Just in time for World Oceans Day, celebrated annually on June 8th, New York’s Governor Cuomo and New Jersey’s Governor Murphy provided a victory to local environmental groups by denying the proposed construction of a 24-mile, underwater natural gas pipeline to be located off the coast of New York and New Jersey.
Local activist groups such as the Surfrider Foundation of the Jersey Shore and Clean Ocean Action, municipal leaders and individuals have spent countless hours campaigning to halt the progression of the Northeast Supply Enhancement project, named the Williams-Transco pipeline after the company proposing the project. Thousands of activists and NY/NJ residents celebrated the governors’ decisions before turning back to the urgent and ongoing task of protecting and preserving our blue planet.
The concept of World Oceans Day was originally proposed by Canada at the Earth Summit in 1992, as a way to encourage awareness and protection of our most valuable shared natural resource and pay tribute to our remarkable oceans. In 2008, the day was officially recognized by the United Nations, and is currently celebrated by more than 140 countries globally. Both on the official day and throughout the week of June 8-14th, events will take place around the globe to “celebrate our world’s shared ocean and our personal connection to the sea, as well as to raise awareness about the crucial role the ocean plays in our lives and the important ways people can help protect it,” as explained on the World Oceans Day website. And to ensure that ocean advocacy continues in future generations, a Youth Advisory Council works to help create a vision and set goals for the conservation of our oceans.
This year, the mission of World Oceans Day is to expand the global movement with a push called 30×30, a call to action to preserve and protect 30% of our oceans by the year 2030. Protected ocean areas are specifically designated zones where guidelines and restrictions are put in place to safeguard natural marine resources and wildlife. Currently about 5% of the world’s oceans are protected, with some of the largest protected areas spanning over 1.1 million square kilometers. The goal of the organization, in collaboration with the United Nations, is to encourage world leaders to act imminently to conserve this resource that plays such an essential role in sustaining the human race. As noted on the United Nations World Oceans Day website in regards to this year’s 30×30 mission, “This year’s theme is especially relevant in the lead-up to the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, which will run from 2021 to 2030. The Decade will strengthen international cooperation to develop the scientific research and innovative technologies that can connect ocean science with the needs of society.”
Even now, as scientists race to control the damage done by COVID-19, we recognize that the benefits of marine life are immeasurable. Bacteria from deep in the ocean are being used for rapid testing to confirm the presence of the COVID virus in organisms. As Francesca Santoro, an oceanographer and researcher at the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO (IOC-UNESCO) expressed, “It is just one of the many prodigious uses of these organisms, which were discovered by some American microbiologists off the Adriatic in 1986.” This type of bacteria, discovered by scientists from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, are also used in the fight against AIDS and SARS, punctuating the idea that our oceans are invaluable in supporting human life.
Whether you choose to get involved at a local, national, or global level, the most important choice you can make is to take that first step. Celebrate World Oceans Day in a way that works for you and your family. Join a local ocean advocacy organization, sign the 30×30 petition on the World Oceans Day site, or merely bend down to pick up that piece of trash left drifting on the shoreline this weekend. The Williams-Transco pipeline victory is evidence that change is possible with hard work, dedication and support by those who choose to advocate for our most beloved (in the words of Jimmy Buffett) “Mother, mother ocean.”