fun creatures to watch: dolphins, sea otters, leopard seals, humpback whales and really awesome fish I didn’t even know existed like the Stone Fish or the sheep-domed something or other that is one of the oldest species alive on Earth today. So cool!

I had to laugh at one point though as I tried not to cry over an activity that made me cry over 20 years ago when I first saw it. They showed, what I am coming to think must be an obligatory sequence in ocean-based documentaries, orcas feasting on baby sea lions on the South African coast. People, I want it on the record that I DID NOT cry. I feel I am making progress. It is one thing to understand the whole Circle of Life thing, quite another to watch it.  I do have to give props to the orcas, their way of hunting is pretty awesome to see.

The one thing that I always have after watching a good nature documentary though is guilt. Disneynature takes it pretty light on the whole humans affecting the planet aspect of things (though it is definitely touched on more in Oceans than it was in Earth), and still I have guilt that I am a human and have at some point in my life polluted the ocean. It is, sadly, inevitable that I have done so in some way, shape or form. I like to think I am aware, more so than a lot of people, that how I live even miles away from the oceans effects them in some way. I blame my first research report back in 8th grade for that (my topic was “Why ocean pollution should be addressed on a national and international level” – I was such a nerd…still am….). While we have put so much effort into exploring the skies and stars above us, I feel that the oceans often get the short end of the stick which is just wrong when you think about it. Our continued survival as a species depends on the oceans. One thinks we would have a greater respect for it instead of seeing it as a convenient dumping ground for our trash or as an obstacle in our path of retrieving the almighty Oil. I know I will be seeing the Atlantic in September from the deck of a cruise ship (that hopefully is as Green as can be) and I will be sure to show it a bit more respect than last time we met.