This is your mother, the Earth. Yes that’s right, the planet you live on. I thought I’d get in touch with a message in honor of my special day (thank you, BTW, I never miss an excuse for a good party), and the SeaMonster was kind enough to deliver it for me since I’m not as plugged in with all this internet stuff as some of you are.
Anyway, since everyone will be talking green today, I just wanted to remind you all that I’m actually blue (being primarily covered by water). I realize that most of you live on land and this may slip your mind sometimes (don’t worry – mothers get used to such things). So as a gentle reminder and before you start thinking “What has the ocean done for me lately?” here is a list of the top 10 things, or 10 things anyway, you would miss without them:
- Breathe easy. I don’t mean underwater, like Kevin Costner in that cheesy movie. I mean in your everyday life — roughly half the oxygen in the atmosphere comes from the ocean, and specifically from the countless microscopic algae of the plankton that suck your carbon dioxide out of the air and give back clean fresh oxygen. Think about that on Earth Day: every other breath you take comes from the ocean.
- Seafood. I presume this needs no explanation. I will point out, however, that last year I cooked up 100 million tons of it for you (yes, you actually cooked it, but I grew it for you — free of charge). Marine fisheries supply 16% of the world population’s animal protein consumption every year, which is on average about 17 kilos (that’s about 37 pounds for you metrically challenged Americans) for every man, woman, and child alive. And Mother is getting impatient with your appetite–this won’t last forever.
-Waves. Using winds, I create the waves that millions of you enjoy riding on as they pitch up along the shore. And because your greenhouse gases are warming me up, I’m making them a little bit larger each year.
- Painkillers from poisons. A top tip for staying alive: never pick up a cone shell. They sure look pretty but a lot of them come loaded with a toxic cocktail that can put a serious dampener on your day at the beach. Even so, these feisty shells have proved themselves worthy allies on the medical scene – there are powerful painkillers in there and perhaps a cure for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. As well as cones, the oceans hold a veritable treasure-trove of medicines, some already found (including starfish slime to treat asthma and hayfever) and many more still waiting to be uncovered.
-Coastal protection. I know in my moodiness I sometimes get carried away with my wave making. And I know this can cause problems for people who leave along the coasts, like erosion. So I also created coral reefs and mangrove forests to help protect you from my bad moods.
- Whale vomit. Now bear with me. You may not know this, but some of the world’s finest perfumes are based on essence of whale sick. Ambergris is the stuff that sperm whales cough up and occasionally a solid, waxy lump of it washes up on a beach somewhere and makes whoever finds it very rich indeed. And there are plenty of other things you lot take from the oceans to pamper yourselves, like cosmetics made from the bony skeletons of gorgonian corals.
-Beaches (and bikinis). The sand you humans so love to lay on along my seashores comes from the crushed shells of animals that live in the sea and from parrotfish poop (really, they poop out coral skeletons they consume when scraping algae off the reef). No corals, clams and snails = no white sandy beaches. (And then there are those delightful cool sea breezes and the beach too. All you kite surfers would definitely miss those).
- Seahorses. If you don’t appreciate having those guys around then I give up on you all. (And don’t just take my word for it that seahorses are cool. You’ll find all you need to know in Poseidon’s Steed the story of seahorses from myth to reality).
- All the pretty shells. I’ve noticed that as you humans age, you move from the swimming-in-the-ocean phase of life to the collecting-shells-along-the shore stage; well guess who makes all those lovely shells you bring home to decorate those little hovels you sleep in?
-Inspiration. And let’s not forget the most important commodity of all. Helen of Troy’s face may have launched the thousand ships, but it was the multifarious adventures during the long voyage over the “wine-dark sea” that made The Odyssey one of the great classics of world literature. Ditto for Herman Melville, Jacques Cousteau, and the Rimes of both Ancient and Modern Mariners.
Bon Voyage and may the wind be at your back!