I’ve always love being near the sea.
When I was a child, my parents drove by the sea everyday to get to their little shop at the airfreight center with my siblings and me in tow. The business didn’t last long, but I loved every ride along that road that ran parallel to the beach.
The sea taught the 4 year-old me what “beauty” was before I fully grasped the meaning of that word.
The sea was beautiful, and infinitely bigger than the small me could ever imagine. I understood instinctively that it can swallow me whole and wipe me from the surface of the earth, so I was afraid of it. I can’t swim after all.
At the same time, I can’t help loving it.
Sometimes we stopped by the beach. Those times were the best. I love the strong breeze, the soothing rhythm of the waves that sounded so much like breathing. I love the vastness of the sea and the wonderfully distinct smell that only she exudes.
When the tide is high, my mom would pick a dead palm leaf from the ground for me to dangle in the seawater. I’d stand on the seawall pretending to fish, but really just caressing the water with the leaf and looking out for tiny fishes.
Dangling the leaf in the seawater allowed me to interact with the sea from a safe place. Part of me always longed to touch the sea, despite the intense fear.
I didn’t know it then — I regarded the sea with reverence, and I still do decades later.
When I got older, I learnt that there’s the sea, and there’s the ocean.
I saw the Indian Ocean standing on Kuta beach, on a trip to Bali. It was my first seeing an ocean, and I realized that waves really do crash. The first time I heard the thundering of the waves, my heart soared. “That’s how a wave sounds like!” I thought.
Every beach lover should visit Bali. The beach vibe was so strong and vibrant, it actually loosened up this uptight girl. I never felt as comfortable walking around a beach in a bikini as I was in Bali. And that says a lot!
Later on, I saw the Pacific Ocean from Bondi Beach. It was my first time at the beach in cool weather. Kuta Beach was beautiful, but Bondi Beach was breathtaking.
Running a fever and being clad in two sweatshirts did nothing to dampen the experience. It was a gorgeous Spring day and Bondi Beach was insanely beautiful. The coolness of the breeze balanced perfectly with the warmth of the sun. The blue of the sky and the deep blue of the Pacific Ocean made me want to cry. I didn’t want to leave.
It was perfection.
I was lucky. I saw the Pacific Ocean again, this time from the other side, at Ocean Beach in San Francisco. This time, it was a cold, breezy and foggy day, but still beautiful in a melancholic, haunting way. The waves were huge, bigger than I’ve ever seen.
It wasn’t a typical beach day, but I enjoyed it nevertheless — a walk on the shore is never a flat experience. I listened to the crashing waves, cleared my mind staring out into the vastness, watched the birds chill on the beach and got my hair whipped around my face.
What’s not to love?
A year later, I watched the sun rise over the Atlantic Ocean from Wildwood Crest, in New Jersey.
It was the end of summer. My partner and I walked to the beach in the twilight, cold and bleary-eyed. Then we sat on the boardwalk, huddled close, waiting for the sun to rise.
As the sun rose, we observed the sky go through a million shades of blue, purple, red, orange and yellow over a calm and beautiful ocean. It was the most beautiful sunrise I’ve ever seen.
I love and cherish every one of these encounters with the ocean.
Five different locations. One world ocean. One fate.
I’ve noticed lately, that the sea didn’t smell as strongly as before. Maybe it’s a result of the natural ebb and flow of oceanic activities, but I can’t help wondering if it’s a result of our careless actions.
The Call To Action
The ocean is still beautiful on the surface, but we’ve been systematically and blindly assaulting it, disturbing its balance.
Our excessive carbon emission has resulted in global warming, causing the ocean to warm and acidify. As a result, the corals are bleaching and plankton dying. We’ve over-fished two-thirds of the world’s seafood, pushing the Pacific bluefin tuna and sharks closer and closer to extinction.
The ocean creates more than 50% of our oxygen, regulates our climate, plays a vital role in the water cycle and provides us with food. Nature gave us the most beautiful things with the most generous, balanced and intelligent systems, and we’ve gone ahead and messed it up.
It troubles me to think about the kind of ocean we’re leaving to the next generation. The dark side of me can’t help wondering if the ocean can only recuperate and regenerate with humanity gone, but I shouldn’t think that way. We’re still here!
Maybe we didn’t know, or didn’t think about the consequences of our action decades ago, but we’re experiencing the consequences now.
We know what we did that brought us into this situation. That means we can all do something to remedy the situation, and hopefully the next generation won’t have to inherit a dead ocean.
Things we can do to protect the ocean:
- Lower our carbon footprint and reduce our energy consumption.
- Reduce our plastic usage and avoid single-use plastic.
- Choose sustainable seafood options, or consume lesser seafood.
- Share our knowledge about how our actions affect the ocean.
- Protect the ocean and the beaches — don’t litter at the beach, and dispose trash properly at all times to prevent them from ending up in the ocean.
- Use fertilizer only when necessary and at the recommended amount. Be mindful of your chemical use at home and in the garden.
- Support causes and organizations that take care of the ocean.
I know I’ve spoiled the mood of the trip down memory lane by talking about how we’ve harmed the ocean. But it’s precisely because of how beautiful and important the ocean is, that we need to keep talking about these terrible realities.
If we don’t protect the ocean now, we may not have a future to look forward to.
Together, we can keep reminding each other about what we need to do to protect the ocean, so that future generations can have fond memories of the beach too.
Originally published at https://darkbluejournal.com on July 13, 2019.