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An Intro to Oceans and Human Health

Quickfire facts

  • Over half of the air we breathe comes from the ocean.

  • 50x more carbon dioxide is stored in the ocean than in our atmosphere.

  • The ocean covers 70% of the earths surface, and is fundamental to regulating our climate and weather patterns.

‘The cure for anything is salt water – sweat, tears or the Sea – Karen Blixen.

Over the last year, I’ve been fortunate enough to join an incredible academic team working on projects around healthcare, the oceans and sustainability. Culminating in a 2nd edition textbook being published titled Oceans and Human Health: Opportunities and Impacts.

For me however, a large part of these projects has been understanding that we as individuals have huge potential for impact and change in our own areas. The more that we can educate ourselves and those around us on the value and importance of our Oceans, the more that we do subliminally and actively to make positive, pro-environmental behaviours. As such I’ll be making a few short posts on an overview of particular chapters I’ve been most involved in, as a chance to share some key take-aways or fun facts around Oceans and Human Health!

What do we mean - Oceans and Human Health?

What comes to mind when you think of the ocean? Is it beaches? Relaxation? Fishing? Historically and currently, the seas are major sources of economic activities such as transportation, tourism, seafood, medicines, biotechnology, renewable energies and more. The sea has been a vessel for imperialism, colonisation, and a source of inspiration for religion, art, science and culture. But these benefits cannot be fully realised without its health being forefront in our minds.

More recently we have been learning and relearning how to appreciate sustainably the interplay of coastal ecosystems, oceans, and human health and well-being. Sitting in the Anthropocene, or ‘the time of human domination to our climate and planetary activity’, many frameworks have been used to characterise the interplay of the environment and human health. Planetary health seems to be the most commonly adopted term in the western world, with emphasis to public health and ensuring that the environment is in a state that allows equitable and optimal use for humans to be happy and healthy. The doughnut model encapsulates this in a lovely way, identifying the minimum social foundations needed by humanity, and the ecological ceilings in which surpassing means an unsustainable future. Interestingly we have already surpassed 4 of these nonants – something that doesn’t bode well!

Oceans and Human Health as a discipline was born in November 1999, as a research and training area of importance for new scientists - although positive activity in the area predates this. Efforts have often taken the form of valiant, charismatic individuals such as those who have launched NHSOceans, or coordinated the arrival of significant research bodies such as the SOPHIE project. With advancements such as harmful algal bloom or sewage detection prediction an obvious point of relevance to triathletes and coastal communities around the globe. Dictating safe and unsafe times to make use of open water facilities, with possibly significant conseuqences. The EU blue growth agenda in then considers the exploitative nature of sectors such as mining, tourism, aquaculture and biotechnology, all of which indirectly have impact to human health.

What did I take from this?

Being a co-author and editor to this textbook allowed me a really excellent opportunity to improve my own knowledge in the vast discipline of Oceans and Human Health, learning off of the more than 120 academics involved in its creation. Key to my passion as a triathlete and triathlon coach is the idea of bringing it’s awareness to the public – sporting communities in particular. Ocean Literacy demonstrates that the more we understand, the more we can do, and do do individually towards the problems at hand.

Thanks for reading to this introductory overview (if you’ve made it this far it’s more than commendable!) on Oceans and Human Health. I’ll ideally be making more reader-friendly versions of each of the chapters, with my own views and take-aways around Oceans and Human Health, and building a sustainable future.

Any moment that you take to consider blue spaces and the environment around us’ beauty, complexity and vulnerability is a bonus.

Happy training!

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