by Anupa Asokan, AMS Education Program
Most of us recognize that the ocean is a driving force behind our weather and climate, but it is so much more than that. Comprising the majority of our planet, this environment was once thought to be limitless and infallible. While much of our hydrosphere remains to be explored, we’re quickly learning how vulnerable this chunk of our planet really is. Issues like ocean acidification and marine debris may pop up in our news feeds every now and then, but our daily activities have significant implications as to the health of this global ecosystem we rely upon for oxygen, food, transportation, and recreation, to name a few.
Working as a marine science educator in an outdoor setting, I was fortunate enough to share my love of this wonderful environment with children from all over the country. For many coming from inner-city schools or midwestern states, this snorkeling adventure would be their first and perhaps only encounter with the ocean. The goal in creating this positive ocean experience wasn’t just a cool story to tell mom and dad back home, but to instill a connection and sense of ownership for this fragile environment. At the AMS Education Program, we might not have the opportunity to put students first-hand into a kelp forest or coral reef, but we do provide teachers with the tools they need to bring the lessons these environments bear directly to the classroom. It seems odd to compare snorkeling through a kelp forest to teaching a teacher the fundamentals of oceanography, but the key here is awareness. Whatever the approach, ocean literacy can be a powerful a tool, because knowing is, after all, half the battle.
In a more global effort to encourage just that, World Oceans Day was born. Sunday, June 8th marked the 12th year of this worldwide ocean celebration. Like Earth Day every April, this annual event is intended to create awareness and hopefully encourage stewardship for the environment. This year, thousands of organizations in 70 countries arranged events to honor the ocean. From beach cleanups to film festivals to paddle-board races, there were opportunities to participate in just about every corner of the globe. For those without a local event, social media offered another avenue to join in with ocean selfies and photo contests. Many events even extend through the entire month of June, and you may also find regularly scheduled events occurring throughout the year. Even if you don’t live near water, there are some simple things we can all do to celebrate and protect the ocean year-round:
- Pick up trash and use less plastic
- Make responsible seafood choices
- Watch what you put down your drain
- Join or volunteer with a conservation organization
As a SCUBA diver, avid snorkeler, and lover of all things ocean, I’ve spent a lot of time enjoying everything that it has to offer. Whether you share my passion or are terrified of the deep blue, live near a coast or are landlocked, none of us lives a life the ocean hasn’t impacted. So let’s all give a little something back to Mama Ocean, not just on June 8th, but perhaps the other 364 days of the year, too.