CELEBRATING OUR OCEANS: WORLD OCEAN DAY
By 2020 Diana Award recipient, Aditi Gandhi, and 2019 Diana Award recipient, Aaditya Gandhi from Dubai, UAE
As keen environmentalists, Aditi and Aaditya collaborate with different organisations as ambassadors for clean-up drives, recycling campaigns and tree planting events. As the Environment Coordinators at their school, they are involved in increasing awareness of climate change, plastic pollution, ocean conservation and biodiversity protection through talks and workshops in their school, neighbourhood and communities.
8 June 2021
From outer space our planet Earth is defined by its oceans, covering over 70% of our planet. The ocean produces at least 50% of the planet’s oxygen, it is home to most of earth’s biodiversity, and is the main source of protein for more than a billion people around the world. Oceanic currents are also vital for climate regulation, transporting heat from the equator to the poles which determines the weather and climate patterns that affect our day-to-day lives.
World Oceans Day which takes place annually on 8th June aims to remind everyone of the major role the oceans have in everyday life. They are the lungs of our planet and a major source of food and medicine and a critical part of the biosphere. The purpose of the day is to inform the public of the impact of human actions on the ocean and unite the world’s population on a project for the sustainable management of the world’s oceans.
This year’s theme is ‘The Ocean: Life and Livelihoods’ which aims to shed light on how the oceans are our life source, supporting humanity and every other organism on Earth. Be it through employment in fisheries, marine transportation, or recreation, over three billion people currently rely on our oceans for their livelihoods. That is no small number – and many more of us enjoy the benefits of this employment through the seafood we consume, medicinal products that source their ingredients from oceans, and leisurely activities such as visiting the beach or snorkeling.
Aditi and Aaditya set up ‘Go-Getters’ youth action group to achieve the UN environmental, humanitarian and healthcare sustainable development goals. They collaborate with different organisations as their ambassadors for clean-up drives, recycling campaigns and tree planting events.
Unfortunately, as more and more people congregate and settle near the coast, and as demand for ocean-derived products and services grows exponentially, the impact of human exploitation of the oceans grows clearer. Deep sea drilling, land reclamation and similar activities with economic motivations have wreaked havoc on ocean ecosystems – in fact, over 50% of coral reef ecosystems have been destroyed.
Exploitation of world fisheries has been a long-overlooked issue, and in some instances, failure to create legislation and sustainably enforce it has led to destructive fishing practices that have depleted fish stocks, impacting fish populations and genetic diversity, damaged ecosystems and even reduced employment. Regular pollution of the oceans has contributed to eutrophication and in turn deoxygenation of ocean waters, altered biological processes of ocean biodiversity, and introduced trillions of pieces of plastic into the oceans that are beached on coasts, proliferate at the bottom of the ocean, or join garbage patches within ocean gyres. These plastics eventually entangle organisms or find their way into the guts of marine biodiversity causing death.
Additionally, increased carbon emissions have led to ocean acidification and warming. This disrupts processes such as fish breathing, dissolving the calcium carbonate within coral skeletons and the shells of other marine organisms, and significantly modifies ocean biodiversity. Thankfully, all hope is not lost; 2021 marks the beginning of a ‘Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development’ until the year 2030, as proclaimed by the United Nations. This will see oceanographers working tirelessly to strike a balance between ocean conservation and societal needs, supporting the UN Sustainable Development Goal 14, ‘conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources.
Through international cooperation and collaboration, the world’s oceans can be kept safe – and you can do your bit too!
As dedicated environmentalists, Aditi and Aaditya campaign for protecting the planet by organising educational workshops with a ‘no to plastic’ message and an innovative community recycling hub.
1. Donate to organisations working to protect the oceans
Financial contributions to marine conservation organisations can go a long way in securing the facilities and tools required for efficient, meaningful research.
2. Participate in coastal clean-ups and recycling campaigns
By retrieving waste that accumulates on the coast, you not only prevent it from entering the ocean (either in its whole form or as microplastics) but also pre-emptively save animals that could end up being entangled by the items or ingesting them. In addition, your efforts raise awareness as local people in the area learn more about ocean pollution through your efforts.
3. Reach out to leaders and policy makers to galvanise change
If officials have been dormant on the matter of ocean health, you can reach out to them on World Oceans Day, particularly if you live near an area of the coast where potentially exploitative activities such as tourism or fishing occur. The creation and enforcement of legislation can have a considerable impact on the protection of the oceans and the sustainable management of their resources.
4. Use alternatives to products harmful to the oceans
By avoiding plastic items or refusing to purchase items with dubious environmental standards (eg: souvenir shells of animals), you not only minimize your potential impact on the ocean, but also choose not to engage in business that could potentially be employing unsustainable practices.
5. Raise awareness
By reaching out to the community through print media, social media, and radio, informing them about the importance of the world’s oceans, and encouraging them to take up one of the suggestions offered in this segment and then pass it on, you can trigger a positive, self-amplifying chain reaction that gets more people interested in our oceans and inspires them to work to protect it.
The world is changed by action, not just opinion. Act to transform the world we live in to make it a greener place for all its inhabitants.