June 8 was established as an international holiday in 1992 at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro: World Ocean Day. Unfortunately, the United Nations has, since 1992, failed to observe World Ocean Day.
World Ocean Day matters as a holiday of solemn observance especially now because the Earth’s marine ecosystems are falling apart as a result of a combination of pollution, coastal development, climate change, and overfishing. Think of the devastation of the once-great herds of bison on the American plains, or the destrution of rain forests in Brazil, and you’ll get an idea of the extent of ecological devastation that is occurring right now in the oceans. The plight of marine life would be difficult to overstate. It’s a full-fledged ecological crisis around the world, and the only reason you aren’t seeing it is that you don’t live underwater.
What can you do? Convincing people to recognize the problem, and start thinking about solutions, is an important step. First, you can encourage the United Nations to start officially observing World Ocean Day once more. Sign Oceana’s petition to the United Nations asking for official observance of World Ocean Day to begin once more. Don’t stop there, though. You can send an email directly to the Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea at the United Nations with a similar message, at DOALOS@UN.org.
Secondly, you don’t have to wait for official recognition from the United Nations. On June 8th, you can observe World Ocean Day yourself. Go to the Ocean Project’s page of resources on World Ocean Day for ideas.
Don’t think that you can’t do anything for the ocean if you live inland. Even in places like North Dakota, all streams eventually flow to the sea. Agricultural runoff and industrial pollution far upstream still has a big impact on ocean life. Many things that we buy, including but in addition to seafood, include elements that are harvested from ocean.
World Ocean Day can be a day for all people to consider how their lives interact with ocean life, and to take action to make that relationship a more healthy one.