Home Sweet (Watery) Home
Protecting the waters around us
HI feel we are all islands— in a common sea. —Anne Morrow Lindbergh (1906-2001)
ere on earth, life began in the sea. The first singlecell organisms and the later multicelled creatures lived, moved and floated in the oceans of our planet. As biological beings evolved, some left their watery womb and staked out homes on land. We are among thOse who went ashore, yet science teaches us that we carried the sea within us. Similar in chemical composition to the primitive seawater of the early earth, our salty tears and blood are reminders of the liquid life stream that continues to sustain us: warming, feeding, cleansing, warning, protecting and healing. It’s no wonder that physicians rely on samples of our bodily fluids to determine the measure of our health and the appropriate means of treatment to maintain or restore it. Individual well-being requires taking care of the waters within us.
Here on the islands, life carries on while surrounded by the sea. As we live, move and nurture our being on the edge of the Gulf Coast, the air that sustains us is saturated with the freshness of salty tang and heavy with the bear hug of humidity. Our low-lying, fragile barrier islands are bathed with a massage of warm, estuarial water—a nourishing “soup” made of a balanced mix of fresh river water and tidal gulf flow. The encircling bays and shallow shoreline provide for creatures of both land and sea a one-stop location for breeding, nursing, feeding and resting. Yet these life-giving waters are so vulnerable to manmade pollution and to the misdirection of floodwaters from up river that the spirit of our times is marked by the realization that our common well-being requires taking care of the waters around us.
Anne Morrow Lindbergh wrote the sentence that introduces this column when she spent time on Captiva and Sanibel in the mid-20th century. In the 21st century, people all around the globe are joining together to care for the common sea surrounding our planet.
In 2015 one of the world’s most important environmental scientists, marine ecologist Jane Lubchenco, was given an unusually freeform mandate by the U.S. Department of State: to travel the world as America’s first ocean envoy. Her job is to search for all the ways we can solve our planet’s water woes. One promising approach is what she and others in the conservation community call “blue parks.” She affirmed: “People know parks on land. They might not know parks in the water—but they will.”
The good news is that a decade ago only 1 percent of the world’s oceans were in a marine-protected area and just 0.1 percent in a marine reserve. Today, however, 3.7 percent is protected and 1.9 percent is safely in a reserve. On average, within those reserves the number of species increased 21 percent and the biomass of plants and animals r ose 446 percent!
Whoever said, “You can’t go home again”? Welcome back …