A much needed week away from the grind has led me to a number of days spent at the beach. As I sat in a chair soaking up some summer sun, as just one among the masses, I found myself forced to take a more commonplace perspective on human interaction with the ocean. Rather than be out on and underwater for the day, there I was, at the water’s edge – the doorstep of our blue planet.
As I looked around and got through the more superficial people watching, I became rather taken by the fact that thousands of people surrounded me on the beach, with only dozens actually getting wet. The common motivation was to simply cool off, rather than satisfy any deeply ingrained curiosities about what lies beneath. It has been so long since I’ve been able to take that perspective that in many ways I’ve been disconnected from the common public perception about the ocean that I’ve been working so desperately to improve upon through my own work. In many ways, those of us acting as environmentalists and ocean advocates, researchers, and explorers get wrapped up in our niche worlds and lose sight of the bigger picture – and that is that we have an immense set of tasks ahead to change public opinion and value sets to gain mass societal support for change…its a daunting task.
If I were visiting our Blue Planet for the first time, my first perception would be that the dominant species lived underwater – where the majority of livable habitat existed. That region would be my focus for exploration, settlement, resource exploration and management. That would be a common sensical approach to understanding this new planet in its entirety. In reality, this perspective would likely expand our worldly body of knowledge a thousand fold. Upon seeing millions of humanoids flocking to ‘the beach’ in the summer months, I would assume that the species had some intimate association with the habitat, or perhaps worshipped this far reaching frontier. In doing so, there would be a value system in place built around this frontier and that such an intellectual species had developed the capacity to maximize intervention and subsequent resource exploitation and management of this frontier…the bird’s eye approach seems to be common sensical, but is anything but the case.
Why is that?
Well, we can’t see what lies beneath, so we don’t appreciate it. That’s for starters. With our minimal needs for survival met here on terra firma, why look elsewhere? Well, we – humans – are facing challenges and it’s only a matter of time before we have to expand our horizons for a sustainable future here on and in the Blue Planet.
To the rest of you venturing to the beach this summer, I challenge you. Look out on the horizon and visualize this massive frontier that’s there for the taking. It’s more than a big bath tub to cool off in – its the critical piece for the future survival of us all.