Being an island paradise known as the pearl of the east, Sri Lanka needs to remember the memorable song of the Caribbean singing duo Nina and Fredrick, “Listen to the ocean, echoes of a million seashells, forever it’s in motion, moving to a rhythmic, unwritten music that is played eternally.”
On June 8, the international community joined the United Nations in celebrating “World Oceans Day”. In a statement the world body says, our ocean is our future. When we think of public health risks, we may not think of the ocean. Increasingly, however, the health of the ocean is intimately tied to our health. Some may be surprised to read that organisms discovered at extreme depths are used to speed up the detection of COVID-19 and probably even more to learn that, it is the environment that could give a solution to humankind.
According to the UN, this is one of the multiple reasons why we should celebrate World Oceans Day to remind people of the major role the oceans have in everyday life. They are the lungs of our planet, providing most of the oxygen we breathe. The purpose of the Day is to inform the people of the impact of human actions on the ocean, develop a worldwide movement of citizens for the ocean, mobilise and unite the world’s population on a project for the sustainable management of the world’s oceans. The oceans are a major source of food and medicine and a critical part of the biosphere. In the end, it is a day to celebrate together the beauty, the wealth and the promise of the ocean. Innovation for a Sustainable Ocean was a theme at the centre of a big online event. As the challenges to the ocean continue to grow, so does the need for novel solutions and the people driving them. The World Oceans Day 2020 theme is “Innovation for a Sustainable Ocean.” Innovations—relating to the introduction of new methods, ideas or products—are a dynamic term and fundamentally filled with hope. This year the UN celebrations are taking place as virtual events produced in partnership with Oceanic Global. The event will shed light on innovations from around the globe in areas of need that are both promising and proven. These will hopefully instil optimism and demonstrate the ability to effectively utilise the ocean. It will also provide a platform to thought leaders who are paving new paths forward for the health of our ocean and our planet.
According to the UN, the programming of the day and subsequent events taking place throughout World Ocean Week will explore innovations across categories including technology, systems infrastructure, resource management, consumer products, finance and scientific exploration. The events will outline how these innovations can be applied, their potential impact, and the resources needed to transform them into long-lasting solutions.
This year’s theme is especially relevant in the lead-up to the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development. This will go on from 2021 to 2030. The decade will hopefully strengthen international cooperation to develop the scientific research and innovative technologies that can connect ocean science with the needs of society.
We have read about mermaids but now let us focus on real-life mermaids of the sea. They are called mermaids: the Haenyeo women divers of Jeju Island in South Korea. Carrying on a centuries-old tradition, these remarkable women use no modern equipment while serving as guardians of the sea. Now a new generation is inheriting their legacy which has been recognised by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) as part of the intangible cultural heritage of all humanity.
In Sri Lanka the ocean is being polluted by reckless or irresponsible people who dump garbage, Polythene, Sili sili bags, throw-away plastic cups or plates and other items. We hope the people will realise that the oceans are our lungs and we should be creative and innovative in exploring and utilising the vast resources of the oceans. Let us listen to the ocean. It is telling us an important story that is beyond our expectation, understanding or imagination.