The Mother of All Mothers | The Gyres of the Oceanic Circulatory System

“Have you thought about a CSR initiative for your business?” I ask her as I add yet another task to the entrepreneur’s already mountainous to-do list. This is one of those topics that your average entrepreneur considers last–much to their own detriment.

“The Ocean,” she says dreamily.

I put my hand on my forehead. I still haven’t the slightest idea where the true blue entrepreneurs get their crazy ideas from.

“The Ocean?” I ask, trying my very hardest to hide my veiled frustration. There was human hunger, world poverty, war in the (insert country of choice), nuclear power, unresolved reparations from WWII… and she looked at me and sheepishly said, ‘The Ocean’.

Great, just great.

As far as I was concerned, it was a topic that was on… absolutely nobody’s mind. So I dismissed it at the time–much to her dismay. But she had done what she had always done–planted a seed in my head that would grow into a tree on its own.

I secretly started reading books on the topic–without telling her, of course. After all, I had dismissed her suggestion outright (I have a special sort of highly un-endearing way of putting my foot in my mouth) and it would be sometime before I would regain credibility in her eyes.

I remember how the merchants of yesteryear would wait for their shipments to arrive. Without shipping, our modern commercial world simply wouldn’t exist. So perhaps taking care of this vast and mysterious body of water is the key–and not the impediment–to taking care of business. By taking care of the environment, we were–in turn–taking care of ourselves.

As time meandered on and as I read more and spent more time gazing out into the deep blue sea; I discovered that within this vast expanse of water–there was significantly much more than we would ever know or hope to understand.


Conditions on Earth change due to the natural rhythms and cycles of nature as well as human activity. I can’t believe how many people in my network still erroneously believe that human activity has no impact on the Earth. It is a stark and shocking reminder that we’re not thinking as seriously about ‘the environment’ as we should be.

If there is no environment for life to grow, then it is we–and not the Earth–that faces the problem. And yet, the modern ‘environmental narrative’ focuses on how we (the problem) are going to save the earth (the source and the solution).

How ludicrous!

As the environment on earth changes–either of its own accord or due to human influence–it exerts a ripple effect that will either travel someplace else or return to us in some form or another. The ocean is a massive circulatory system that is running the show behind-the-scenes.

You know that old cliche–that what goes around comes around; when it comes to the seas, it well and truly turned out to be a matter of scientific truth.

Gyres

There are five wind-driven gyres in the world’s oceans. What’s a gyre, you might ask. I thought the same thing when I first came across the concept.

A gyre (pronounced jai·uh) is a spiral or vortex: a circular pattern of currents in the ocean basin that circulate water like clockwork. If you were to say, drop a piece of plastic into the North Pacific Gyre, it will return to you in around six and half years.

In the North Pacific Gyre, garbage disposal into the ocean has become such a big problem that a large area within the gyre has now been dubbed the ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch’. Given the time lag between action and consequence, we still don’t know–and perhaps will never know, in the course of our lifetime, that is–the full effects of treating our treasured oceans like trash.

But that doesn’t mean that there’s no impact. Nor does it mean that we can ‘wish away’ the impact to some foreign land thinking it doesn’t affect us.

While much of the plastic trash remains in coastal waters, once it gets caught up in ocean currents, it makes its journey around the world. We may have cleverly and shrewdly drawn up our boundaries on land, but when it comes to the ocean–we have very little control over what happens.

When the Precious Ocean Becomes a Junkyard by Dipa Sanatani
Image credit: U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

In addition to our non-biodegradable plastic junk, other things also find themselves trapped in the vortex that spins around beneath the sea. From unreported cargo containers, to dead bodies and even abandoned ships–they circle the ocean waves and affect us and other marine life in a way that is not directly visible.

Apart from human activity, there are other natural changes that do occur within the ocean as time meanders on. But instead of trying to control ourselves (as is the logical choice), the solution we seem to come up with time and time again is to control Nature.

Which genius came up with that idea?

While we humans erroneously believe that we have ‘succeeded’ in taming Nature, I argue that these ‘successful stints’ are brief.

Nature will always fight back and when she does–She will inevitably have the final say.

The Untameable Force

Around 55 millions years ago, evidence from the fossilised shells of the foraminifera show that the deep-water circulation of the earth changed abruptly. It is not clear what caused this sudden transformation, but it does help us to understand that natural changes in our environment can be fast, huge and irreversible.

Unlike human activity, this is not something that we have control over. When it comes to the Ocean, we must be prepared to expect the unexpected. Not everything flows like a reliable clock that ticks away when we expect it to. There are changes that can and do take place in the deep blue sea that have absolutely nothing to do with us.

I suppose that the only thing that the Earth asks of us is that we do not needlessly hinder our own lives and Hers by dumping our garbage where it does not belong.

The oceans play a central role on life on earth. For anyone who’s ever gone snorkelling or diving; the seas are a place of rich diversity. Coral reefs are the earth’s most diverse marine ecosystem and are often referred to as the Rainforest of the Ocean. They take up less than half a percent of the ocean floor and host up to a third of all marine species–providing both food and shelter to a vast array of lifeforms.

When it comes to the environment, the food chain and the water cycle–nothing is isolated. The ocean provides us with a fifth of the protein that we consume on a daily basis as well as half of the oxygen in our atmosphere. The ocean is also essential to modern commerce. The Ocean is incredibly strong, but she is also fragile. If you were to dump a plastic bottle into the sea, she would have no way of saying, ‘No’. But do not mistake that receptivity for passivity or weakness.

When she does vomit it back out, you and I will be none the wiser. Water is a substance that defines and shapes life. It is also one that we perhaps subconsciously fear on some level. In the deep dark unknowability of water hide the most dreadful of creatures as well as the most beautiful of treasures.

Ironically, the human race knows more about space than we do about the sea precisely because it is a far less dangerous voyage. Humanity’s relationship to water is complex, multi-layered and even somewhat fractured.

The more I speak to people about how important it is to take care of the Ocean, the more they ignore me or tell me that there are more pressing concerns. That they’ll come back to ‘it’ when they finish all the other more pressing concerns on their neverending and eternally incomplete task list.

I don’t think any sane human being would ever attempt to control the ocean as we have done with the rivers and lakes that have shaped our cities. Perhaps that is why we do not want to face or even think about the untameable force that governs over all our lives. We’re terrified.

My current opinion is that the best we can do is put a tiny toe in Her realm and slowly and steadily make our journey through her waters to understand the depth of the treasures that lay within Her.

And although we will never be able to truly understand Her, we should at least respect, cherish and not needlessly harm Her.

Over time, I have come to understand that the Ocean will always be the most beautiful of Mother Earth’s gifts. And if we do not treasure it, it will quite simply be taken away from us–and not the other way around.

By Mark

Proud Numbers Guy | Venture Capitalist & Angel Investor

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