8 June 2020 is the 17th World Oceans Day a United Nations recognized global annual event that unifies the visions and voices of billions of people like us – people who are passionate about and concerned for the oceans. It’s an important outreach and awareness opportunity that even a pandemic can’t stop – WOD events are on this year both virtually and in person (varying regionally), and it’s my hope you’ll take part in one of them. And, if you’ve not already committed to being a PADI Torchbearer this is the perfect time to join us.
Intellectually, most people know the oceans are important and endangered. But, because we’re divers, you and I have heart-knowledge, not just head-knowledge. We immerse in the sea and it embraces us. We see it, feel it and connect with it like no other group can. When the oceans hurt, we hurt. When they heal, we heal. More than a vital biosphere that all life depends on, for us the seas are art, adventure, companionship and solace. As the late Jacques Yves Cousteau said, “The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.”
This is not a small point. Less than a half a percent of people are divers, so as a PADI Diver and Torchbearer, you are an influencer. Your voice has weight because you personally experience the seas’ wonders – and its wounds. You credibly witness that the world must go there to seek adventure, and that together, we must save the ocean. With the pandemic casting its shadow on all other concerns, our voices are particularly important now – COVID-19 will be behind us in the near future, but restoring the balance between humanity and the seas is a long-term lift addressing a far bigger, far more enduring threat. But even amid the pandemic, you and I can be making a difference.
Speak up. If diving is open where you are, dive locally and post your adventures on social media. Show both the beauty and the damage you witness – reaching the world with the whole story is crucial. If you’re still distantly socializing due to area restrictions, do the same with your previous dive images and experiences, and wax eloquent about wanting to get back in the water ASAP. And, when you can dive travel safely, do that. There are economies where, thanks to us divers, fish are worth more swimming on the reef than lying on a dinner table. But if tourism stalls for too long . . . well, people have to eat. BTW, if you’re wondering where diving’s open, check out the PADI COVID-19 Scuba Diving Status Map which updates regularly thanks to the global PADI® community.
Buy wisely. World Oceans Day is a great day to commit to doing something differently to help the seas. An easy, yet powerful, way to do this is to flex your consumer muscles by educating yourself and changing some of your buying habits. What option’s the least-damaging? Most sustainable? Lowest carbon? Greatest recycle? And so on – the philosophy behind PADI Gear. Start with one product category (e.g. seafood) and commit to spending your money accordingly. It is one of the strongest ways to influence how producers produce things.
Pitch in. With the pandemic-generated economic downturn, many of the research, education and conservancy organizations that raise public awareness are facing funding shortfalls. If you’re in a position to help entities like Project AWARE, the Ocean Foundation, Mission Blue, Surfrider Foundation and so on, please do so – they really need your support.
Be restored. World Oceans Day reminds us that every day we need to be relentless in speaking, working and advocating toward preserving and restoring the oceans. But, let’s also be relentless in letting the oceans do the same for us. As poet E.E. Cummings (a.k.a. e e cummings – the definition of a PADI Torchbearer if there ever was one) put it:
For whatever we lose (like a you or a me) it’s always ourselves we find in the sea.
Check out Love, The Ocean, and have a great World Oceans Day.
Dr. Drew Richardson
PADI President & CEO