Our enigmatic Ocean Mother has always fascinated poets. Rachel Carson is a singular writer, who — as an eminent scientist who absolutely loved and spiritually respected the sea — provided a factual, instructive and comprehensive survey of the expanse that covers the vast majority of the earth’s surface (in 1950). My family began reading the overview to me when I was eight-years-old. It took a full year to go through the book, but the thrust of it became embedded in me, its content reinforced by the art and wonder of her poetry.
In spite of its being somewhat dated, everyone should read The Sea Around Us. Especially activists who are concerned with the crises which plague our oceans today. Read it, and then act anew. In solidarity, following a fresh paradigm with others. For unless that is done post haste, we will all die. There will be no need for a nuclear holocaust or out-of-control climate change to take us over the precipice. The horrid momentum associated with our Ocean Mother will terminate human existence on the planet, or — at the very least — make life not worth living for survivors.
Or don’t read it.
In fact, maybe if I tell you what I know first hand you’ll learn enough, be motivated enough to act appropriately, urgently.
I’ve seen Senegalese starving from the over-fishing which takes place off their shores. I’ve sailed through subtropical gyres, where the impact of plastic on whales, seals, sea birds and turtles is immeasurable, but which is documented as causing over 100,000 deaths of marine life annually. The rate of species disappearance is unbelievable. I’ve had reputable scientists from prestigious institutions walk me through the steps we will all go through as acidification of our oceans increases. I’ve received monthly reports from my contacts in Japan — from several distinguished sources — all confirming that the abominations caused by the Fukushima disaster are on the rise, radiating life far above and beyond anything even mentioned by our mainstream media.
In addition to what’s delineated above, coral reefs are dying and ocean dead zones are growing everywhere. Mercury pollution is going from Coal to Oceans to Fish to our dinner tables too.
I could go on. But I won’t. Rather, I’ll get to the point of this piece.
I’m an educator who has been proactive respecting the teaching of Science in our schools, both the public and charter variety. I know what’s being taught, what’s on the required national tests, and what is translating from the classroom into civic engagement concerning our collective crises. I’ve been on top of the whole kit and caboodle for the better part of the last decade, and I can tell you definitively that although there’s lots of tear-jerking talk going on — and a great number of conferences and summits organized regularly which are focused on ocean issues — NOTHING is being done at present that has a shot in hell at turning the hellish tide I’m screaming about here.
I’ve sat in innumerable lecture halls from Stanford University to MIT, I’ve served as an Assistant Teacher in Science classes all along the spectrum in elementary, middle and high school settings, and my interaction with front line teachers and scholarly academics has been incessant since I began to study ocean issues religiously.
I have learned that no one is asking anyone to change their lifestyle in any significant way. Token gestures are recommended, certainly. And, of course, there’s the obligatory blah blah about recycling and conservation. But all the talk is kept within parameters which are polite, which fall far short of screaming EMERGENCY!
The classroom bell rings, and folks — young and old — depart for the next moment on their treadmill, the next bit of business on their very full agenda. With no sense of there being no tomorrow if there’s no radical follow through.
We all see documentary after documentary on the issues, but we are documenting ourselves to death. Filmmakers are mainly focused on their next project, not on making good use of the citizen energy that reaches out to them at times in response to the “Get Involved” or “Take Action” segments of their old products’ websites. I know that for a fact.
Rachel Carson risked her life to be in a position to describe the hidden mountains and canyons of the ocean depths. In The Sea Around Us, she explains how they were mapped during her time, and it’s fascinating; many risked their lives to provide the information that we now take for granted. In that work too she tells of the ceaseless power of the winds, waves and currents, and the paradox of the moving tides. She reveals the meaning of the ocean to man — the heritage of the sea that we carry in our bodies — and the riches to be found in its salty marshes. She presents mystery after mystery with compelling imagination and expert knowledge.
To honor her efforts and accomplishments — in order to live on this planet much longer as a species — we must do what she and others have done on behalf of Ocean Mother.
We are going to have to risk our lives. And HOW to do that is something that must be taught in our classrooms nationwide. ASAP.
Any educators or parents who are interested in securing a jump start on that score are welcome to contact me at email@example.com. Perhaps we can help one another see what is within us.
Richard Martin Oxman has been an educator and activist for over half-a-century. He would be honored to speak gratis at any educational institution which makes a request at firstname.lastname@example.org.