WWF-Canada Blog:

An Ocean of Meaning: Beyond the science at Sea Sick play in Ottawa

“Truth lies in the tales we tell, rather than in the scientific facts that give rise to them.” 

– Alanna Mitchell, Sea Sick: The Global Ocean in Crisis

Alanna Mitchell

© Chloë Ellingson

A packed theatre leaned forward in the dark green seats of The Gladstone to hear Alanna Mitchell’s story. A tale woven from three years of intense research, where she travelled across the globe meeting top scientists in a quest to learn the truth about our oceans. And that truth is a powerful one.

Balancing the intersection of science and art, Sea Sick is the stage adaptation of Alanna’s award-winning book by the same name. Crowds have been gathering in theatres across the country to see it, and this weekend, Sea Sick came to Ottawa.

During her research, Alanna learned that significant changes are underway in our oceans and that these changes are converging to create system-wide impacts. In just over an hour on the theatre stage, she outlines the science of these threats, explaining how the global ocean is becoming increasingly warm, acidic, and devoid of dissolved oxygen. These changes are caused by human activities, like the burning of fossil fuels, and if left unchecked, could lead to the next mass extinction on Earth.

Underwater scene. Soft corals, hard corals, anthias.  Fiji. © Cat Holloway / WWF-Canon

Underwater scene. Soft corals, hard corals, anthias. Fiji. © Cat Holloway / WWF-Canon

The play is more than an ocean education, though: it’s a story that takes us beyond the science. We are immersed in her struggle to come to terms with the truth she has learned, and to accept the task of trying to translate that truth through art to the public at large.  As Alanna explains, “Science gives us knowledge, but not necessarily meaning. Art gives us meaning. And it’s meaning that we respond to.”

And so this is the foundation of Alanna’s hope-filled call to action for the rest of us – a call to build on her story, to go beyond understanding science to find our role and our voice in the face of these threats to our ocean. In both book and play form, Sea Sick is a solid first step in helping to define a broader narrative about the fate of our oceans, and, ultimately, the fate of the planet.

Last night, a whole theatre full of people found meaning at the intersection of science and art. And now, we must all respond.

Together with the All Party Ocean Caucus, WWF brought Alanna Mitchell to Parliament Hill. MPs, staffers, NGOs, academics, and industry gathered to learn more about the challenges facing our global ocean, and to hear about Alanna’s journey to the intersection of art and science to communicate these challenges. The director of WWF’s oceans program, Bettina Saier, also supported a talk-back session after Monday night’s performance of Sea Sick.

Learn more about WWF’s work in the ocean.