World Ocean Radio 150th Anniversary Episode

December 12, 2011 marks the 150th episode of World Ocean Radio. In honor of this anniversary, we're revisiting our very first World Ocean Radio episode-The Sea Connects All Things-which first aired December 7, 2007.  

As a blog entry this week, we are posting the transcript of the episode here. You may also listen to the episode if you wish. This week and every week, World Ocean Radio celebrates the vast, interconnected global system that is the world ocean. The sea connects all things...


I’m Peter Neill, Director of the World Ocean Observatory. For many, the ocean is a place apart, a vast wilderness extending beyond our physical and psychological horizons, at once alien and indifferent, fascinating and compelling, and about which we know very little.  But consider these facts: the ocean covers 71% of the earth’s surface; the ocean is a central element in the recycling and purification of fresh water; the ocean provides 40% of the world’s protein, especially in developing nations; more than 200 million people worldwide are dependent on the ocean for their livelihood; 65% of the world’s population lives within 100 miles of an ocean coast.

The reality is that the ocean is essential to human survival, a primary source of food, water, climate, and community – immediate, universal, and undeniable. In short, the ocean is the determinant ecology in which we live – the sea connects all things. If, indeed, all life is dependent on the ocean, then this understanding calls for its new definition as:

  • an inter-connected, global eco-system that integrates natural process, habitat, and species with human intervention and impact;
  • a comprehensive social system that integrates human needs and actions;
  • and a complex political system that connects all peoples worldwide through economic interests, cultural traditions, and cooperative governance.

    Thus, when we envision the ocean as a wilderness, we are ignoring the reality of the ocean as a domesticated place where humans have left their mark throughout history by exploration and exploitation, immigration and trade, and the exchange of custom and culture. To look today from a satellite, one can see that the ocean is marked constantly by the tracks of ships, the tools of globalization through marine transport as old as the ancient Chinese in the Pacific, the Phoenicians in the Mediterranean, and the Vikings in the Atlantic.

    What has changed over time, however, is the impact of human population growth whereby the use of the ocean has increased exponentially so that today the ocean evinces a shift from abundance to scarcity and from accommodation to conflict.

    This is well exemplified by the crisis in fisheries. Research has documented the collapse of certain species such as cod that once formed the staple diet of much of North America and Europe, a result of a complex of causes to include unrestricted catch, the advent of new, efficient gear and technology, and the unwillingness of fishers, both artinisal and industrial, to work cooperatively toward a sustainable harvest. This problem was further compounded by the difficulty of regulation, a result of lack of jurisdiction outside of national economic zones, the inability to monitor or enforce quotas, and the failure of governance to address the challenge. 

    There are many other examples. What underlies them all, however, is the understanding that just as there are social causes to these problems, there must also be social solutions.  We can complain and accuse and litigate, much as we do for similar behavior on land, but the true solution lies with our determination to deal with both the cause and effect of our need to domesticate Nature—whether terrestrial or marine—for human use, and to engage in the dialogue and change required to conserve and sustain all natural resources for the benefit of all mankind. To inform this understanding is the purpose of World Ocean Radio.