By Suzanne Maxx ©World Team Now
June 21, 2018, Summer Solstice Malibu, California, USA
I know I’m not alone when I say I love the ocean! I think there is value in organizing people to focus around the action in a day like “World Oceans Day,” (which was June 8th) or “Earth Day” or even one’s “Birthday”!
The love for the ocean is something most of us have in common. It’s when summer comes, (or when we go to another part of the world), that is when most people begin to build ocean consciousness. Ocean consciousness is usually around going to the beach. So how do we show appreciation, and celebrate the way the ocean gives to the planet, and interacts with life beyond country, all over the world?
Last year we celebrated by participation in the United Nations Ocean Conference and registered our multi-stakeholder partnership Sustainable Solutions Ocean Opportunities on Small Island States (SOS-IS) inside the United Nations platform for the Sustainable Development Goals. We also launched the website SOS-IS.org.
World Team Now gave the “Pioneer for the Planet” Award to Aquanaut and Ocean Explorer Fabien Cousteau and had a World Team Now Gala around the ocean events with a celebration at the Grand Banks Boat/Restaurant.
It was an honor to participate in the United Nations Solutions Panel as a speaker. Also, I covered the conference as a journalist. With a death in the family simultaneous at the events’ climax, I learned that it was too many roles to play at the same time. Here are some past tweets, a Facebook post, and a newsletter to give you the feel of the diversity of experiences:
Suzanne met with and interviewed Peter Thomson, Fijian diplomat and President of the General Assembly of the United…
This year, Oceans Day was celebrated at the ocean itself: being with the ocean and holding conversations locally at the beach with people about the ocean’s meaning and importance related to islands and a myriad of solutions to plastics and individual choices. Most people at the ocean had no idea about World Oceans Day or the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal #SDG14, so this work took on a different value, and tone.
This experience brought up the question: Is the love we carry for our common home, nature, and the ocean prioritized in our daily lives now, even if we don’t live near the ocean? I thought I had prioritized the ocean until I lived on the ocean in Fiji, literally for a total of six months working on our World Team project. I lived in a villa actually out on the ocean.
From the back porch of the villa, I could dive into the ocean. From my bedroom, I looked out on its vast, ever-changing horizon mirroring some of the most beautiful sunrises ever. From the opposite side of the bedroom, each sunset was better than the last. The living room was actually a “living room,” with large glass circles as the floor, a window to watch the wildlife in the ocean: colorful fish swimming below my feet at high tides, and the pink and aqua blue neon florescent crabs in the sand at low tide.
I realized the ocean breathes too –inhaling and exhaling, as waves go in and out and with the high and low tides – breathing a way to organize life in and around Oceania. The two category 3 hurricanes that came through while I was there caused a great loss for people and island life. It is significant that when we consider the big picture, in the past few years, the extreme weather and tropical storms have increased globally. Do we all realize that the choices we make here in the developed region of the world dramatically affect what happens in other parts of the world with Climate Change?
Yet the stewardship of the ocean in the Pacific Island region’s culture is considerable, and there is a lot for the developed world to learn from how the native islanders interact with the ocean. Passed on from generation to generation are ways to not just look to the stars for navigation, but to the ocean for understanding life.
Prominent is the biodiversity of species and preservation; fish as a considerable food source, and coral reefs as life-sustaining. The ocean is central in the Pacific Island Region of Oceania, and people have learned to listen and watch the ocean and its tides and species for how life can be better organized and prioritized. By nature, the respect and love of the ocean is core to the culture and village communities I spent time within Fiji.
Next to the villa along the shore of Koro Sun Resort in Savusavu was “Dive 4 Life” where they teach and lead ocean journeys scuba diving (PADI Certification & Instruction), snorkeling, and fishing adventures. We will share more about Dive 4 Life coming up. Nearly every day in Fiji, one can experience a way to become more intimate with the ocean.
I wonder how it can be that when I arrived on one of the most pristine, untouched outer islands left in the world, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean with virgin sand from human footprints- there was plastic garbage from other regions of the world washing up on shore. Plastic waste, the shipping industry, nuclear hazardous and toxic wastes, ocean acidification, climate change, overfishing have all challenged the ocean we love. We all now have heard that if we keep going at this rate with plastics, by 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. On the outer Fiji island, where our nonprofit, World Team Now, has been working, local villagers reported recently that right where sea turtles usually come up on the beach to lay their eggs, instead, there was a giant sea turtle strangled by plastic. Time for action: Here are 20 ways to plastic proof your routine.
So many of us enjoy what the ocean gives us: seafood to eat, waves to wide, sunsets to reflect upon – we think about the ocean related to fishing, surfing, swimming, sailing/boating, snorkeling, wave energy, and tidal energy – what we can get out of the ocean. I wonder how many people are truly aware that not only is the ocean beautiful, and evokes wonder, but that it actually helps us breathe and is critical for the balance of earth systems. Oceans actually breathe in for us by the plankton absorbing carbon dioxide, as much as 50% of what we humans are polluting into the air since the beginning of the industrial age. The challenge is that the change in the temperature of the ocean influences the ability of plankton to ingest the carbon dioxide. Plankton forms the base of the food web on the ocean. The temperature of the ocean and the atmosphere are coupled as a cause and effect; mirroring. Thus we face a dire positive feedback condition of warming, causing more CO2 to remain in the atmosphere. It’s time to think about how to give back to the ocean. Our World Team project is so eager to begin to show some of these solutions in real time, on an island and we are gearing up for action now. We plan to have many of you join us at least virtually next year.
Just the same way we created this mess with plastic and other wastes, we can altogether work to clean it up. There are innovative solutions now. In Fiji, I learned how to re-plant the ever important mangroves. We can replant coral. We can repopulate and protect fish. We can create monitoring systems to address illegal fishing and protect endangered species, we can choose alternative renewable forms of transportation, and all of these systems are indeed connected.
Every morning I awoke to the sound of the ocean breathing in and out its waves as water splashes up against the villa and nearby shore. To be put to bed by the soothing sound of the oceans gentle waves is a grace to grow living with the ocean.
Do you wonder what the world would look like if we focused our attention, to giving respect and appreciation of the ocean in each breath? Let’s consider organizing our effort by each breath, thought, word and action. Maybe then we could make Oceans Day, Surf Day, and Earth Day be every day. What if their principles and elements at the core of these singular days happen every day? Are you willing to consider the power of choice to aggregate the collective consciousness to take action for the ocean every day? Could we make a world of difference?
Here is an excerpt of the lyrics of World Team’s rap song first performed at the United Nations Earth Summit/Global Forum 1992.
What’s the solution for the pollution of our ocean?
Education, information, cultivation, preservation, restoration, conservation,
It’s time to make a change and rearrange
A shift of power, now’s the hour
For peace, a big release,
World Team, it’s a dream and for finality,
Let it be reality.
May we remember the ocean is all of the time, ever-changing, yet consistent in gifts? On this day of Summer Solstice in the Western Hemisphere, may we see the light of perspective for oceans value; every day.