Opinion, arguments & analyses from the editors of Scientific American

Surf Switzerland on World Ocean Day


Today—June 8—is World Ocean Day. Like Earth Day, it is meant to draw attention to issues that threaten ocean health and sustainability. What can you do? Well, for starters, avoid eating fish that appear on any red or yellow “do not consume” lists. Pick up trash when you’re walking along the shore. And celebrate the ocean: jump into the water, maybe sail or surf a wave (skip the gasoline engines).

Another thing you can do is surf the Web, to a destination that may at first seem unlikely: the World Economic Forum. That’s right, the Geneva-based nonprofit foundation that holds the annual conference in Davos, Switzerland, by the same name. The meeting brings together business and political leaders, intellectuals, celebrities and journalists. The forum’s larger goal is to “improve the state of the world.” It has released a two-minute animated film, Ideas for Change, that encourages people to take better care of the oceans.

Produced by Lonelyleap, the video is narrated by Sylvia Earle, the distinguished oceanographer, environmental advocate and explorer in residence at the National Geographic Society. Earle says, “We have looked at the ocean as a place to put things we don’t want and as a place to take things that seemed in infinite quantity.” But she points out that we’ve lost as much as 90 percent of big fish such as tuna and marlin. Among other things, the film calls for a ban on bottom trawling for fish. Earle concludes by saying, “I think of the ocean as the blue heart of the planet. Well, how much of your heart do you want to protect?”

The World Economic Forum has also released an online trove of information, links and infographics that outline the benefits the ocean affords us and the challenges we have to overcome to sustain them. One statistic that caught my eye is that “the ocean provides oxygen for one of every two breaths we breathe”—oxygen given off by phytoplankton during photosynthesis. A cornerstone of the Web site is the Ocean Health Index, which rates waters bordering 171 countries and territories in 10 categories, such as biodiversity, clean water, coastal protection, and contribution to tourism and the economy. Scientific American created an interactive graphic last summer when the index was released, and the work continues to educate national governments about how countries can clean up and preserve the ocean so it can serve both people and nature for centuries to come.

Photo courtesy of augustusoz on Flickr

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

Share this Article:


You must sign in or register as a member to submit a comment.

Email this Article