Oceans of Gratitude
2017, Middle School, Prose
The great azure blanket of life that engulfs the pale blue dot in her powerful embrace has such vehement influence over humanity that two ostensibly disparate people, Ernest Hemingway and Carl Sagan, both created evocations of her beauty. Ernest Hemingway wrote a book of determination and gratitude, a book about the heroic feats accomplished by what would appear to be a frail old man who was communing with the sea for days on end. A book in which an old man attempts to outlast a behemoth of a fish he has caught with his arduous traditional methods. A book in which the lighting of the horizon on fire by the setting sun coincides with an old man finally calling a fish his brother and respecting the sea deeply because of the lessons she taught him. Hemingway wrote, “’Thank you,’ the old man said. He was too simple to wonder when he had attained humility. But he knew he had attained it and he knew it was not disgraceful and it carried no loss of true pride” (36). So humble had that old man become, that when he returned to shore after his three-day battle with nature dragging only the vestiges of his magnificent catch, he was glad to have not succumbed to the relentless power of the waves. Not only did that old man survive the unbridled power of the ocean, but he embraced it, for when he at last got his well-deserved night’s rest, he dreamt of lions. The ocean can transform humans, be the impetus of saintly characteristics, but only when she receives the homage she deserves. And this metamorphosis occurs not only to simple people, but also to people who delve into the realm of science.
But before we take a step forward, taking one back to primordial times would be helpful. The human race has become sentient in an abject sea of darkness, an incomprehensible quagmire of dearth. By some fortuitous occurrences we find ourselves illuminated, for as the stars bedeck the cosmic ocean with their enlightening brilliance, our oceans gift us light as the harbinger of life – water. With the vibrant colors the oceans beget, we are not so lost in the dark. In fact, on February 14, 1990, our magnificent spheroid’s global ocean was seen in a new way, thanks to Carl Sagan.
As the illustrious Voyager One was parting the solar neighborhood, the equally illustrious Carl Sagan made a request that the camera be turned at the planet of life one final time. In the picture taken all that could be discerned of home was a tenth of a pixel of radiant pale blue. Our blue blanket defines us for the cosmos and connects us all with her idiosyncratic stitching and patches that sustain life with their warmth. The blue blanket shows so much about humanity that Carl Sagan said, “Perhaps their is no better demonstration of human conceits than the distant image of our tiny planet. That image underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly and compassionately with one another and to preserve and cherish that pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.” So why is that we destroy her azure sustainer without a second thought? Why is it that all those scientists who have presaged this environmental quandary are only now joined by the people in their realizations about what horrors the foreseeable future holds? Why is it that only now we are just realizing that the ocean has protected humanity and that we have not reciprocated the deed? Is it too late to do something?
It is not too late and we know what our faults are. It is selfishness that drives some of us to destroy our greatest ally. Some of us are only motivated to do good and devote time to ourselves but fail to care for our ultimate friend. And only now when our problems are more severe than ever before and darkness looms, the masses are worried about the future. But one generous exponent of the blue dot took action very early by dedicating his lifetime to saving the world along with its oceans. His name is Clair Patterson, the man most widely known for dating our oasis in space at 4.55 million years of age. Yet, few are aware that he accomplished something much more formative to humanity’s fate. He fought many arduous battles against lead, the noxious, furtive assassin that poisons the undulating waves of humanity’s blue origin through runoff and air pollution. Clair Patterson also fought a war against the practitioners of lead, the Ethyl Corporation, a fuel additive magnate, and its “scientist” Robert Kehoe. Patterson began his struggle in 1965 with the publication of Contaminated and Natural Lead Environments of Man. Patterson emphasized the exponentially increased amount of lead in the environment and in humans. Patterson wrote in Skeletal Concentrations of Lead in Ancient Peruvians that after examining 1,600-year-old Peruvian skeletons for lead, barium, and calcium, he found a 700 to 1,200 times increase in lead levels compared with modern human bones, and practically no disparities in the barium and calcium quantities. Then, Kehoe claimed that humans had adapted to the increase in lead. Patterson debunked this preposterous claim by saying that the amount of time that humans have increased lead levels has been a few thousand years at most, which is an ephemeral length of time on the Darwinian time scale, clearly not long enough for adaptation.
Since Patterson used the tool of science as its paradigm intends, he won his victory in 1978 after a 13-year war. His ideas were recorded in a 78-page report, exhorting the government to implement lead control measures immediately in all products. One of the more memorable victories that emerged from the spate of his triumphs was the banning of lead from gasoline. He vanquished the Ethyl Corporation, the company whose pecuniary motives were destroying the immaculate environment along with its azure blanket. Patterson’s dream came true – he protected the people and incidentally set an example for all of those who respect science. He showed that when proper evidence is presented and new ideas are based off of other scientists’ proven theories instead of unfounded statements, even a gasoline magnate can be brought down. Thus, science is the greatest weapon we can wield to protect our altruistic blue binder of humanity. Let us thank Clair Patterson and all the scientists who have helped humanity develop this indispensable tool and let us continue their work.
It is time for us to take action and show how grateful we are. If we too say the simple phrase “thank you” to our beloved cerulean waves like Hemingway’s protagonist Santiago and use science for the greater good, we can achieve unthinkable feats. With these ancillaries, gratitude and science, we will ensure that humanity’s progress will not be lost into the depths of darkness if just like the boundless skies reflect the azure color of our binding blanket, we reflect on our actions. Even though our lives on the cosmic timescale are only a few inscrutable rotations around an ordinary, main-sequence star, our care for our oceans, carried on by each generation, will ensure that we, as a capable species, maximize the gift of life and leave an indelible mark on the universe much greater than the pale blue dot we inhabit.
Ericson, J.E.; Shirahata, H.; Patterson, C.C. (1975), “Skeletal concentrations of lead in ancient Peruvians”, N. Engl. J. Med., 300: 946–51,
Hemingway, Ernest. The Old Man and the Sea. Oxford: Benediction Classics, 2016. 36. Print.
“Pale Blue Dot Quotes by Carl Sagan.” Good Reads. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 May 2017.
I have always felt a connection to the ocean, and now that she is endangered, I feel responsible to protect her because of all the joy and memories I have gotten from her. I try to use my writing skills to advocate and to inspire. The preservation of the oceans and our own preservation as the human species are inseparable.