Living Oceans

Lord Howe Island, Australia [© David Doubilet]

As a metaphor for travel and trade, for the unknown and abundance, the oceans still hold an element of mystery, longing or fear for most of us. But as we become more aware of the effect we have on the environment, our understanding of our relationship with the oceans is changing.

The oceans are a vital element of our life-support system on Earth, regulating our climate by absorbing heat from the sun and playing an essential part in the rain and carbon cycles. Preserving the health of the oceans is central to our own health and that of a healthy planet. We like to think of the oceans as a limitless source of abundance, but the saying "there are plenty more fish in the sea" is now in question, because the fish that many of us enjoy are fished to near extinction: cod, plaice, tuna and haddock are severely declining through overfishing.

All rivers flow into the same ocean that connects us all. Man-made pollution ends up in the sea, causing acidification, which in turn affects the coral reefs and mangroves, which are a natural barrier to protect shorelines from extreme weather. Plastics and toxic pollutants are ingested by marine animals and return to us in the food chain.

We can still say that less is known about the depths of the oceans than is known about the moon's surface. But the more we shine a light on the unfathomable deep, the more we realize the extent of the natural richness we could lose through lack of care for the oceans. In recent years, people from around the world have started to take action to ensure the survival of this vital resource, creating networks of individuals united by a common purpose. This issue of the SGI Quarterly looks at how their efforts and ours can help preserve the riches of the oceans for future generations.