Friday, June 8, 2012

It's World "Who Gives a Shit about Oceans" Day!

World Oceans Day is June 8th.

Two leopard dorid nudibranch
I am blessed to live on one of the Southern Gulf Islands off the coast of British Columbia.

My friend, the chiton
(probably a hairy)
I announced this past Tuesday to everyone I knew that the year's lowest low tide would happen at 12:05 pm. There's nothing like a negative tide (-0.3 feet!) for exploring the intertidal world, especially the lowest areas that are usually covered in water.

The co-author of my intertidal book joined me, and I was happy to see some young friends come with their children, who enthusiastically -- or politely -- oohed and aahhed for a while, but then played imaginative games together along the shore.

Orange tunicate, or sea squirt (our
closest relative in the invertebrate
world - true!)
One mom followed along with me as we peered under mysterious ledges and carefully lifted algae-encrusted rocks to see who was living underneath. For me, it was like running into old friends I haven't seen in a year. Hey, hello chiton! Hello, six-armed seastar! Nudibranch! Sea squirt! Like George Bailey in It's a Wonderful Life when he realizes he's still alive! And this mom, bless her, admitted that learning the names of what she was seeing made her exploration more fun and fulfilling.

It's certainly no longer in fashion to study natural history. Indeed, it's probably considered quaint at best, and boring at worst. In Victorian England, the middle classes enjoyed passions or crazes for seashells, for ferns, for geology. Amateur scientists abounded, and letters to the editor debated the habits and habitats of butterflies and frogs.

Sea lemon (dorid nudibranch)
 But today, even environmental educators shy away from "naming" our kin of other species. We're afraid it will turn kids off.

But how are we to make friends with someone -- of any species -- if we can't even take the time to learn their name?

Besides my friend and the handful of kids and their moms, there were two dog walkers on the beach that day. Just walking and talking, not looking or exploring or being curious. And that was it. On the lowest low tide day of the year.

If we're not curious enough to discover who inhabits the banks of our creeks, streams and rivers, who lives along the edges of our ditches, ponds and lakes, who dwells within the intertidal zone that connects the land to the sea, well, forget caring about ocean acidification, pollution, the North Pacific Gyre, overfishing or dead zones.

Happy World "Who Gives a Shit About the Oceans" Day. Please count me as someone who does.

posted by Virulent Green, GreenHearted's alter ego

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