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World Oceans Day: Community “oceanizing” in Ottawa…

Written by Sonia Vani, Ottawa Educator

Ottawa is many things to different people. To some it’s simply “home”. To others, it’s “the nation’s capital”. More than ever before, to a growing number of students, artists and activists, it’s the perfect place to be if you care about the world’s oceans…what???

Although it may seem counter-intuitive at first, what better place to be in than the hotbed of policy and politics to enact ocean changes? Why not measure societal shifts in ocean consciousness by tracking how a city like ours, removed from oceanic coasts, can mature by recognizing its very dependency on them. In fact, if you’re wondering what you can do as an Ottawa resident to help the world’s oceans, it means you have the capacity to “oceanize”, and that’s a good thing.

Kim Dunn, WWF-Canada,  visits the class and delivers an engaging lecture and coordinates a series of activities to reflect on how we can better share oceans, accounting for how other individuals, communities, societies, species may contribute to them and draw value and sustenance from them.  © Sonia Vani

Kim Dunn, WWF-Canada, visits the class and delivers an engaging lecture and coordinates a series of activities to reflect on how we can better share oceans, accounting for how other individuals, communities, societies, species may contribute to them and draw value and sustenance from them. © Sonia Vani

I made up the term “oceanize” to refer to the ability that some “in-landers” have to make a connection with the salty blue blanket that covers 71% of our planet. Developing our ocean “reflex”, that is, keeping it in mind even when we are away from it, means we’re getting better at understanding the bigger picture and at appreciating our role in safekeeping the larger interdependent systems that nourish all life on our planet. What we buy, where we shop, how we get around, what we choose to eat…it all has an impact on our oceans.

During the first week of May, I had the privilege of leading a group of Gr. 8 students into a journey of ocean discovery (the Enrichment Mini-Courses Program at uOttawa). The objective was to bring together students from various schools to help build knowledge, awareness and a positive momentum around the global ocean by producing ocean-related messages and putting them into the public sphere.

Mini-Courses students on class trip to Museum of Nature. © Sonia Vani

Mini-Courses students on class trip to Museum of Nature. © Sonia Vani

We met with organizations like WWF-Canada to learn more about what leaders in our own community were already doing. We visited the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and even got a lecture from a professor, Daniel Lane,  who specializes in oceanic policy. The students were especially interested in figuring how they and their families could change their ways to be more conscious of the oceans in their everyday life. They were eager to help spread the word about issues they were learning about, whether it be the need to establish more marine protected areas, or the reduction of plastics in our seas, or encouraging more sustainable fishing practices through ethical sourcing and purchasing.

By partnering with CHUO 89.1 FM, the students were able to record their own public service announcements to promote public awareness of the global ocean crisis while spreading the word about World Oceans Day. Check it out!

Their timing couldn’t be better. Our planet’s oceans need urgent attention on all fronts.  Thanks to young, creative and “oceanizing” minds that humbly connect the dots between the well-being of the oceans and their own communities, something is changing in the capital… and it smells like a “sea change”. The oceans, once again, are bringing people together.

Sonia Vani, M.A., B.Ed, B.A., is an Ottawa-based educator, communication consultant and ocean activist. She loves plankton, aquariums, yoga and anything turquoise. She is committed to collaborating with artists, innovators, researchers and students of all ages to reconnect individuals and communities with their oceanic identity by bringing oceans into the public sphere, even, and especially, in “non-coastal” regions.