We ran a conference called Africa Gathering on April 25th, 2009 in London. It was about Africa, development and technology and was a truly inspiring day.
We had conceived of the idea of holding these ‘location’ themed days or global briefings and this was the first.
What was unexpected was that an outcome for me was to start planning for the next one, not about a country or a region but in fact something that with hindsight harks back to my introductory talk on the day.
I pointed to the pale blue dot (on the projector you could not actually see it), the photo of earth taken by the Cassini space probe a few years back, it is an update of one that Carl Sagan urged NASA to take in 1990, from Voyager 1. The sun behind Saturn, the edges of that planet and its rings aglow and there, if you look carefully a small blue smudge of a dot.
Us, home, Earth.
Except why do we call it Earth? Why do we not call it Ocean? (Yes this one is from Arthur C Clarke).
The seas and oceans are fascinating, water covers much more of the surface than ‘dry’ land. It is the source of life and also an alien environment.
The seas and rivers and ice flows and ocean depths have stories for us that are contemporary, in the right here and now but also stretch back to the beginning of the planet and the formation of water.
We have tales of piracy of the coast of Somalia, Fishermen on strike, even the re-branding of a fish so that people might buy it in supermarkets. The water also threatens to change the geography of the contemporary world as global warming takes ahold.
The oceans also hold possibilities, potential dreams for new ways of living, new communities floating along the tides (and a staple for Science Fiction from Verne onwards, us living in cities under the seas).
Peter Ackroyd wrote recently about the magnificent history of the Thames, whilst people have been writing and exploring the ice caps of this blue dot for decades.
The sea may be one of the key signifiers as climate change takes ahold, as the ice melts and the sea warms up changing the mix and the content of the oceans. Ideas have been proposed to try and stave off such effects, to buy as (humans) time, by putting simple tubes in the sea to enable the lower waters to mix with those above it. If these worked it may give us time to make other necessary changes to survive, it may affect the oceans in other ways.
By simply deciding on a theme of the oceans on the evening after Africa Gathering had finished I had already set an agenda as broad as that of most human knowledge and interest.
The trick is now to curate a meaningful day from this vast, wonderful plethora of information and inspiration.
So this post is a call for help, I want for us to present the best of the water that surrounds us, that is a part of our lives in a way that inspires, awes and amazes. If you know of someone who can tell a tale of the oceans, in any context, science, art, technology, whatever, who can tell us something that does inspire then please let me know.