Ahoy there!

IssueJune - August 2004

Taking on board a deep and rolling theme like this certainly offers vast opportunities for useless metaphors.

However, that was hardly our intention when we began discussing an issue focusing on the salty stuff. We thought it would make an interesting - and potentially fun - change to take a slightly different look at something that affects every human being - and indeed every living thing - on earth.

Dropping anchor

The oceans and seas cover two-thirds of the surface of our beautiful planet and their role is of massive importance in our environment as a whole.

As well as providing a wide range of amazing habitats for an unknown (and perhaps unknowable) number of species, the sea symbolises a wide range of social, political and economic issues for human beings. The sea means trade, exploration, navies, refugees, empire,resources, and thus disputes, agreements and a certain pragmatism. It also represents an elemental near-spiritual environment for us swimmers, sailors and divers; a place of peace - a place of natural forces (though often also “violent”) - a neutral space, offering waves of experiences and bringing us to a different state of spirit. Think about how free you have felt when swimming in the sea, bobbed about in a boat, watched a storm from the coast, or looked out over an entirely blue horizon.

Port in a storm

Human beings have always romanticised the sea (where to start on the books, films, poetry and even music it inspires?) - even though it is also a place of death, destruction and loss. Perhaps, like an undertow, it is such a huge and predominantly unconscious aspect of our environment, we just can't help ourselves.

Unfortunately, like every other part of our planet, human beings appear to be doing their best to negatively impact our seas, and through them, each other: from over fishing and bottom trawling to toxic dumping, killing and exploiting marine mammals, the occupation of remote (and not so remote) islands by militaries, the potential for conflict over mineral exploitation of seas, and the rising tides of climate change which threaten communities around the world.

This issue of Peace News attempts to navigate around some of these issues, with an emphasis on what individuals, groups and even governments are doing to try to address some of that negative impact and to build a healthier, more respectful and sustainable relationship with our primary environment.

Make it so

There are plenty of issues we have not even touched on - for example, we originally wanted to include a comprehensive and analytical overview of the future ofn avies internationally, but it sounded a bit dry (actually, you can read quite an interesting text in relation to the British navy at http://www.guardian.co.uk/g2/story/0,3604,1127409,00.html). We also considered an extensive piece on nuclear submarines (instead you get a very brief version - see p34) and a serious text on tackling piracy non-violently (hmmm... maybe a wee bit ambitious!). We ditched the “swimming lessons” and “how to build your own nuclear submarine” from the tools section (too flippant) and added a few helpful knots and rather less ambitious boat building project instructions.

Here's a few broad strokes for change...

The sea: a shallow manifesto

  • Don't exploit or kill any marine animals (that means the little asphyxiating fishies too! ...unless your entire community depends on them for food etc)
  • Choose renewable sources of energy (no scraps over oil under the seabed thank you)
  • Stop chucking radioactive and toxic sludge into the sea
  • Remove all notions of “territorial waters” (no borders!)
  • Retain the social norm that we should always help “those in peril” on the sea
  • Take collective practical responsibility for the “rising tides”
  • Abolish navies

Full steam ahead then!

In that section you can also get some tips on how to set up your own sea-action groups and a few tricks to help you evade police/coastguard/navy/crazy fishing, whaling or dumping boats. However, we feel obliged to point out (for obvious reasons) that if you choose that channel then you must BE CAREFUL and take all necessary safety precautions!

Please note the repeated suggestion that going on training courses is a good idea before taking to the seas.

Full steam ahead!

In the end the focus remains primarily on personal stories of sea-based activism and on international campaigning. And no, there are no baby seals being bludgeoned to death, no pictures of tunas being slaughtered (hey, it is all in black and white anyway), not even any exciting images of little people in inflatables getting toxic waste barrels chucked at them by big men on big ships.

Hopefully readers don't need this level of manipulation to know how important our marine environment is (after all, drift nets are silent and invisible) - for all species on this planet and for the survival of earth as a place where carbon-based life-forms can continue to exist.

Just because we do not immediately see the impact of our choices, we cannot take an “out of sight out of mind” approach. Our planet is too precious.