World Ocean Day

June 8 is World Ocean Day, one of those designated moments intended to focus universal consciousness on a particular issue in the press and other media outlets. Depending on the enthusiasm of various organizers, there may be a few articles, a TV spot, some photogenic beach clean-ups and other activities that demonstrate a local interest, however fleeting, in the health of the world ocean.

But why isn’t every day world ocean day? Why is it that we succumb to the illusion that such concentration of effort on an arbitrary date will somehow contribute significantly to the year-round challenge of building public awareness and political will for a sustainable ocean? Isn’t one day just too little, too late to make any difference?

This fallacy is not limited to facile public relations. In international conferences of ocean experts, I hear the constant lament that the best research efforts and the most fervid calls for action fall mostly on deaf ears and that only increased education and global outreach can counter this ignorance and indifference -- and yet these very same observers will admit in the next breath that their organizational budgets and staff for these critical functions are severely under-funded, indeed frequently non-existent. If there is a problem, why do they ignore the most obvious solution? Do they really mean it?

The amount of energy and funds directed toward World Ocean Day is misspent. Those resources would be much better invested in ocean literacy efforts in the schools, or a cooperative program pooling organizational budgets for on-going press briefings on ocean issues, or for advocacy initiatives to promote a national ocean policy in the United States.

World Ocean Day is momentarily useful, but what’s left for the other 364?