World Oceans Day (8th June)

World OCeans Day

The health of oceans is integral to all life

World Oceans Day highlights climate change, over-extraction of resources, coastal development and pollution now place great pressure on the world’s largest ecosystem. The interplay between fresh and ocean water is also constant as is the connection with oceans and all life. Earth is covered by seventy per cent ocean, the home to a staggering ninety-seven per cent of life on Earth.

Since April 2023, there has been a huge ongoing spike in global ocean temperatures in both the northern and southern hemispheres and across the tropics. Ninety per cent of increased global temperatures due to climate change is taken up by the world’s oceans resulting in the mass migration or death of species, coral bleaching, melting icecaps, rising sea levels and more intense weather patterns.[1] There is an ever more urgent need to face these painful challenges, meet net-zero targets and recognise the intrinsic value of natural systems to protect them. 

Scientists provide key data about the situation but also communicate windows of perspective. Sylvia Earle, scientist and diver says the depletion of fifty per cent of big fish, the disappearance of half the world's coral reefs and the depletion of oxygen in large Pacific areas concern not just creatures, but all of us. Yet she also reflects that fifty years ago her work and other notable ocean explorers could not have predicted the harms wrought on what was seen as a “sea of Eden.” Summing up major areas for attention in ocean care, she re-tells the beautiful analogy told by an astronaut in the 1960s when he had a profound moment of conversion. Describing how astronauts had to know everything about the life support system they travelled in, to take care of their vehicle and protect their lives, he then pointed to an image of Earth, stating this is our life support system, we need to learn everything we can to take care of it. Sylvia adopted the astronaut’s analogy to emphasise Earth’s oceans, “No water, no life, no blue, no green.”[2]

The 2022 Global Biodiversity Framework set new targets to protect thirty per cent of land, water and seas by 2030. Currently, only eight per cent of oceans are under some form of protection.[3] International days of observance including World Oceans Day, attempt to ignite more support for restoration across all levels of society.  

Faith-based communities are among those who are trying to respond. Seeing first-hand the impact on coastal communities and the world’s poorest, Columban missionaries are involved in issues of ecology including advocacy work and local actions to care for oceans and help shape the future.

The journey to respond to Earth’s cries is ongoing, as is the commitment to personal reflection and awakening. Pope Francis invites people on “a pilgrimage of reconciliation with the world that is our home and to help make it more beautiful, because that commitment has to do with our personal dignity and highest values (Laudate Deum, n 69.)

Sr Caroline Vaitkunas RSM
Peace, Ecology and Justice Office
Columban Mission Centre, Essendon 



[1]Ocean warming is accelerating, and hotspots reveal which areas are absorbing the most heat,’ Published on 1st November 2023 UNSW Media https://www.unsw.edu.au/newsroom/news/2023/11/ocean-warming-is-accelerating--and-hotspots-reveal-which-areas-a
[2] Sylvia Earle, ‘TED Prize wish: Protect our oceans,’ 22nd December 2012, 18 minutes, available at  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pS-sfUHJaXI
[3] SDG Knowledge Hub International Institute of Sustainable Development MPA Congress to Chart Path to Protecting 30% of Global Ocean by 2030 25 January 2023

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