How do we understand our connection to water, to the ocean? Whose stories are we listening to?
As a both a surfer and a marine social scientist, I hold an intimate relationship with the sea. My work focuses on better understanding our relationship to the ocean, and how we might heal and restore it. This is also what I explore through my writing.
What is of deep concern for me is the deterioration of our relationship with the natural world, especially the loss of our emotional connection with the ocean in all its wonder and aliveness. Globally, water bodies and our ocean are the most degraded ecosystems in the world – they hold all of who are: our waste, our memories, our history, our ancestry, our bones, our breath.
The sea is sick. We can’t be well in a sick sea.
There was a time when we understood the wisdom of other species, a time when we listened to the non-human world… but somehow we have forgotten. My name, Easkey, has its origins in the ancient Gaelic word for fish. I’m named after an important salmon river in Ireland that creates a beautiful wave where the river flows into the sea, it is my father’s favourite surf spot. In Irish mythology there is a legend of the Salmon of Knowledge and Wisdom, or bradán feasa, which was said to hold all the wisdom of the universe. My name reminds me that my identity is tied to that of the salmon, as all of our identities are inextricably linked to the sea. We have all been shaped and formed by the ocean.
Blue Health is an emerging body of science and practice that seeks to investigate and understand the healing potential of water or ‘blue spaces’. It offers a lens to see, understand and experience our connection to the world’s waters.
Only within the last 10 years has our modern society, which is shaped by capitalism and driven by extraction and consumption, begun to realise how engagement with healthy marine and coastal environments can directly restore and enhance our health and wellbeing. This offers huge potential for novel health care approaches. For example, a Blue Health approach could be beneficial when addressing the psychological distress that was heightened during the pandemic and continues to worsens in the face of multiple global crises.
To realise the tremendous potential of Blue Health in a fair, inclusive and holistic way, we need new collaborations that break out of existing silos and foster mutual cooperation in the face of global challenges. We need a deeper form of listening, and an awareness of whose stories we are listening to and whose we aren’t. We must begin by recognising that the ability to access and experience the sea is shaped and determined by our history, culture, class, race and gender.
To restore the ocean as a health enabling space we need to look beyond borders, to where the illusion of separation can crumble. Examples of fantastic work in this space include projects such as:
Reclaim the Sea for refugees in the UK.
Liquid Therapy, an Irish based charity for children with autism.
Be Like Water in Iran and Sea Sisters in Sri Lanka, which both empower women and girls through teaching water-based life skills.
The Seasuit Project, which creates functional, modest sportswear for a diversity of women and girls to access blue spaces.