World Ocean Day : Oceans for People
Fidelis E Satriastanti
A colleague sent me an e-mail last week mentioning that World Ocean Day is on June 8, three days after World Environment Day. This colleague then put this interesting opening in the message:
“We tend to take oceans for granted while they provide us with food, jobs, clean air, and the building blocks of life-saving medicines that treat cancer. But there’s a problem; our oceans and coasts are not healthy. If we want to keep enjoying all that the oceans give us, we’ve got to give back in return.”
Okay, that’s a good point. I haven’t really followed ocean issues, so lots of ideas came up about how I should start writing about it, but it turned out to not be that simple.
However, I did get a small chance to know what the ocean is all about when I had a vacation with my work friends on Peucang island, a small island in Ujung Kulon National Park in Banten. From Jakarta, it was eight hours of road journey to Sumur village, then a three hours journey using boats.
The island is very famous among travelers, including divers and seasonal fishermen, because when we arrived at the village, the hospitality was excellent. In the morning, before we set up to cross over to the island, villagers greeted us with coffee and tea with fried bananas. It was as if we were visiting their house. I was quite impressed because you don’t see that kind of friendliness in the more commercial tourist sites.
When we got on the boat, me and my friends just immediately immersed ourselves in the fresh air of the ocean. I remembered we didn’t even care enough to check our cellphones for any messages while on that boat. With the boat moving farther away from the village, the water was very clean and clear. I couldn’t help but to compare the condition of its to that in the Thousands Islands (Kepulauan Seribu), just off the coast of North Jakarta. I’ve always though that the Thousand Islands water is like a supermarket, because you can almost find anything in them, including snack wrappers, cigarettes, even sandals.
When we had our lunch, one of our guides warned us to put the boxes in plastic bags. “Throw your waste here, please. Don’t throw it into the oceans,” he said, followed by a choir saying: “Yes, sir.”
The visit was actually arranged to “hunt pictures.” I just found out that the guys from the IT section and design section of our office have a passion for photography. But our ulterior motives was just to enjoy the fresh water as much as we could while diving and seeing Peucang’s beautiful coral reefs with our own eyes.
Unfortunately, I decided not to go snorkeling with the others because I wanted to get a chance to take pictures with “real” cameras. It was a bit of a pity too that the tide was on, so that sands covered the reefs, making them difficult to see clearly. But it was also the fact that only a few of them brought goggles. Those who did not could not see anything under the water. However, they still jumped for joy to be able to swim around in the blue water.
While it took us eight hours on bumpy, hellish roads and a three hour boat ride, it was definitely worth it. When we had to leave the island, all of my friends said that they wished we could have stayed longer. Some also said that, even though there was no electricity until after 6 p.m., no mobile signal at all (which was a bit worrying because we are a bunch of journalists and need to be on-call all the time), and the fact that we missed the sunset and sunrise because of the rain, the island never failed to entertain us.
We were not bored at all. We were in holiday mode.
So, back to the World Ocean Day. Oceans do give us a lot. I’m sure lots of people still prefer to go to oceans rather than go to the malls. Seeing nature first hand is an experience beyond reason. I always love the smells of the oceans, the feel of the on my feet, the sun and the cool water. You just can’t beat that feeling.
It’s always good to remember that if you protect nature, it will give back to you abundantly. If you treat it wrong, it will attack you fiercely.
I’ll put aside all those complicated policies and regulations about oceans and seas issues. But, I will offer you my simple thought to payback the oceans. Stop throwing rubbish into the water. If you want to dive or snorkel, respect nature — those coral reefs and fish or other species must stay where they belong. Enjoy the scenery, do not destroy it.
If you want white sandy beach with clean blue water, places like Peucang still exists. But they need lots of help from us to protect them.