Our World’s oceans need us to walk to the edge of land and dip our toes in salty water, if only to share one beloved, yet desperate message with us - “we are important!”
Sunrise over Jetty Lagoon, Oregon
Drying Cormorant, Florida
Osa Peninsula Sunset, Costa Rica
Let’s take a moment to consider how many cells are in all of our bodies. The best estimate is that in a human adult, there are 3.72 x 1013 cells in the body. Let’s put this math into perspective - if you are to type periods onto a page, one after another to fill a sheet, it would take nearly 2 billion pages to reach that number. Another way to view this number is there are 37,200,000,000,000 cells that bond together to make us walk, talk, laugh and love. Every single person is a beautiful example of what has happened throughout time to each and every animal on Earth. The 800-million-year growth into the bodies we have was not one of straight and continuous evolution. People argue, as people do, about which animal was first and exactly when ‘life’ happened. The fact that is agreed upon is that life started in the ocean.
Abby, diving at Catalina Island, California
Now let's take a moment to consider the humble beginnings of this incredible aggregate of cells we call our bodies. All of this incredibleness began with one cell. In the ocean! The ocean was the perfect setting to allow the slow dance of time to mix and bond Elements, Elements that became aware of and hungry for the chemicals flowing from deep within the Earth. 800-million years is a lot of time to grow and change. Cells became bacteria. Bacteria became jellyfish and sponges. Jellyfish and sponges became corals, and trilobites, and fish, and turtles, and whales. Animals evolved to breathe water and air, so of course they next crawled onto land. Spanning more and more time, evolution happened some more and… here we are.
Humans are everywhere. Humans have wandered this earth since we were able to move. It is in us to look toward the horizon and walk that direction. For some, this movement of people to other places was natural, healthy and of our own accord. To some, it was forced, cruel and despicable. The result of this movement is there are now 7.9 billion people living on Earth, on every continent. Everywhere. 40% of the World’s people live near an ocean coast. That is over 3 billion people. In the United States alone, there are 127 million people who live within 40 miles of either the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, Pacific Ocean or the Arctic Ocean. Furthermore, it is estimated that 90% of people on Earth rely on products, or the Ocean itself for our livelihoods, economies, materials and food. 90%!!! In the United States, 73% of the ocean economy comes from tourism and recreation. All of this to say, as our ancestors moved or were relocated around the world, most settled near our oceans. Nearly every human being enjoys some form of economic, material, nutritional or mental health benefit from our oceans. It might be argued our oceans are among the most important ecosystems on Earth.
For me, the ocean is the place where I find my brain stops whirring and buzzing, spinning from being an adult in a far-from-perfect society. The sound of seagulls always, to this day, brings me back to a walk on the Nokomis Florida North Jetty when I was young. Flipping over rocks to search for crabs and isopods will always remind me of the science books I read as a kid. Jellyfish, along with whales, are amazing!! Cliches regarding the feeling of awe we feel when we look at the seas and what it is to admire how big the ocean is, how boundless it seems, how wild and untamed, raw it appears, have always and will always be uttered from the mouths of ocean-goers. While these are all, to be sure, very felt emotions, they fall short of the most important trait the Oceans all share: They are damn important!
West Indian Manatee, Florida
And perhaps no particular region of the oceans is as important to us as the coast. Why? Because this is where we live. Whether we live on Long Island or an island atoll in the South Pacific, the interface of land and sea is where we can walk to find the water’s edge. The shore is where we are allowed the easiest access to the Ocean. It is here that we can most easily witness the rhythms, colors, smells and sounds of the oceans as they support the largest animals on Earth, the most biodiversity of any ecosystem on the Planet and the largest mass of oxygen producing plants in the World, among other superlatives. Sandy Beaches, muddy estuaries, steep rocky shorelines, coral reef-rimmed islands, ice berg scattered bays; these are only some of the places where we can enjoy the intersection of land and sea. These are also places we can see our negative impact on stark display. This is where we can, on an individual level, begin to understand the ocean’s importance, and what we can do to help keep them alive and vibrant.
Copper Rockfish, Oregon
Three Graces sunset, Oregon
The photos from Oregon, seen here, are from an ongoing book project I am working on chronicling where Oregon land meets the Pacific Ocean. I look forward to the day I can share this book with you all.
Take a moment to consider the Oceans and what they mean to all of us. If you have never seen an ocean in person, please consider how an ocean affects you, almost daily. From our food to cosmetics, technology to books: the oceans have a salty little hand in just about every part of our lives. If you are able to go visit an Ocean coast, please do so and marvel. While you do so, clean up a bagful of plastic trash. If you are unable to go visit the coast in person, watch one of the many documentaries (examples below) and learn how to reduce your impact to the ocean by the purchases you choose.
Available on Netflix (and elsewhere)
The Blue Planet
Blue Planet II
My Octopus Teacher