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Oceans Day 2012 – a not regular visit at the Aquarium
When I read that the World Oceans Day was officially recognized by the United Nations as late as 2009 (though being promoted a couple of years earlier) I was somewhat surprised, considering that the roots of the Earth Day go back till 1970. However, since then its popularity has been growing fast, the number of events rose from about 300 in 2010 to 400 in 2011. Each year it is being celebrated under a motto, with this year “Youth: the Next Wave for Change”. It is so important to raise awareness especially in young people, not only for the dry land we live on, but also for the other remaining ¾ of our planets surface.
A walk on the beach
Granted, it is easier and more obvious if you live on an Island or close to shore. When we take a stroll along the beaches of Waimanalo Beach (famous from the TV series Magnum, P.I.), e.g., what we see is far more than the tropical paradise shown on post cards. There is tons of marine debris in the form of plastic bottles, Styrofoam, fishing nets, buoys, unidentifiable plastic pieces, glass bottles and caps, cans, etc. Unfortunately, this is just the tip of the iceberg as other things like overfishing, military exercises, and coastal pollution by the local and the tourism industry take their toll on the sensitive ecosystem. And it is literally an iceberg we are dealing with here. What is underneath is mostly unknown as we just begin to see the damage that the decades long dumping causes. A very disturbing saying I heard once is ‘dilution is the solution for pollution’. That was true maybe hundreds of years ago, but what if we run out of the solvent?
Wanna go to a beach clean up?
However, to make this issue more child-oriented, our local aquarium offers educational tools like a movie about ocean awareness and proper reef etiquette, which we probably watched about fifty times. Messages like don’t step on corals, don’t chase or touch protected species like turtles and monk seals, don’t feed fish, pack your trash and pictures to what happens to plastic bags in the water just stick after a while. Next to the beautiful local beaches it’s a perfect location to teach what happens to the oceans if we continue to do what we are doing right now. So, on this Oceans Day we headed to their Oceans of Inspiration event. Besides an always popular Cat in the Hat movie about Scuba Marine, there was information about how to keep storm drains free of pollution. Storm drain systems gather the rain water and channel it directly into the ocean to prevent flooding of roads. Polluting materials (oil, chemicals, litter) that are present on the streets quickly add up, considering the many hundreds miles of roads, thereby posing a threat to the ocean.
In the middle of the trash
As another program high light, rare fish and coral specimens from the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands were shown. Since 2006, this part of the Hawaiian Islands is one of the worlds largest Marine Sanctuary, Papahanaumokuakea, with a quarter of its species only being found there. Its location is within the North Pacific Gyre (also called “trash vortex”), a large circular ocean current, collecting marine debris and resulting in a high concentration of plastic particles and mostly toxic pollutants. Despite their remote location, those pristine islands get affected in a very negative way. Endangered species get entangled, poisoned or chocked by the old fishing nets or big amount of plastic pieces.
- Sustainability through local tradition – Arts and Crafts
A festival is a great outreach to the public. Very hands on, traditional and modern ways of sustainable living were shown right next to each other at the "Grow Hawaii Festival".
- Sustainability through local tradition - Food
There are many ways to support sustainability and get healthy nutritious food in return. The Grown Hawaiian Festival showed how traditional and modern ways work together.
The list of sources of pollution is as endless as the reasons for protecting our oceans; hopefully Oceans Day and similar events will one day get a big enough outreach and educational potential to raise awareness in time.