The ending scene from The Big Blue (Luc Besson’s movie from 1988) is profoundly carved into my memory and my senses. That deep circularity of its symbolism erases the duality between ending and beginning. It is a tribute to Poseidon, the ancient Greek god, ruler of the seas, who is often represented by a dolphin. A creature with the innate quality to move in and out of water.
Although evolution has taken us out from the sea onto the land, oceans remain inseparable from our existence and survival. They are an endless source of life. But also a mystery that illustrates the unpredictable temper of Poseidon whose sudden mood changes can, in a wink of an eye, go from disastrous tsunamis, tempests, and drown lands to profound calmness and peace.
The mythology has evolved from the world divided among Zeus who was given the sky, Hades the underworld, and Poseidon the sea, towards the monotheistic narrative that combines all power into the hands of one God. However, one thing remains the same, from ancient times to nowadays, oceans attract human settlements.
Nearly 2.4 billion people live within 100km of the coast and some 600 million in areas that are less than 10 meters above sea level. I am one of them. I was born some 40km from the Adriatic Sea and have lived many years in Barcelona. Today I am living in Kristianstad, a city in Southern Sweden that lies close to the Baltic Sea coast. Due to having many parts of its topography below sea level, the city can be classified as one of the most flood-prone areas in Sweden. This makes local and regional authorities paying a great deal of attention to adaptation strategies for sea-level rise. Such strategies combine solutions that range building +3.7 meter building physical barriers against flooding and planting seagrass to prevent coastal erosion to planning sustainable urban development, farmland, and ecosystem services.
Still, no matter how efficient the strategies may result, in the long run, they can become short-term parches. Unless we manage to slow and eventually close down the sources of climate change that drive the sea-level rise and other climate-change-related responses, we will be forced to adapt to increasingly harsher conditions. Therefore, these adaptation strategies must be accompanied by mitigation and particularly by changing our behavior through adopting low environmental footprint lifestyles.
Sea inspires respect. It fills me with calm and inspiration. It fills me with hope. It is an Active Hope into our generation taking responsibility and understanding that Oceans don’t know the duality between ending and beginning. Eventually, it all comes back.
8 million tons of plastic that enter the oceans each year (equal to dumping a garbage truck of plastic every minute) don’t simply disappear into the Big Blue. They come back by killing million sea birds, 100,000 sea mammals, marine turtles, and countless fish each year.
Oceans talk. They tell a story. We can choose the story they are going to tell.
If we choose the path of ‘business as usual’ the story is going to be one of rising sea levels, more frequent tsunamis, increasing ocean acidification, collapsing ecosystems, and slowing sea currents leading to irreversible and devastating consequences to human survival. Oceans may tell the story of a once-prosperous human civilization, but we are not going to be around long enough to hear it.
If instead, we choose the path of adopting lifestyles that are respecting the planetary boundaries and jointly contribute to reducing our environmental footprint, the story will change. For that reason, it is so important to continue raising global awareness of the impact we are making on climate change.
It is important to follow the path that began in 1972 when the image of the Blue Marble was taken and shared globally. The image bridged across cultures, ideologies, and religions and gave a boost to movements, policies, and initiatives that made Paris Agreement possible. Yes, I agree that the Agreement could have been reached a lot sooner but we are still in time to shape our own destiny. We are still in time to assure that generations to come will continue being part of the Big Blue story. A beautiful and exciting mystery without ending nor beginning. It is up to us to keep this story alive while being part of the cycle of life on this marvelously unique Blue Marvel that is home to all of Life it creates and sustains.