|Earth Day should be Ocean Day|
|Friday, 20 April 2001 00:00|
By Vice Admiral Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Jr. President, Consortium for Oceanographic Research and Education
April 20, 2001
Contact: Scott Rayder
If we were to give relative time on Earth Day to different habitats, we would be talking about the oceans for 18 out of the 24 hours. Nearly three-quarters of the Earth's surface is ocean. Although a costly lesson for many Americans, El Nino taught us that the oceans drive our weather and climate for people everywhere in the Western Hemisphere even if they do not live near an ocean. The oceans are a vital part of our national security, and a critical element in international trade and economic development.
In addition, more than half of the world's population have chosen to live where the ocean meets the land, and that area comprises less than two percent of the Earth's surface. These fertile coastal zones provide food, recreation, and natural resources for all Americans. Once it was thought that the oceans were so vast that they and their ecosystems could absorb the impacts of human activities without significant change. People no longer think this way.
There is increasing concern about the health of the oceans. Bellwether marine ecosystems, such as coral atolls, kelp forests, and estuaries are threatened, and many important fisheries around the world are in decline. In the new millennium, we must dedicate ourselves to learning about the oceans. In order to address these emerging issues and protect our ocean resources, greater knowledge is needed not only about the diversity and abundance of life in our oceans, but also the physical processes that drive our ocean planet. Ocean science must become a national priority.
The Consortium for Oceanographic Research and Education (CORE) believes that development of an integrated ocean observing system is a critical first step that will provide scientists, resource managers, and policymakers with the biological, chemical, physical, and geological data necessary to begin to meet our ocean challenges. An ocean observing system will provide the information needed to detect and predict climate variability, facilitate safe and efficient marine operations, ensure national security, manage living resource, preserve and restore healthy marine ecosystems, mitigate natural hazards, and ensure public health.
For thousands of years, humans have gazed out across the ocean and pondered what lay beyond the horizon. What we recognize today is that what lies below that horizon is just as important as what lies beyond it. With breakthroughs in technology, we are now poised to better understand the role oceans play in our lives and we now have the tools to better understand and manage our ocean resources. This Earth Day Americans must recognize that we are indeed an ocean planet and that what we don't know about the oceans can have a profound impact on all of our lives.
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Vice Admiral Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Jr., U.S.N. (Retired) is the President of CORE. Lautenbacher holds a Ph.D. in applied mathematics from Harvard University. CORE is a Washington, DC-based association of 63 U.S. oceanographic research institutions, universities, laboratories, and aquaria. Its mission is to promote, encourage, develop and support efforts to advance knowledge and learning in the science of oceanography and to disseminate such knowledge to the scientific community and to the public. For additional information, visit www.COREocean.org