How to Re-imagine the World’s One Ocean

According to the World Ocean Observatory, there are seven essential principals that should govern the way we view the ocean:

  1. The earth has one big ocean with many features;
  2. The ocean and life in the ocean shaped the features of earth;
  3. The ocean is a major influencer on weather and climate ;
  4. The ocean made earth habitable;
  5. The ocean supports a great diversity of life and ecosystems;
  6. The ocean and humans are inextricably interconnected; and,
  7. The ocean is largely unexplored.

(Transcript of Lawrence Gunther’s bi-weekly 12-minute segment on Live from Studio 5 broadcast over AMI TV and Audio across Canada)

Q. Welcome back Lawrence, we were all brought up to think of the oceans and seas as enormous and distinct bodies of water, is there a problem with this perspective?

A. Up until now, people divided up the ocean in ways that related to the various continents whose coastlines the different oceans touch. From an ecological perspective, this makes no sense.
A. The earth has seven distinct continents surrounded by one ocean.

Q. Are you suggesting that we stop referencing the different oceans and seas by their current names?

A. Not at all. What I’m suggesting is that we begin to teach people in schools and elsewhere that there’s really just one ocean that has been assigned different names just like our body has different names to distinguish legs from arms from our head, etc. The important point is that it’s all part of one interconnected ecosystem or body.

Q. Can you give some examples of how the ocean is interconnected?

A. Sure, there are the currents such as the Labrador current that flows out of Canada’s Arctic and then south along Canada’s east coast, and there’s the Gulf Stream that flows North along the east coast of the U.S., and then crosses over towards Europe, south along the west coast of Europe, and then circles back to North America. These are just two of many currents that serve to transfer nutrients and many forms of life throughout the world.
A. People and goods transit on ships all over the world with little regard for which ocean or sea they are crossing at any one time – it’s the climate and ports that capture people’s interests.
A. We are beginning to learn just how many large animals circulate throughout the oceans such as Blue fin tuna, whales, sharks, and even schools of smaller fish that the larger fish and mammals follow or intercept along their path.

Q. Which is more important to the future of the planet and our survival, the ocean or the land?

A. Without doubt, the amount of food that we derive from the ocean in comparison to what we produce or harvest from the land clearly demonstrates that the ocean is vastly superior in its ability to feed the world.

Q. Would learning to visualize the earth’s ocean as a single entity help us to understand better our interconnected dependency?

A. Absolutely, our perspective of the ocean no longer needs to be that of one who is standing on the shore looking out to sea. Satellite images, the tracking of sea life, the movement of currents, and the movement of ships now make it more than obvious that there’s just the one ocean.
A. It’s a reality that has already shifted population centres from being land oriented to migrating to coastlines so they might, like the ocean itself, circulate throughout the world.

Q. Why is it important that we shift our perception of the world’s ocean?

A. It’s knowledge not sight that allows us to more accurately visualize the earth’s ocean in a way that more closely aligns with reality.
A. We live on a world that has one ocean that, even though it appears to make up such a large percentage of the earth, is in fact, minuscule in relation to earth itself.
A. It’s up to us to pass on knowledge so those who have formed their perception of earth by what they see when viewing photos of earth taken from outer space, or looking at a globe or map, relearn how to visualize the ocean as a single relatively thin interconnected ecosystem that we need to conserve and protect.
A. In the end, it will be the ocean that feeds the world’s ever expanding population, which it can do easily if we don’t destroy it first.