Stewardship of the Sea
Caring for the world’s oceans and seas
by Helen Gwynne-Kinsey
Suitable for Whole School (Sec)
To consider the importance of caring for the world’s oceans and seas.
Preparation and materials
- Have available some images that depict the beauty of the British coastline and the means to display them during the assembly. (If possible, use scenes that are local to your school.) Examples could include:
- Wales, available at: https://tinyurl.com/y7uvyvcn
- Scotland, available at: https://tinyurl.com/ybvyhupk
- England, available at: https://tinyurl.com/y9l9v7rv
- Northern Ireland, available at: https://tinyurl.com/ycxlfmlc
- Have available some images of UK sea life - such as seals, dolphins, porpoises, basking sharks, crabs and lobsters - and the means to display them during the assembly. Examples could include:
- seals, available at: https://tinyurl.com/y8rmxa7t
- a dolphin, available at: https://tinyurl.com/yah4947k
- a crab, available at: https://tinyurl.com/y9veen93
- a basking shark, available at: https://tinyurl.com/y9w3z58s
- Have available some images of litter on beaches and the means to display them during the assembly. Examples could include:
- plastic items on a beach, available at: https://tinyurl.com/yadcchng
- cans and bottles on a beach, available at: https://tinyurl.com/y8or5pkq
- plastic cups, bottles and bags on a beach, available at: https://tinyurl.com/y8su7ogm
- Show the images that depict the beauty of the British coastline.
Suggest to the students that it is highly likely that they enjoy going to the beach. When the sun shines and the weather is warm, nothing beats the enjoyment that can be had at the coast.
- Show the images of UK sea life.
Explain that the UK is surrounded by the sea, and our waters provide the habitat for over 44,000 different species of sea life. Indeed, our oceans provide us with much more than just leisure opportunities - they are also an important source of food.
- Show the images of litter that is regularly washed up on British beaches.
Point out that scenes like these show us that all is not well in our oceans, and that irresponsible attitudes to litter are having a negative effect on the environment. Explain that plastic, in particular, is a huge problem. Marine scientists are only too aware that many plastics that find their way into the world’s oceans are toxic. Not only do they damage the water quality and the sea life, but they can also enter the food chain when ingested by the fish that ultimately end up on our plates. In the short term, however, plastics pose a greater problem for wildlife such as seabirds, which can become entangled in discarded fishing nets or stuck in plastic bottles, leading to a cruel and painful death.
- Fortunately, scientists, marine conservation societies and the UK government agree that we need to do more to protect our seas and oceans, particularly where the use of plastic is concerned. TV presenter Simon Reeve has said, ‘Our planet is becoming poisoned by plastic. The vast amount in our oceans has become an environmental emergency as a direct result of our throwaway society.’
The Marine Conservation Society has recorded that plastic bottles, carrier bags, nappies, balloons and tiny plastic pieces have been found on almost every beach in the UK. Sadly, this type of litter comes from only one source: humankind.
- So, what is to be done about this problem? It might be worth taking a tip from the Christian religion, which, among other world faiths, believes that we have a responsibility to look after the world in which we live. Such a role is known as stewardship. It is based on the belief that we are privileged to have such a wonderful place in which to live. The Bible says, ‘The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it . . . for he founded it on the seas and established it on the waters.’ This means that we have no right to abuse God’s creation. Instead, we should act responsibly, because Christianity teaches that everything is interdependent. What this means is that any harm that comes to the planet in general eventually ends up harming us directly.
Time for reflection
You may be thinking that plastic pollution in the oceans is much too big a problem for you to be able to do anything about it. However, here are some of the ways in which each of us could make a difference.
- Invest in a reusable water bottle rather than relying on single-use ones.
- Take a bag with you when you go to the shops, rather than paying for single-use plastic ones.
- Look for alternatives to plastic containers.
- If you have the time and the energy, why not join an organized beach clean event?
Let’s remember that we each have a part to play in caring for our environment. Let’s bear in mind that the ways in which we use the world’s resources have consequences. Let’s continue to enjoy the benefits of our coastline in a responsible and environmentally friendly way.
‘Plastic beach’ by Gorillaz