Water has value. We see it with expensive sea front properties, with sought-after beachside holidays, and with thriving coastal towns. But most of all we feel it.
Why is it as land-roaming humans we feel so connected to the water? The answer is much deeper than its luxury status, in fact, science shows it’s deep into our very beings.
Our Blue Mind
First coined by marine biologist Dr. Wallace Nichols, the ‘Blue Mind’ refers to “the mildly meditative state we fall into when near, in, on, or underwater.”
You may have noticed how being near water positively affects your mind and body but never thought about why this might be. Well, when you consider that we are largely made up of water (around 60%) it’s no wonder why. Dr. Nichols notes that water triggers a response in our brain that we are in the right place. Simply put, being by the water feels good because it’s our natural instinct.
Negative ions for a positive outcome
There’s also staggering research into the benefits of moving water on our wellbeing.
This is because of the negatively charged ions released from moving water such as ocean tides, rivers, and waterfalls. These ions have been shown to lower stress as they cause the brain to release serotonin and oxytocin and lower cortisol levels.
Water doesn’t just make us feel better, it is essential for our survival. When we think about the lungs of our planet, we picture tall, leafy green trees, but the planet has two lungs. The ocean, thanks to the plants within it, produces over 50% of our oxygen.
What’s more, the ocean also absorbs carbon dioxide - approximately ¼ of all the CO2 we produce. At a time where we are producing more co2 than we ever have, this process is critical in helping to fight the climate crisis. Without it, we’d be in a much worse state.
Our weather regulator
Our ocean is also key in helping to regulate our weather patterns. It does this by storing solar radiation to keep our planet warm, distributing heat around the globe, and moving weather patterns with ocean currents.
A food source
For island, coastal, and indigenous communities, seafood is a crucial form of protein and is also of the utmost importance for livelihoods. This type of fishing is a far cry from destructive and large scale industrial fishing practices, and we must recognise the damage this extractive fishing does not only for our ocean but for indigenous groups who have unique needs.
Large scale industrial fishing is mainly to satisfy the appetite of the Global North, where we can easily walk into a supermarket and choose a fish-free/animal-free protein source. For others, seafood is crucial for survival.
In the UK alone, there has been a huge increase in wild swimmers, surfers, kayakers, and paddle boarders, particularly since the pandemic. Even though our coastline is a long way from tropical, we still use it as our playground, a place that in many forms brings us joy.
The ocean is our life support, our ally in fighting the climate crisis, our friend to play with, and a home for incredible marine wildlife. The value we currently place on water is not conducive to how important it actually is, but when we start to recognise how much the ocean does for us, we can identify what we can, and must do, to protect it.