‘We Must Turn the Tide’: How to Celebrate World Oceans Day 2023
Our planet’s oceans are places we swim, surf, boat, fish and sit, listening to the soothing sound of the waves rushing in and out. They provide us with sustenance, transportation, climate regulation, economic opportunities, carbon sequestration and more, but they also need our help.
Today, we celebrate United Nations World Oceans Day (UN WOD), with this year’s theme: Planet Ocean: Tides Are Changing.
“We cannot have a healthy planet without a healthy ocean. Our failure to care for the ocean will have ripple effects across the entire 2030 Agenda,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres in opening remarks to the 2022 United Nations Ocean Conference.
This year’s UN WOD will feature keynote speeches, presentations and panels featuring Guterres, Oceanographer Syvlia Earle, Aquanaut Fabien Cousteau, Marine Biologist Diva Amon, Actor Jason Momoa, OceanX Founder Ray Dalio, Actor and Activist Lucas Bravo, NASA Astronauts Woody Hoburg and Steve Bowen and Oceanic Global Founder Lea d’Auriol, among many others, according to a UN WOD press release shared with EcoWatch.
The day’s ocean-focused programming will take a look at our planet from a new perspective, with the ocean at the forefront.
“Without water, our planet would be one of the billions of lifeless rocks floating endlessly in the vastness of the inky-black void,” said Cousteau in a Vision Statement. “Since it’s the cradle of life itself, it stands to reason the ocean is the source where we will find the answers we seek for the health of humanity and the future of our planet.”
Leaders and UN delegates from around the world will gather at UN Headquarters in New York, but the public will also be able to view the event via livestream from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on the UN WOD website, as well as, EcoWatch’s Facebook page. The content will also be shared on social media: @unworldoceansday.
Most of our planet is covered by the oceans’ waters, yet less than 5% of them have been explored. We have not directed nearly as many resources toward getting to know the wonders of our oceans as they have given to us.
“Even now, less than five percent of the ocean has been seen, let alone explored or even mapped with the same precision we have mapped the land, the moon, Mars or Jupiter,” Earle told graduates in a 2011 Commencement Address at Smith College.
According to recent studies, when it comes to scientific capacity and research, intergovernmental processes, funding for sustainable development, philanthropic giving, policy-making and other sectors, we are greatly lagging behind with regard to our oceans.
The ocean provides us with abundant resources that we are jeopardizing by destroying marine habitats and overfishing, while planetary warming leads to more coral bleaching, increased methane and imbalances in ocean temperatures that disrupt marine ecosystems and the life-cycle of phytoplankton, the foundation of the oceanic food chain.
We must prioritize the ocean and its interconnected array of processes, many of which we don’t even know of or fully understand.
In today’s celebration and call to action, Indigenous leaders, youth activists, scientists, delegates and celebrities will offer fireside chats and keynote addresses that highlight solutions and emphasize how humans are interconnected with the ocean.
Advocates and world leaders will discuss missed opportunities as they endeavor to bridge gaps in knowledge, representation, capacity building and innovation in order to offer a better understanding of the ocean’s gifts and generate momentum toward protecting and prioritizing it, as well as our whole blue Earth.
“The ocean produces more than half of the oxygen we breathe. It is the main source of sustenance for more than one billion people. And industries relating to the ocean employ some 40 million people. And, a healthy and productive ocean is vital to our shared future,” Guterres said.
This year’s UN WOD is the 10th anniversary of the Photo Competition for World Oceans Day.
The event will also integrate artistic elements like short film premiers from Discover Earth and OceanX, as well as a debut of original scores by composer Toni Castells. A water ceremony and performance by Maori Sonic Weaver will also be featured.
UN World Oceans Day kicks off World Ocean Week, which will continue the conversation surrounding the theme of Planet Ocean: Tides Are Changing, as well as its call to action, “Time to Put the Ocean First.”
“We must turn the tide. Global heating is pushing ocean temperatures to record levels, creating fiercer and more frequent storms. Sea levels are rising. Low-lying island nations face inundation, as do many major coastal cities in the world,” Guterres said. “The climate crisis is also making the ocean more acidic, which is disrupting the marine food chain. Ever more coral reefs are bleaching and dying. Coastal ecosystems, such as mangroves, seagrasses and wetlands, are being degraded. Pollution from land is creating vast coastal dead zones. Nearly 80 per cent of wastewater is discharged into the sea without treatment. And some 8 million tons of plastic waste enter the oceans [every] year. Without drastic action, this plastic could outweigh all the fish in the oceans by 2050.”
Subsequent events will be hosted by ocean advocates from around the globe, as well as by members of Friends of UN World Oceans Day.
“When we see the Earth from space, we truly appreciate that we live on a blue planet. The ocean connects us all,” said Guterres.