Yesterday was World Oceans Day. It’s probably a measure of how busy I’ve been that I missed it until well into the work day. Environmental care is one of my major concerns—something that the majority of Americans share but which Republicans block at every chance they get. The oceans are the largest part of our planet . Viewed from certain angles, the globe has barely any land on it at all. And yet, since we live on the dry part, we use the wet part as our dumping ground. There is an entire island in the Pacific made of plastic refuse. Big petroleum doesn’t want any alternatives offered even though plastic is one of the most toxic products we produce for other life on this planet. Shouldn’t governments share the values of their people?
Born in the landlocked western part of Pennsylvania, I first saw the ocean when I moved to Boston. It was almost so distracting that I couldn’t study. Here was this seemingly endless expanse of water that we so poorly understand, the symbol of eternity and life itself, right before me. It was while living on the coast that I came to read Moby-Dick. I could spend hours on the rocky shoreline, gazing out toward the seas in wonder. I’m not a sea-farer myself. I have inner-ear problems and being on a ship for any length of time would likely lead to extreme discomfort. I can imagine, however. Eventually I would read Coleridge and Hemingway and understand that I was not the only one who felt this way about the seemingly endless water.
Some of my earliest literary memories involve Rachel Carson’s The Sea Around Us. It’s another book that opened young, landlocked eyes to what our world really is. The image of water eternally crashing onto the shore is a comforting one. As Carson knew, we came from the water and we yearn for it still. Life as we know it isn’t possible without our oceans. Yet, having petty human needs for extreme wealth and a sense of power over others, we pollute these seas with oil and plastics and chemicals and figure it’ll be somebody else’s problem. In reality, the problem belongs to all of us. Plastic Island, as it’s now being called, is nearly three times the size of France. It’s composed of 100 percent pollution. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is being considered by some the eighth continent. World Oceans Day should never slip away unnoticed.