Within the briskness of our oceans lies a lesson for the highs and lows of life itself.
I grew up in northern Germany, close to the sea. During summertime, many of my days as a child were filled with playing in the sand, jumping at waves, and watching colorful kites fly.
The tides always seemed like a mystery to me. The depth of the water during high tide made me anxious and curious at the same time. What is beneath me? How does the moon make the water come and go?
Even though, later in life, I learned how tides work and about the millions of species living in our oceans, for me, its magic has never subsided.
Standing on a shore of the tiny island, Juist, in Germany, where the horizon disappears into the sea and everything is covered in a shimmering light blue, the magic and mystery remains. That’s when I can feel the world turning. I feel tiny compared to the seemingly endless sea—as little as a grain of sand. But I feel influential, too—as if the sea is asking me to learn its lessons, carry them in my heart, and out into the rest of the world:
Holding on to the saltwater of the ocean is impossible, for it will always be flowing too powerfully to contain.
It’s just like life, holding on to something is an illusion we’ve created ourselves. The flow of life is too forceful to cling to—we’ll only lose our strength in our attempts to detain anything about it.
Everything is continuous ebb and flow. Our earth doesn’t view a falling tide as a bad thing; it’s a chance for different things to happen. Without the low tide, the unique and sensitive ecosystem wouldn’t thrive—and we wouldn’t, either.
“Watch the waves in the ocean. The higher the wave goes, the deeper is the wake that follows it. One moment you are the wave, another moment you are the hollow wake that follows. Enjoy both—don’t get addicted to one. Don’t say: I would always like to be on the peak. It is not possible. Simply see the fact: it is not possible. It has never happened and it will never happen. It is simply impossible—not in the nature of things. Then what to do? Enjoy the peak while it lasts and then enjoy the valley when it comes. What is wrong with the valley? What is wrong with being low? It is a relaxation. A peak is an excitement, and nobody can exist continuously in an excitement.” ~ Osho
The measure of salt in our oceans is the same as in our blood.
The oceans provide 80 percent of the air we breathe, whilst covering 70 percent of the earth’s surface.
The oceans also regulate the temperature, they’re able to absorb up to 80 percent of climate change heat.
I’ve come to realize: we’re one with the sea. We need to respect it.
“We need to respect the oceans and take care of them as if our lives depended on it. Because they do.” ~ Sylvia Earle in her brilliant TED Talk.
While we will forever be unable to tame the oceans, we seem quite able to poison and destroy them—just like we’re unable to resist the flow of our lives, but quite able to poison our bodies.
We’re dumping approximately 14 billion pounds of trash per year into our oceans. Ninety percent of that trash is plastic. Since plastic is not biodegradable, it splits into tiny pieces, accidentally eaten by marine mammals or birds. Up to one million animals are dying because of our plastic waste every year.
Not only is the plastic waste a problem, we’ve also eaten more than 90 percent of the big fish in the sea, making them completely over-fished. Nearly half of our earth’s coral reefs, home to many marine animals, have disappeared.
We’re taking more than we need from the ocean. We’re destroying coral reefs due to intolerable climate change heat. And, as if that’s not enough, we’re using the oceans as a trash can. That’s not respect. That’s contempt. I even feel ashamed calling them “our” oceans, when we clearly do little but work against them.
So, what can we do to help stop the destruction of an ecosystem so fundamental for our lives?
Well, I’d suggest this to anyone who lives within reach of the sea: go there. Go there to listen, to reflect, and to breathe the salty air. Maybe, when we become quiet, the sea will share a life lesson with us that we can then share with others.
Spread the word. Write about this beautiful ecosystem. Take pictures, or draw.
Let’s do anything we can do to bring awareness into this world, because out of awareness, change can grow.
Stop using non-recyclable plastic.
Support leaders, on a local or national level, who want to fight climate change. Vote with your dollar to encourage companies to be more eco-friendly. Ask questions like, “Where does this fish come from?” Ask the uncomfortable questions, too, like “Where does your plastic waste go, Mr. or Ms. CEO-of-a-big-company?”
Let’s learn from our oceans and take better care of them. Every small decision for eco-friendly behavior is a decision for the oceans.
Just like every grain of sand matters for the shore, every human being matters for saving our oceans.
We may feel small and unimportant at times, but that’s why we need to encourage each other. When the whole world can be found in a grain of sand, we’re not too small to make a change.
“To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.” ~ William Blake
Author: Svenja Dietz
Image: Ian Espinopsa/Unsplash
Editor: Khara-Jade Warren
Copy Editor: Leah Sugerman
Social Editor: Sara Kärpänen