This Monday, thousands around the world will be celebrating their personal relationship with our oceans and the animals that call them home. But 8 June was not always designated as World Oceans Day. In fact, this is a fairly new celebration. It was first proposed in 1992 at the United Nation’s Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro as a way to raise awareness about the crucial role the ocean plays in our lives and to inspire people to take action to protect it. But it would be almost two decades before the United Nations General Assembly declared that, starting in 2009, 8 June would officially be celebrated as World Oceans Day.

We have numerous ties to the ocean. Some use it for recreational purposes; others depend on it for their livelihoods (i.e. ecotourism jobs and those in the fisheries industry); our oceans even have an impact on our health (for example, it was recently discovered that organisms living at extreme depths are being used to speed up the detection of COVID-19).

Usually there are hundreds of events around the world to mark World Oceans Day, from beach clean-ups to festivals featuring conservationists and ocean-themed artwork, but this year’s celebrations will take a different form. A virtual event, produced in partnership with non-profit organisation Oceanic Global, will include speeches and presentations from international conservationists and thought leaders, all delivered through a digital platform.

The theme of this year’s World Oceans Day is "Innovation for a Sustainable Ocean." The focus is on convincing world leaders to commit to protecting 30% of the world’s oceans by 2030, pledging to "live sustainably" by combating the climate crisis, and protecting marine biodiversity.

But it is impossible to live sustainably without tackling inequality. World Oceans Day comes just a few days after #BlackBirdersWeek – an awareness campaign to highlight the difficulties faced by Black people who wish to explore the natural world. Since our racial inequality crisis is intertwined with our climate crisis, many believe that the theme for World Oceans Day 2020 hits the mark.

"We have no more time to waste. Marginalised communities are currently experiencing the brunt of negative impacts due to an unhealthy ocean," said Danni Washington, co-Founder of Big Blue & You. "Innovating new solutions will only be possible if Black, Brown and Indigenous voices are included in the conversation and simultaneously elevated to influential leadership roles within [the] ocean conservation movement."

Marine biologist Dr. Ayana Johnson discussed this at length with The Washington Post, saying: "People of colour disproportionately bear climate impacts, from storms to heat waves to pollution. Fossil-fuelled power plants and refineries are disproportionately located in black neighbourhoods, leading to poor air quality and putting people at higher risk for coronavirus. [...] If we want to successfully address climate change, we need people of colour. Not just because pursuing diversity is a good thing to do, and not even because diversity leads to better decision-making and more effective strategies, but because, black people are significantly more concerned about climate change than white people (57% vs 49%) and Latinx people are even more concerned (70%)."

The organisers of World Oceans Day agree with Dr. Johnson’s sentiment, posting on Instagram, "There is no environmentalism and biodiversity protection and climate justice without social justice."

You can help the #WorldOceansDay movement by using the hashtag #ProtectOurHome. However you celebrate this day - big or small – know it really can make an impact.