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The Blue Planet – Seas of Life

“In an age when it is not uncommon for ten people to stand together on the summit of Everest, it might seem that every corner of our crowded planet has been explored. But that is far from the truth. The highest peaks on earth are still unclimbed. We have little idea of where the world’s largest animal goes to breed and there are still thousands, maybe even millions, of animal species that remain undiscovered. All are hidden under the waves of the oceans.” – Sir David Attenborough, Narrator, The Blue Planet.

 

For some strange reason tears streamed down as I sat, alone, in the dark of night, watching David Attenborough’s ‘The Blue Planet’. Was I unhappy? Far from it. An inexplicable, very peaceful emotion had me in its grip. It was the blue whale. Watching it swim its oceans, singing its ethereal song, left me strangely at peace with the world and the salt of the tears felt like they were born in the sea. I have never seen a living blue whale (I will one day!), but thanks to Mitali and Prahlad Kakar and their incredible
team at Reefwatch Marine Conservation, I learned to scuba dive and have explored the oceans around the Lakshadweep and the Andaman and Nicobar islands. As Rick Rosenthal’s camera caressed the blue whale and transported me to the blue world, I forgot for a while how landlocked my own life was. I was, momentarily, the whale.

 

If I had the power to do so, I would order all classes in schools in India to be shut down for a week and have children watch episode after episode of The Blue Planet as part of project work. More education is encapsulated in the beauty and purpose of this mind-blowing series than could ever be doled out to students through the tomes inflicted on them by their school curriculum.

 

In keeping with its usually high standards, the BBC, together with Discovery Channel, have presented us with an amazing series of films, which are currently being aired across the Indian subcontinent. Expectedly, the television series has received rave reviews by the global media. A.A. Gill, reporting for the Sunday Times, perhaps put it best when he said: “It makes you realise what overrated creatures actors are, when one small fish with a brain the size of an aspirin can fill you with more real, ragged emotion than the Royal Shakespeare Company”. Writing across the world in the Wall Street Journal, Tunku Varadarajan opined that, “If there were a Nobel Prize for wildlife filmmaking, these producers would get it.”

 

Would that some of this appreciation and wonder were possible to inject into our own planners and developers. For a subcontinent that is so cocooned by the sea, one might be forgiven for expecting that the citizens of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Myanmar would have more respect for it. This is sadly not the case. With as much as 70 per cent of all marine pollution originating on land, we see toxins being poured into this source of all life at a greater pace and with more deadly effect than ever before since life began on earth. We also see science and technology being brought to lethal use in stripping the sea off a larder that was once thought to be inexhaustible.

 

The seas are dying. Vast coral and mangrove habitats are withering. And in the process, literally millions of organised and traditional fisherfolk – often, ironically, at the forefront of marine degradation in India – are facing a bleak future.

 

While this might seem like a desolate scenario, the truth is that the sea has regenerative powers that are unmatched by land habitats. If we merely stop abusing the oceans, they can repair themselves. Corals will come back to life and mangrove swamps will continue to stock the oceans with fish. What is asked of us is that we put a halt to the mindless destruction that we are so persistently inflicting on these ecosystems.

 

Those of us seeking to shine a light of reason in the “ocean of ignorance” in which the human race is currently immersed are waiting for signs of awakening, of wisdom. Which is why series like The Blue Planet and its accompanying book are so very welcome.

 

As The Blue Planet informs us: “From space, Planet Earth is blue. It floats like a jewel in the inky black void. The reflection of the sun’s light from the vast expanse of water covering its surface creates its gem-like blue colour. In the entire solar system, Earth is the only planet that has water in its liquid form in such quantities. That is what makes Earth unique. Water has been the cradle of life throughout most of the planet’s 4,600 million-year history. The earliest forms of life – a simple collection of organic compounds – evolved in water and stayed there. They were bathed in a nutrient soup that remained at a suitable temperature and never dried up. From these early beginnings, life on Earth evolved and diversified through the millennia. Fish, worms, amphibians, reptiles, birds, mammals and plants, both above and below the water, started their evolutionary journey in the ocean. It is only because of the water and its combination of special properties that life on Earth – as we know it – exists at all.”

 

By Bittu Sahgal
 

 
 
 

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