Everyone depends on our oceans. Without the oceans, and the sea life that lives in it, our planet would perish. As worldoceansday.org helpfully summarises, oceans generate most of the oxygen we breathe, they regulate our climate, and it is believed that it is home to over one million different species of plant and animal.
For humans, people like you and I, the ocean is important for recreation. And no, I’m not talking about fishing. There are so many different ways that we can appreciate and respect our seas without hunting and exploiting its inhabitants.
The vastness of the deep blue is fascinating and scary to think about, but so many of us long to be close to it.
Surfing, swimming, snorkeling, scuba-diving, rowing, wind-sailing … these are just a few examples of sports and recreational activities we enjoy. Sunbathing on a tropical island with a cocktail and a view of turquoise-blue waves is the idea of utopia for many. Tourist destinations are often centered around the ideal ‘sun-sea-sand’ imagery, making coastal towns and cities incredibly popular and keeping economies alive.
The ocean is also a source of inspiration for many photographers, bloggers, artists and writers. Don’t take my word for it, a simple Google search will provide you with many beautiful examples of people’s interpretations of the deep blue sea. It is often depicted as being harsh and unforgiving, but I think this only adds to her beauty and mystery.
But, this is all very superficial and generalised. What makes the ocean so special for me? I don’t surf, scuba dive or sail. So why is it so precious to me on a personal level?
The ocean is a form of memory, of nostalgia. Up until now, I’ve never lived close to the sea. When I was younger, going to the seaside was always a special day trip. These days were normally Saturdays in the summer, when my family and I would pack up camping chairs and the tattered windbreak, and we’d get up really early to drive to the Welsh coast. Even if it was a sunny day, it would still be cool by the sea. My dad and I would run into the water, do some wave jumping in the shallows, and then run away again to warm up. It was mostly just to say that we had been in – after all, you can’t make a day trip to the beach without at least dipping your toes in the water! Later, we’d build a huge sandcastle with a flag on top, seaweed and shell decorations, and a moat surrounding the exterior ‘wall’. When the tide came in, we’d watch as it got destroyed. In the evening, we’d eat icecream and chips, and if it was clear, we’d watch the sun set over the sea. These days were the kind where your hair would feel gritty from salt water for ages after, and sand would continually pour out of your clothes/shoes/bags for weeks. And of course, six year old me took these days for granted. Today, the familiar smell of seawater brings back waves of memory and emotion. It’s the kind of feeling that everyone gets at some point or another, but they can’t quite place why feel that way.
All of my childhood summer holidays abroad also were to hotels by the sea. I remember these less because we didn’t go as often, but old family photos show me swimming in the sea, with armbands and a rubber ring shaped like a pink duck. The beaches that we went to were full of people, like us, making fond memories. There’s no place I remember as fondly as I remember the seaside.
In Iceland, the sea was dangerous and scary, but so exciting. I was fortunate enough to see a humpback whale swimming by the side of a boat I was on, which is a memory I will never forget. Many times whilst I was over there, I sought out the ocean shore as a place of solace and comfort. The air was fresher by the sea, and the rhythmic pounding of the waves was therapeutic for me.
Just seeing the ocean makes me feel small and insignificant … my worries are washed away. I feel lighter, more relaxed. I have no need to worry about my future, surely, nothing really matters in the grand scheme of things. Just lay back, relax, and let the waves take you where you need to go.
I love the ocean because it can mean so many different things to so many different people. And since three-quarters of our planet is made up of ocean, it’s impossible to run away from or ignore. The ocean is to be feared, but also respected and loved. If you think of our seas as living, breathing entities, it is really upsetting to consider how much damage we as a species are doing to them.
I guess that the point of World Ocean Day is to raise awareness about ocean conservation rather than the individual’s experiences with the sea, but I still think it’s important to consider why we love our oceans so much. I gave my personal reasons, and like I said, everyone will have different responses. But the only way to truly conserve and protect our oceans is by going vegan. Sustainable fishing is not sustainable. Huge amounts of sea-life are being fed to cattle to keep the meat and dairy industry going. The ocean has given you so much over your lifetime, whether directly or indirectly. The least we can do as individuals is respect that and give back by going vegan, educating yourself on the facts, and spreading the knowledge to other people.
So, after my sentimental stories of childhood memories, I’m interested to know – why is the ocean so important to you? What memories do you have that make the sea special? Have you ever used the ocean as a source of inspiration?
Thanks for reading, and Happy World Ocean Day!