World Oceans Day, the international day of ocean conservation, is an occasion that I and the people I work with at Ocean Aid would like to see become as celebrated as Earth Day – a goal that seems perfectly reasonable in light of the fact that approximately 71 percent of the Earth’s surface is covered by ocean, making the planet appear blue rather than green when viewed from space.
Unlike Earth Day, World Oceans Day is an observance that has been gradually evolving over the past two decades, having originated with a proposal made in 1992 by the Canadian government at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. Six years later, the concept was endorsed by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. But it really began “making waves” in 2003 when The Ocean Project and the World Ocean Network, comprising some 1,200 different groups and organizations worldwide, took an active role in promoting and coordinating various global events with aquariums, zoos, museums, conservation organizations, universities, schools, and businesses.
Since then, more and more countries and organizations have been joining together to celebrate the ocean and our personal connection to every June 8th. But it all became an “official” observance when United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution recognizing it in December, 2008 – the result of a petition bearing tens of thousands of signatures, both online and on paper, having been sent to the U.N. with the backing of sponsoring organizations.
Increasingly, this annual celebration of the oceans has come to signify their vital importance to our lives and those of future generations, and has been marked by a variety of activities devoted to raising awareness of the threat that ocean pollution and overfishing pose to many species of marine life, as well as the ecosystem as a whole. These events, which range from beach cleanups to educational programs to sustainable seafood festivals, are primarily aimed at fostering active involvement by both individuals and groups.
As Brad Herzog, a Monterey-based ocean conservationist and environmental children’s book author, put it, “by protecting the oceans, we are saving ourselves – not only environmentally, but also in a moral sense…I tend to believe that conservation and karma go hand in hand.”
This year’s event will feature an emphasis on the role of young people in the campaign to save and restore the oceans with a theme of “Youth: The Next Wave for Change.” At Ocean Aid, our plans for the occasion include a Twitter contest, in which people are invited to Tweet their answers to the question, “Why does the health of our oceans matter?” The response period is from Saturday through Wednesday (World Oceans Day), with each participant automatically receiving 10 Greenopolis points and a random winner of 1,000 points to be selected by Greenopolis. Further details are available here. We’ll also have Melissa McGinnis and Greenopolis TV stopping by Monterey Bay Aquarium, where Melissa, Ashok Kamal and other members of our team will be talking to visitors about how vitally important preserving the oceans is to our existence.
For more information on sponsoring organizations, you can visit www.theoceanproject.org and www.worldoceannetwork.org –and, of course, our own site at ocean-aid.org . You can also hear me discuss how oceans are the planet’s chief supplier of oxygen at http://greenopolis.com/videos/oxygen-oceans.