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Photography: Alex Galloway,

A Matter of Respect

The long read: meditation on our oceans
Robin Ward

It covers over 70% of Earth’s surfaces. It absorbs 50 times more carbon dioxide than our atmosphere, regulating climate and weather. Those vast, dark teal bodies of water covering our planet are essential to sustaining life. So why are we treating them so poorly?

Last weekend Kind Community teamed up with The UOcean Project to remove ocean-bound plastic from Regent’s Canal. Members of our community gathered to remove the waste clogging up London’s waterways. It was a small amount that we managed to gather, in comparison to the 1 billion kilos of plastic UOcean aims to remove by 2030, but it was an important event for the spirit of community, and a reminder about how we treat the blue-blood and soul of our world.

But for myself, it led to a question. Why do we continue to disregard the importance of this natural space? A recent survey conducted by the Ocean Conservation Trust noted that 94% of people believe the fate of the ocean and humans is inextricably linked. This suggests that it can’t be the lack of recognition of our oceans. There’s something else at play, causing us to mistreat this vital resource.

If we recognise the intrinsic link between our bodies and our waters, then to look after our oceans must, by extension, be to look after ourselves. Perhaps the reason we treat them so poorly is the same reason we often lose track of what we put in our own bodies... It’s within this fine distinction that I’m suggesting lies a greater problem of over-consumption; consumption beyond what our Earth is capable of sustaining.

Photography: Alex Galloway,

Take a basic example, and one we’re all guilty of. Snacking on unhealthy foods. It’s not great - perhaps once and a while we allow ourselves to slip, and we indulge as a reward (I’ve just finished an ice-cream). But a general overindulgence of unhealthy eating can cause problems for our bodies. In fact, it’s not just unhealthy foods - overindulgence, vis-à-vis, overconsumption of anything eventually proves to be our downfall. Let’s not forget, Aristotle built his whole philosophy around this; enjoyment in moderation.

We must be careful here not to place total blame on the individual, afterall the biggest polluters of the seas are not those taking a stroll along Regent’s Canal. It’s also true that eating ice-cream is not the problem; this example is merely here to illustrate. You see, it’s simply that the same point of over-consumption applies to the big oil rigs and industrial fisheries. They are the powerhouses of taking more than is necessary, and giving nothing back.

Photography: Alex Galloway,

Just as I go into the freezer for the days’ third ice-cream, knowingly going against the principle of ‘everything in moderation’, the days’ eight-millionth piece of plastic makes its way into the ocean. I don't always take into account what I put in my body, and until now, I wasn’t always accounting for what I put in our oceans. This is a revelation I wish was enforced on the most prominent enemies of the sea; Coca-Cola bottles are amongst the most common forms of plastic found floating around. Imagine if these corporations showed respect for the vital resource they (and their consumers) jointly rely on. Dare I say, imagine if their consumers recycled.

Perhaps it’s a cyclical process. A lack of respect for our environment is ultimately a lack of respect for ourselves. I’m sure that statement will divide opinion, admittedly it does mine too, but we seem to have lost respect for the ocean in the face of its humanitarian worth. Plenty of evidence has been provided for the strong physical and mental health benefits of our marine environment, with 80% of those who visited reporting physical benefits and 84% reporting mental health benefits. This shows that preserving this beautiful natural space means more than just cleaning up the planet. It’s about taking care of ourselves and others.

One moment that stuck with me during the Kind Community and UOcean event was when we’d reached the end of our clean up. Everyone’s bags were full, and litter-pickers thoroughly dirtied. There was a sense that, despite the nominal relative impact of our efforts that day, I felt good. Positivity was in the air, and the love we’d shown our waterways that day had extended into the group we were with. It’s at that moment that I might have found an answer to why we should clean up our oceans, particularly on this individual level. We should do it for our communities. We should do it out of love for others. We should do it because respecting our oceans is synonyms with respecting ourselves.