World Ocean Radio

Twelve years ago, World Ocean Radio was launched on WERU, 89.9 Community Radio, in Blue Hill, Maine, with the encouragement of the station managers, to now arrive at it 600th edition, broadcast today, still on WERU but amplified by more than 60 stations and on-line outlets across the United States, in Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong, even down both coasts of Africa on internet radio, as a subscription podcast, and as a feature posted to social media worldwide; it can be reasonably estimated that World Ocean Radio can reach more than a million listeners inextricably connected by the sea. It has been a challenging, humbling, and exhilarating experience, and I am grateful to my producers, friends, and strangers who have provided skill, content, and support along the way.

World Ocean Radio is just one of many communications platforms used by the World Ocean Observatory to advocate for the ocean–all in an effort to provide a place of exchange of information and service about an integrated global, social system that connects us all.

When the first edition was broadcast, the ocean was in first stages of critical transition and loss: pollution, acidification, warming, deep sea extraction, insatiable fishing, and a political and social neglect that did not bode well for the one ecosystem — the freshwater/ocean continuum — without which we cannot, and will not, survive. Many recognized the problem, but many, among them political and corporate leaders, did not. The United Nations and its various agencies began campaigns to convene national governments, non-governmental organizations, policy-makers and research scientists, to address the problem and there were certain successes: the International Law of the Sea, the International Maritime Organization, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, UNESCO, and the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, the UN Environmental Program, the Global Environment Facility, and others, each assigned to one section, itself complicated in a very complicated natural, social, political, and increasing competitive, globalized world. One can point to many of their achievements.

Private individuals and organizations have also played an important role, and have defined and supported various initiatives to address key solutions: standards, protected areas, financial instruments, and other tools that have been complementary and effective. The energy and financial resources invested have been significant and, what I call the “ocean apparat” can take pride in its collective accomplishment. In June of 2021, the World Ocean Assessment (World Ocean Assessment II) was released, an astonishingly detailed survey and report amassed by over 300 experts in all related disciplines, a UN mandated exercise that is an immense and informative evaluation of the conditions of the ocean worldwide. It is more than 1000 pages of dense description, statistics and diagrams; I have begun to read it, and will certainly refer to it in future editions of World Ocean Radio. But let me quote from the first page, from the Forward by António Guterres, the Executive Secretary of the UN Intergovernmental Ocean Commission that assembled the Report:

“In 2015, the first World Ocean Assessment (World Ocean Assessment I) warned that many areas of the ocean had been seriously degraded, the greatest threat to the ocean being the failure to deal with the many pressures caused by human activities. The message in the second World Ocean Assessment is that the situation has not improved…

There it is. All the money, all the energy, all the science and commitment, all the data, all the proselytizing and education, all the conferences, all the policies, draft treaties, laws and regulations, all the best intentions, all the optimism, and “the situation has not improved.”

That is the world we live in. One could be discouraged, even despondent, by this state of affairs. One could be angry and bewildered that, despite all the knowledge and effort, there has been little or no progress. One could conclude that, without some dramatic global shift and focus, we will have, as with the land, lost the sea. It is an absurd, unacceptable conclusion, because, in effect, it is an act of willful ignorance that has within it accelerated deterioration and destruction of the only system on earth that can sustain us.

What can I do, or you? What do we owe our children? Will we leave for them desiccated land, poisoned air, and infertile sea? Is that who we are? Forgive me this emotion, but I cannot accept this choice; I cannot accept this fatal admission of a future by design; I cannot turn away from the urgency and the reason that demands alternative action. I cannot believe that we can do this to ourselves when the way forward is known, clear, and possible, if only we direct our will to make it happen and right for the benefit of us all.

If World Ocean Radio is the only tool in hand, I will use it, but not without your help, not without your accepting the struggle to sustain our ocean, our water planets, and ourselves for generations to come by any and every means available. We are all Citizens of the Ocean. We cannot fail, and if it takes another 600 editions to succeed, we — together — will make it so.

The sea connects all things. Thanks for reading these posts, and thanks for listening to World Ocean Radio.

WORLD OCEAN RADIO is a weekly series of five-minute audio essays on a wide range of ocean issues from science and education to advocacy and exemplary projects. Available for RSS feed and for broadcast by college and community radio stations worldwide. Distributed by the Public Radio Exchange and the Pacifica Network. Available wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts.

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Dedicated to proposals for change in ocean policy and action worldwide, linking unexpected people with unexpected ideas about the ocean.

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World Ocean Forum

World Ocean Forum

Dedicated to proposals for change in ocean policy and action worldwide, linking unexpected people with unexpected ideas about the ocean.

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