A New Year perspective from deep in the Southern Ocean

Sometimes, just when you think you are a half decent writer and have something to say, you suddenly find that someone else has said it already and said it far better than you ever could. This is what happened to me today. I was about to write an end-of-the-year blog about the state of the planet when a newsletter from my friend Brad van Liew dropped into my inbox. Brad is currently deep in the Southern Ocean racing solo around the world, his third circumnavigation. Sailors have a unique view of the planet. When you are out on the open ocean you are as close to the elements and nature as you can get. When you are alone at sea, with heightened senses, you have an open window to the inner workings of the world. I have been lucky enough to witness this for myself, many times, and I have seen a sad decline in the amount of wildlife out there. Seems like the same thought was running through Brad’s mind today as he wrote his blog.

Brad and daughter Tate

A farewell hug from Tate van Liew before Brad heads off again

So….. being a bit lazy and willing to take a gift when it lands in my lap, I asked Brad if I could post his blog, on my blog. As I said, he articulated it better than I ever could. Here then is Brad’s perspective on the planet from the deck (well navigation station) of Le Pingioun deep in the Deep South. His current position is 47.34S 82.44E. I encourage you to follow Brad’s progress around the world through his website – www.oceanracing.org and his Facebook page – here

Le Pingouin

Le Pingouin blasting along - what a girl.

The primary message that I will try to convey to this watery world as we enter 2011 is an apology.  I’d like to be an “eyes wide open” witness to the impact our human existence has on this place. Maybe I am a lone ambassador of sorts?  As I write this I am sailing in 9 degree Celsius water in a place that should have far cooler water temperature.  I am sailing deliberately further north than ever before because the Antarctic convergence (ice zone) is hundreds of miles further north than when I first sailed the Southern Ocean in 1998.  The birds are far less in numbers than I have ever experienced, and the whales… well, we all know that story.  My message will be a hollow New Year’s apology because I need to be honest with my friends down here.  There is really nothing being done that will change the tide of globalization and human growth.  We can hope that the pioneers of sustainability and green energy will be rewarded for tangible results. We can hope that rather than a typical New Year’s resolution that is a lot of promise and little movement, that maybe the human population of our fragile home will put some action behind the rhetoric.

I don’t pretend to know how much we affect this place through our actions and I am a firm believer that cyclic global temperatures are a natural weather occurrence, so I don’t wish to be tied up in the politics of it all. I just speak of plane facts that we know we can change. The whales are gone because we kill them for food and resources we no longer need. The bird population is off because we kill them with bad fishing practices and by throwing trash in the water that they eat. This planet is 70% covered in water.  The life and delicate balance that water provides is the brine from which all known life came. Can you imagine if that balance is upset? Water can take the life away just as easily, and in a much shorter time, than it was given. The oceans provide every ounce of water we drink. If the ice caps were to melt (which they are) the vast majority of the world’s cities will become submerged. The sun and water are the two things that make every weather anomaly occur.

Brad van Liew

Brad working the cockpit of Le Pingouin

For crying out loud, the human body is something like 80% water isn’t it? We better start taking care of our oceans or they aren’t going to be here to take care of us.

This will be the somber but special New Year’s message I will share with my friends in the Southern Ocean. It will be a very “glass is half full” conclusion, basically stating that mankind is good and wants to continue to exist, and that we will do as a race what we have to do to survive.

Happy New Year’s and may you all take a few minutes to enjoy the beauty of the natural world in 2011.

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