James Nestor wrote the book, Deep: Free Diving, Renegade Science, and What the Ocean Tells Us About Ourselves, after traveling to the Mediterranean to watch a free diving competition. Prior to the competition he was a certified scuba diver, but it was not until he learned about how the human body reacts to the depths of the ocean without scuba gear that Nestor really began to understand the importance of the ocean. He did not just study free diving and human physiology in the water, but he worked to understand all aspects of life in the ocean. Nestor writes, “The ocean occupies 71 percent of the Earth’s surface and is home to about 50 percent of its known creatures — the largest inhabited area found anywhere in the universe so far.”
I love learning about how large, deep, and diversified our oceans are. I live in Reno, NV, in one of the only places on Earth that does not have a river that eventually makes its way to the ocean. Our high desert climate is about as far from the ocean as one can be, which perhaps is why I am so fascinated with the life in water. Learning about the varied life in the ocean fascinates me because we have only studied the ocean to a very limited extent, and in many ways the deep ocean can be compared to outer space in terms of how difficult it is to reach and the extent to which it has been explored and understood.
In Nestor’s quote he writes that the ocean is home to about 50 percent of Earth’s species, and what I find interesting is that many marine biologists believe that we do not know all of the creatures and life forms living in the ocean. We have truly only explored a small percent of the ocean, and there are many more living organisms to be discovered in the vast depths of the worlds oceans.
For me, thinking about the ocean in this way forces me to think about human relationships with the ocean. Many of our relationships are not positive, through history we have not done a good job thinking about ocean health. It is easy for our trash to accumulate in watersheds that drain into the oceans, and oil shipping and exploration have had many negative consequences for ocean life. In addition, we have inhabited huge areas, typically bays and estuaries, along our coastlines and reduced the habitat for many marine species. While human societies should not be constantly limited in order to save animal species, thinking about how we can live in a state of harmony with oceans and marine life is not just a nice thing to do, it is a necessary responsibility of all humans.